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Literature / Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

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Assassin's Creed: Black Flag is a novel written by Oliver Bowden, released in the UK on 7 November 2013 and the US on 26 November 2013. The novel focuses on the events of the game of the same name.

The Golden Age of Piracy — a time when greed, ambition and corruption overcomes all loyalties — and a brash young captain, Edward Kenway, is making his name known for being one of the greatest pirates of his time. In the brilliant new novel, Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, discover the story of how Edward, a young privateer, became one of the world's most deadly pirates and was drawn into the centuries-old battle between the Templars and the Assassins.

The book is technically a prequel to Assassin's Creed: Forsaken, which first dealt with Edward's backstory. It also has canonical status, at least for the events that don't appear in the game itself, as per writer Darby McDevitt and in fact an excerpt from this book can be found in one of the hacked computer puzzles in the Present Day story of the Main Game at Abstergo Entertainment. Specifically Chapter 3, which details Edward's first meeting with his wife Caroline.


Tropes appearing in the book:

  • Adaptational Badass: Inverted, played straight, and otherwise toyed with. Edward rarely kills people in the book yet has an epic duel with El Tiburon when, canonically, he just shot him.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Like all of Oliver Bowden's adaptations, new material is added. Most of which deals with Edward Kenway's childhood in Bristol. Including adding a Templar-related plot which drove him to the Carribean.
  • Ambition Is Evil: This is played through even more strongly in the book than in the game. Despite having a great stroke of luck in marrying a rich girl, loving parents and talent to turn things around if he chooses to, it's not enough for Edward who wants a fortune and to see the world. He admits that what ruined his marriage wasn't Caroline's parents or her former suitor Mathew Hague but himself.
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  • The Alcoholic: A Tragic Flaw for Edward, one which Caroline's father exploits willingly. It's explained that Edward's drinking problem is partly related to a lack of hope at finding opportunities beyond working at his father's farm. He admits that his love for Caroline was enough that he actually quit drinking for a long time.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Edward can't go two minutes in his hometown without someone making fun of him for being poor, Welsh, a drunk and the son of a sheep farmer. His marriage to a daughter of a wealthy businessman only makes it worse. He has to stave off thugs who beat him up, attack his family home and further torment from Caroline's Jerkass father.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Bartholomew Roberts' amazing real life success as a pirate (he was, arguably, the most successful of all time) is implied in the book to be the result of his using the Observatory to view the Templars and their schemes.
    • A minor point is also explained, namely the fact that the Templars had Jack Rackham's blood in one of the vials. Turns out that Woodes Roges, in his time at Nassau had collected blood samples of all the ex-pirates and residents there with a later view of policing them from the Observatory.
  • Asshole Victim: Edward admits that most people he met in his life were a mix of good and bad but that Laurens Prins was all bad and that despite his own selfish interests in the Sage, it pleased him to kill that slaver who earned a fortune from other people's suffering.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Borderline Downer Ending as Oliver can't help but increase the irony and Foreshadowing of Edward's later fate.
  • Broken Aesop: The thrust of the main game is Edward learning that money isn't everything and that people around him matter. It's hard to see that here, since for all his Trauma Conga Line, in the end Edward for the time being at least, gets all he ever wanted and still likes to call himself an Assassin. On the other hand, it may end up being problematic in a different way, since Edward's attempts to 'go straight' and live a respectable life result in him getting betrayed by Reginald Birch years later.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Woodes Rogers and Torres submit Edward to this after he's imprisoned. They take him out and put him in a gibbet in the hot sun every alternative day for the duration of half a year and daily ask him about the location of the Observatory, giving him little food and water. Edward refuses to answer.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: A heroic example: Robert Walpole offers Edward land, title, and a pardon in exchange for his sparing Mathew Hague.
  • Deus ex Machina: How the book resolves itself. Out of nowhere, Sir Robert Walpole, England's first Prime Minister appears and makes Edward give up his revenge on the Hagues and even rewards him with a new life and a pardon.
  • The Dragon: A title shared by Woodes Rogers and El Tiburon.
  • The Dreaded: Woodes Rogers holds this position to pirates in the book.
    • By the end of the book, Edward Kenway becomes this, especially to the people who bullied him when he was in Wales, for his exploits as a pirate have by now reached home and all of them run and hide in reasonable fear that he'll come back and take revenge, with the Templars finally pleading to Sir Robert Walpole to solve the situation... though that's by him basically giving Edward temporary Karma Houdini Warranty.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Caroline's death is even nastier since the book goes out of its way to show what a wonderful person she was, implies she was severely disfigured by smallpox, AND was left to die by her father. Apparently, the Kenway hereditary Trauma Conga Line is able to be passed along through marriage.
  • Evil Is Petty: In addition to secretly wanting to or claiming to run the world, the Templars find time to help a brother out by burning down the home of Edward's family purely because he managed to beat the son of a Templar to a girl's heart... it borders on Comedic Sociopathy.
  • Freudian Excuse: Oliver Bowden invents a story about how Edward's family farm was burned down by Templars before the beginnings of the game.Likewise, Edward is (initially) forced into piracy at (literal) sword point.
    • Edward's class angst is further, and believably, expounded upon, in that he doesn't like the fact that even if Caroline's father Emmett is a local big fish and New Money, his family have to be extra kind and grovel at him during Edward's wedding. Edward's alcoholism is also driven by his sense of hopelessness since it helps him forget about his problems. As happy as his marriage to Caroline is, the constant reminder that he's Unable to Support a Wife eats at him.
  • Framing Device: The book appears to be Edward narrating to his daughter or writing his journal as if addressed to her.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of the book, Sir Robert Walpole offers Edward property and a new life in London, via his contacts with the Stephenson-Oakley family and their associate Reginald Birch; Tessa Stephenson-Oakley would marry Edward and gave birth to and raised their son Haytham, while Birch would play a fateful role in his later life. For more read Assassin's Creed: Forsaken.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Related to Create Your Own Hero, but the Templars go the distance to make a Lower-Class Lout barfly into, well, a "man of quality" who torpedoes all their plans and sends them running scared to the British Prime Minister.
  • Good Parents: Edward's humble parents Bernard Kenway and Linette Hopkins are decent, common people. They are deeply disappointed by Edward's seeming disdain for working on the farm and especially him becoming a pirate.
  • Generation Xerox: Edward notes that his daughter resembles her mother greatly.
    • Jenny, like Caroline, was also in an arranged marriage she did not want. She also dreamed of something greater than her position, just like her mother.
  • Happily Married: Edward admits this of his parents. He and Caroline are happy initially but their relationship gets strained pretty fast.
  • Hypocrite: Edward's accepting a vast payoff to become a Lord in London, despite the fact he just gave up his previous massive fortune in the Caribbean to redeem himself. However, Edward also notes that the pardon extended to his own crew, who were all pretty keen on it, so it might also have been Edward thinking of the bigger picture.
  • I Have No Son!: Edward's father. Later repeated by his mother.
  • Ignored Epiphany: The book turns Edward's conversion into an Assassin into one, as he gives up his revenge on his (Templar) enemies in exchange for a pardon and wealth.
  • It's Personal: The book adds backstory to Edward's conflict with the Templars, notably that they had an Early-Bird Cameo in burning down his parents house and that Edward remembers their ring with a cross when he integrates with the Templars as Duncan Walpole. Also stating that he planned all along to stick it to them from the get-go, with or without the Assassins, purely because they were douchebags.
  • Jerkass: Caroline's father Emmett is a major one. To him his daughter's marriage to Edward was a loss to a valuable business contact with the Hague family and a chance to rise in society. He's a real spiteful piece of work. And he's a Templar to boot.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Edward, himself, comments how the final fight with Bartholomew Roberts was disappointing. Also qualifies as a Take That, Us.
  • Love at First Sight: How Edward feels when he first meets Caroline Scott, noting that it was the first time he went home and thought of something other than alcohol and his ambitions.
  • Karma Houdini: Woodes Rogers, though as per Robert Walpole, he's kicked out of the Templars and is in debtor's prison, which he tries to convince Edward is punishment enough.
    • In the eyes of Edward's parents, he himself is one, since he profited from plunder and murder which they abhor and in the end is rewarded for it.
      • Matthew Hague, since Edward took Sir Robert Walpole's offer for a new life and wealth in return for sparing Hague.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Emmett Scott is perhaps the worst father in a series filled with the likes of Rodrigo Borgia and Haytham Kenway. Not only does he disapprove of Caroline's marriage to Edward and goes out of his way to Kick the Dog by even offering money to Edward to abandon her, he still acts like a jerk even after she comes back to the house, having presumably learnt her lesson. This extends to believing that she's faking her illness when he wasn't making her die before her time. Also he turns out to be a Templar himself.
  • Male Gaze: Edward's journals, which were written for his daughter spend a surprising amount of time talking about Mary Read and Anne Bonnie's bodies. Edward unashamedly admits that he loves women wholeheartedly.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Caroline's father Emmett is this. In order to make his daughter Caroline realize she made a poor decision, he meets Edward in a pub and pretends to be nice and share a drink like gentlemen only for Edward to get drunk at which point he brings him to their home and shows Caroline what an alcoholic Edward is to the point of being a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: How Linette Hopkins feels towards her son Edward, in the end she tells him upfront that he's a murderer and a disappointment and that she wants nothing to do with him and that he's not half the man his honest, humble father was.
  • The Mentor: Whereas in the game Edward was mentored by Ben Hornigold, he is instead mentored by the more famous Edward Thatch. This changes the dynamic from the game where the two Edwards were more akin to equals.
  • No True Scotsman: Edward's opinion on Benjamin Hornigold is that he was never a "real" pirate, or rather his Gentleman Thief nature and military air made him seem more aloof from the rest of the gang, at least compared to Blackbeard who was A Father to His Men, aspects which are visible and consistent with their portrayal in the main game.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Emmett Scott to Edward, though not Caroline's mother who was a good woman. He refused to treat his daughter out of pure spite, and doesn't take her illness seriously. Edward finally kills him.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Edward's reaction from his mother after he's abandoned piracy. He doesn't say a word in his defense. Instead he goes away in tears.
  • Retcon: The book — and by proxy, Edward to Jenny — recounts certain events differently than the game did:
    • Edward doesn't kill Assassins in Havana while escorting the Sage; that part is removed and his conflict with the Assassins is much less tense.
    • Edward also murders Guardians on his way to the Observatory, when the gameplay's Full Synchronization options state that he disabled them non-violently and that it's Torres and his soldiers who massacre them at the end.
    • Edward's conflict with Charles Vane is shortened here, with the Sanity Slippage forcing Edward to act pre-emptively rather than Vane's epic Villainous Breakdown to start Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
    • Edward's relationship with Adewale is shown to be more cohesive rather than the Vitriolic Best Buds they were in the main game.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Edward seems bent on this as he's long since outgrown his childhood enemies. He resolves to kill Emmett Scott, the Templar Wilson who burned down his family home and is about to murder Mathew Hague when the Prime Minister comes and saves his bacon.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: The book offers a Deconstruction as to why this might not turn out right. Caroline is engaged to a rich jerk Mathew Hague, an Upper-Class Twit(and the son of a Templar) but she hates him and falls for Edward especially when he pulls a Big Damn Heroes on her servant Rosa who was about to be raped by thugs. Her decision to marry Edward causes a social scandal that they ultimately can't withstand.
    • Edward and Caroline do love each other and she does bring the best out of him, he quits drinking and tries to applies himself but he can't make headway partly because working at the farm will not provide anywhere near the same money she's had growing up. But the social pressure and endless humiliation in addition to physical and emotional abuse heaped on Edward by her former suitor and her father only spurs him to become a Privateer and make them eat their words, and this was a last straw for their marriage.
  • Ship Tease: The book confirms Edward's offer for Anne Bonny to return to England with him was a romantic one.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Edward alludes to having some uncomfortable feelings towards James Kidd before he finds out the truth.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Caroline was not only a wonderful wife but pretty much an ideal woman. Which seems purely designed to twist the knife further in Edward's heart.
  • Took a Level in Badass: This is more remarkable in the book than the game, since we see his pre-game life. Edward is picked on, beaten up and loses quite a few bar fights and indeed Caroline has to rescue him in their first meeting. From there he goes on to become such a feared pirate that when he returns to Bristol, all his former enemies seem to go collectively Oh, Crap! and run for the hills.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The Kenways' lives in a nutshell. Bernard Kenway and his wife suffer because their son pissed off some powerful people Templars and their business decayed to the point that Bernard died poor with his wife forced to be a barmaid. Readers of Assassin's Creed: Forsaken and players of Assassin's Creed III know it only goes downhill from there for the next three generationsnote .
  • Unreliable Narrator: Assuming that the game takes precedence over the novel in the event of any contradiction — that is, that the game's version is what really happened in all such cases — then Edward doesn't mention his murder of Assassins, changes numerous other events that reflect poorly on him, makes conflicts less contentious than they were... probably explained by how the novel is essentially a journal written to his daughter Jenny well after the events recounted. However, he's more than upfront about his roving eye and shameless infidelity.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Stede Bonnet's fate is explained in the novel. He's hanged.
    • Edward's memory of Stede is a bit dissonant as he thinks of the man as quite unfortunate and an utter failure as a pirate. In the games, Stede is deliriously happy up until his death.
  • Worthy Opponent: Edward bestows this title on Governor Torres, or rather of having some respect for him.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: A repeated theme in the book. First Edward's childhood home is burnt down and he's told by Templars to stay away from England, then he loses Nassau and then when he comes home, his mother disowns him and the people in Bristol look at him in fear or contempt for becoming a pirate. He's finally given a chance for a new life in London by Sir Robert Walpole.


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