Synopsis of Last Descendants
Last Descendants begins when Owen is fifteen. His life hasn’t gone right since his father died in prison, but Owen isn’t sure his dad even committed the crime he was sent to jail for. Enter Monroe, the school’s IT guy with access to an Animus — a device that brings to life genetic memories of a user’s ancestors, and allows them to experience it. On Owen’s first exposure to the Animus, he discovers a long-lost powerful relic that can change the fate of the world.
Owen discovers himself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order, and the only way to stay safe is to find the relic first. With Monroe’s help, Owen and a group of teenagers travel into their ancestor’s memories in the middle of the 1863 Draft Riots in New York City. Owen and his friends find themselves on the violent streets and learn that experiences in the past can alter the fate of the world.
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I’ve heard the name Assassin’s Creed thrown around in connection to video games, and I’ve even seen other’s play it, but video games just aren’t my jam. I would much rather experience that content in book format. So, when I got my hands on the first book of this relatively new series written for young adults, I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out. I thought it would be dumb but this book was not what I was expecting. There are some violence and killing, (duh! the word “assassin” is in the series title) but I loved the underlying message of turning to our ancestors and history to help us save the future. Plus, this book is a weird (yet cool) combination of futuristic science-fiction and historical fiction that works seamlessly.
Last Descendants Parent Guide
Violence: PG-13 For war scenes, multiple people being knocked out with tranquilizers, and a fight to the death with daggers at the end.
Language: PG-13 A few expletives and the use of n-words in a historical context.
Adult Content: G
Reading Level: Grade 7 – 12
Themes in Last Descendants
Here are a few reoccurring messages that come up in this book that can become great conversations with your child.
- The Legacy of our Ancestors: The teens gain some of their ancestor’s qualities and inclinations after learning more about them. The idea of living up to a parent’s reputation and how hard it can be to deal with that pressure. It enforces those ties but shows the distinction between us and our ancestors as a good thing.
- Overcoming Fears: Multiple people face their fears and gain new experiences. One girl faces her fear of heights and another faces the fear of public speaking. Within the simulation, it’s a little easier to face your fears, but you need the courage to keep going.
- Trust: The wonder whether or not they can trust the adults they are around or the story they receive. Owen doesn’t believe his Dad committed the crime but everyone else says bad luck. As more and more adult figures are introduced like you hear conflicting stories and wonder who is telling the truth. In the end, it’s still unclear who the bad guy is, or what they are trying to accomplish.
- Physical Disability: Sean is wheelchair-bound after an accident. When he goes into the Animus he can walk again and he works through anger issues related to his disability.
- Homosexuality: There is only one scene that brings up this topic. One of the boys comes out to the other because he knows that it won’t change their friendship.
- Friendship: This theme goes along with the trust one because these teens don’t really know each other but now they are dependent on each other to survive. They become friends even though their ancestors were enemies.
“Two factions have been waging a secret war for the fate of humanity since the beginning of recorded history, the Assassin Brotherhood, and the Templar Order.”
He smacked the keyboard to wake up his computer, and then did a search online… but it was all corporate-speak hype, varnished by public relations to the point where it gleamed and said nothing.
“You. Are. You. You aren’t your ancestor, and who they were doesn’t mean anything about who you are. If they were an Assassin, so what? If they were a Templar, who cares? You take your own path, by your own choices. You’re not a hostage to your DNA.”
My Thoughts about Last Descendants
Last Descendants surprised me. I wondered how they would take an M-rated video game and turn it into a book for teens. Kirby did a great job at side-stepping the video game story. He made this universe his own tool to tell the story he wanted. I love the emphasis placed on learning from the past and how history is influential. I learned a lot about that time in history too. The 1863 Draft Riots very influential in the Civil War and I had never heard of those riots before.
So let’s talk a bit about the scene where one of the characters reveals his sexuality. I don’t mind if characters are homosexual in a story. This element felt thrown in at the last minute. It could be a good explanation for the loss of friends, but it felt forced. I’m not a fan of this scene but it does give us more context to his situation. I think it could have been more tastefully done, but I guess I’ll see if it is relevant in future books.
I also appreciated the amount of violence in the book. At first, I thought it would be a non-stop bloodbath but it’s pretty clean, as far as war and killing books go. Instead of killing each other, they just like to knock each other out with tranquilizers.
Next Books to Read
If you liked Last Descendants you have to read Stormbreaker – An Alex Rider book by Anthony Horowitz, The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan, and Steel Trapp: The Challenge by Ridley Pearson. For more books check out my post about what to read after watching the Mandalorian.