Assassin's Creed: The Ming Storm - Review & Summary
Written by Sorrosyss, May 17th, 2021

Note: Non Spoiler Review, but a full Spoiler Summary and Analysis follows

Assassin's Creed: The Ming Storm is a new novel written by Yan Leisheng, originally released to the Chinese market in March 2019 and into French in October 2020, it has now had its translation into English by Aconyte Books in June 2021.

Set in China in the year 1526 AD, the book follows the story of popular fan favourite Assassin Shao Jun, as she returns to her homeland after visiting Ezio Auditore in Italy. The Chinese Brotherhood having been recently decimated by a group known as the Eight Tigers, she vows revenge upon them and seeks the aid of her elusive Mentor Wang Yingming. Their Templar aligned enemy is led by Zhang Yong, a ruthless leader who will stop at nothing to eliminate any remnants of the Assassins, and to acquire the Precursor Box brought to the country by Jun.

If this storyline sounds familiar, that is because it was the one presented to players in the game Assassin's Creed Chronicles China, as well as the Manga comic “Blade of Shao Jun”. There is one large difference here though, in so much as The Ming Storm is considered out of continuity by Ubisoft, or “non-canon” as we usually refer to it. There is a good reason for this, namely as the dates of events, locations, characters, their relationships and their deaths differ wildly from the material that preceded the book. With this in mind, if you have previously enjoyed the canonical material it is debatable as to how much enjoyment you might actually glean from this novel.
The writing style used by Yan Leisheng is certainly different to what you might be used to with western releases as well, as it was clearly written with the Chinese audience in mind with many scenes reminiscent of traditional wuxia. There are often sections of the book where the author lays out the history and background to certain characters and events within the middle of character conversations, that often leads to a bit of a jarring reading experience. There is also sadly no Modern Day content present. That being said, if you are interested in Chinese history or culture, there are a lot of interesting tidbits of information present here.

Ubisoft have since confirmed that the book is now to be the first of a trilogy, which somewhat explains the fairly open ending that the novel concludes with. The rest of the trilogy will no doubt be non-canonical as well, so it will be interesting to see what appetite the fanbase has for absorbing this kind of content. One could argue that a lot of fans flock to the likes of the equally non-canonical Assassin’s Creed Rebellion mobile game, so perhaps only the most hardcore of fans will be bothered about the issue of canonicity. If you enjoy Shao Jun as a character, this book would certainly still be worth your time, as she always impresses as the powerful female character that many fans adore.

Assassin's Creed: The Ming Storm is available now in Chinese and French, and in English from the 1st June from all good stockists.


Sea of China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Upon a small island, the Japanese pirate Taki Choji watches the waves of the water. A small ship arrives, which he believes to be tribute from a pirate rival. Instead, a box is carried out, which once opened releases a man with supernatural strength who slays many of Choji's pirate crew. The ship is captained by Zhang Yong, one of the Eight Tigers – a powerful faction of pro-Templar Eunuchs of China. He in turn kills Taki, and remarks to his foreign companion – a man named Pyros, that he is disappointed with the results of this test. He states that they must now seek out the Precursor Box, as it is no longer in the hands of Ezio Auditore, as Shao Jun has now returned to China.

Quanzhou, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Shao Jun arrives at the port city. She recalls a friend from her time in the imperial harem, Zhang Qiang, who was originally from this city. Looking at the state of the city, Jun is assured that her friend likely would never return there. Whilst going down a back alley, she is threatened with a knife by an assailant claiming to be a member of the Eight Tigers. She manages to evade him and leap to safety. The assailant is embarrassed by this, but even more so when he realises that his boss “Uncle Gao” observed his failure. Gao promptly executes him for failing to apprehend Shao Jun.

Shaoxing, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Amidst the Jishan University, the Warden named Old Wu is greeted by a visitor. Without looking up he asks them to sign the register. When he looks up the person is gone, but the signature reads “Looking for a friend”. This was the code sign used by Shao Jun, who instead of staying inside immediately heads atop a tree to get a good view of the university. She is suddenly attacked in the tree by a sword wielding mercenary, who she manages to take to the ground with her own sword and a wound to his shoulder. A second man waits in the tree, but just as he is about to strike Jun, another man's sword intervenes, slaying the adversary. The saviour calls out to Shao Jun as the “Imperial Favorite”, and to follow him if she wants to avoid more of Gao Feng's men. Giving chase to the man, they quickly end up in the dense forest of Mount Wolong.
Finding a grotto, the man lights a fire revealing his face, and giving her his name as Yangming – the Mentor of the Chinese Brotherhood. He warns that Zhang Yong seeks her death, to which she replies that she must therefore make it to the Capital as soon as possible.

Nanjing, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Ancient Nanjing
The body of Gao Feng lies before Yu Dayong, the governor of Nanjing. Unsure what to do with the corpse of his fallen fellow Tiger, his thoughts are broken by the arrival outside of their leader Zhang Yong. Yong asks what had become of Feng, to which Dayong replies that Gao and his assistant had been found murdered in the forest near Mount Wolong. After analysing the wounds, Yong was quick to point out that Shao Jun's blade had been used, but that she must have had an accomplice. Yong gives instructions to Dayong to go to Macau and meet his contact Pyros, and then immediately leaves himself with his bodyguard Qiu Ju.

As they travel Yong and Ju discuss Wang Yangming, the rector of the University. Yong now suspects he may actually be a member of the Assassin Brotherhood. This troubles him as the two of them were long term friends. The two Tigers eventually arrive at the University, and meet with Yangming himself. Yong debates philosophy with his old friend, but he notes that Yangming's views have altered since they were younger. As the pleasantries come to an end, upon leaving Yong orders Ju to have his men interview all the students and staff at the university – including Yangming.

Beijing, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Zhang Qiang retires to her room at night, in the concubine quarters of the Imperial Palace. Now the imperial consort, she starts remembering her old friend Shao Jun. She is even more amazed when Jun actually enters the room by a window. The two friends briefly reminisce before Jun asks if Qiang still has the item she was entrusted with from the former Emperor. Qiang reveals that it was sadly lost.

Jun escapes into the night, and realising that she had no other reason to be there, takes in a nearby park one last time before she leaves. Standing near the water of a pond, she is suddenly assailed by Wei Bin, one of the Eight Tigers. After a brief battle, he suddenly elects to disappear from sight in the mist, as a fire breaks out nearby. Jun realises he was probably the instigator of the fire, and that it will likely attract all of the guards as well. She can only conclude that Qiang had betrayed her to Zhang Yong, and had given him the item in exchange for her rank of consort. The item in question was a scroll which detailed a sacred mountain to the east, which hoarded great secrets. Jun sheds a tear realising that her friendship was now ended, and quickly escapes from sight.

Lake Bixia, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Wang Yingming is surprised to hear of the fire that erupted. As Shao Jun explains, she fears it is related to the scroll, the contents of which is said to lead to great power. The two walk around the lake, breaking the ice with bamboo canes to prevent people inadvertently walking across the lake. They discuss philosophy and martial arts, and Jun is thankful for the benefit of her Mentor's teachings. They conclude that their path will inevitably take them towards Zhang Yong. The conversation turns to the Precursor Box that Jun had returned with, which had been gifted by the western Mentor Ezio Auditore in Italy. Jun admits surprise that the box is empty, and does not understand the meaning of this. Yangming states that he has found references to the box in some recent communications, which suggests that the Eight Tigers are now also seeking it. Realising it could be used as bait to lure the Tigers out, the two begin to plan – their first target will be Wei Bin.

Wei Bin himself was at home sipping wine at this moment. He was visited by Zhang Yong, and Bin was happy to confirm that he had completed the objective of starting the fire as requested. Yong was pleased, but stated that the box that Shao Jun possesses must be obtained, and that she cannot be killed until its location is confirmed. He orders Bin to instruct his accomplice Ma Yongcheng to continue to search for Shao Jun for the next five days.

Beijing, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Wei Bin arrives at the Imperial Academy and is greeted by Libationer Yan. The latter had spent over a month sifting through documentation, but had at last found a reference to a Precursor Box being in the west, within a book titled “Record of Blood Spilt for a Righteous Cause”. He also revealed that the very same book had a purchase request for a copy, and that it was due to be picked up the next day by a mystery purchaser. Appreciative, Bin agrees to stake out this individual, and confront them once outside the Academy grounds.

Beijing - Source: SimplyBusinessClass
The next morning it is raining, and as Wei Bin waits an individual finally arrives, but they are obscured by an umbrella whilst they collect the copy manuscript. Not wishing to alarm them, he motions his apprentice “Left Paw” to move on ahead, whilst he waits until the individual is twenty steps away, and then slowly tails them out of the Academy. He is lead through the city and to a buddhist temple, where he finally decides to pull out his knife and confront the person below the umbrella. He is shocked to discover it is Shao Jun, and promptly engages her in combat before she flees to a nearby building. Inside stands a statue, and due to the magnetics of its metal, it disrupts the speed he can swing his iron sword. He asks her where the box is, and reveals that it is needed for the scroll titled Dai Yu, which she had previously been entrusted to keep hold of. Wielding a simple copper dagger, she takes advantage of the magnetics and easily plunges it into his chest, her trap working perfectly. “Left Paw” comes rushing in after his master, and is frozen in sight at the image of his fallen body. Jun threatens him with the same fate, before allowing him to run away in fear. Her task is complete, another Tiger is eliminated.

Zhang Yong residence, Beijing, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Upon hearing of Wei Bin's death, Ma Yongcheng returns to the capital, and greets his leader Zhang Yong. The latter is preparing to leave for the island of Dai Yu, and requests that Yongcheng capture Shao Jun alive.

Jun herself meanwhile is in the Western part of the city, and attends the Baoji tea house. There she meets her Mentor, Wang Yingming. He explains that he has been called upon to attend a dispute in the Tianzhou prefecture, and was recommended by Zhang Yong due to his experience as a former diplomat. He advises that Jun stay low until his return, as Ma Yongcheng has considerable contacts within the local law enforcement. Instead, he suggests that she investigate the Dai Yu situation with subtlety. In case she come into trouble, he provides her with a jade pendant and tells her to seek out the master of the Temple of the Jade of the Five Virtues in Nanjing for refuge. The two then parts ways, and leave Beijing.

Xiaoling Tomb, Nanjing, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Xiaoling Tomb
Source: China Dragon Tours
Chen Xijian tends to his duties as keeper of the Xiaoling Tomb. He gives his apprentice, Xiao Dezi, the night off and money to purchase a meal. Whilst walking past a statue, he sees a silhouette of a person hiding in the shadows. He calls out to the person, and he recognises Shao Jun. He hurriedly takes her to a quiet location and they discuss their past service under the previous Emperor. She reminds him of the scroll, and he tells the story of how the page had been taken from a strange western book, written in a language that no-one could understand. Contained upon the page was an alchemical formula to create a pill for immortality. The Precursor Box could reputedly translate the page in question.

A voice suddenly calls for Chen's attention and he realises it is that of Ma Yongcheng, and immediately urges Shao Jun to hide. Yongcheng asks for where he is hiding Jun, to which Chen replies with a devastating strike to his chest, felling the giant Tiger. The two men collapse in blood, with Chen the victim of a last second retaliatory dagger strike. Lifting Chen to his feet Jun attempts to take him to cover as more of Ma's men arrive. She is then struck by a nerve strike from behind, as Chen betrays her to the troops and takes the jade pendant. Suddenly Ma Yongcheng stands over her, the blood clearly having been faked. Inspecting Jun's fallen body, he is stabbed by Jun's sword from behind, as Chen betrayed him too, in hopes of gaining affection from Zhang Yong. Whilst lying on the ground, Ma's last action is to untrap the nerves on Jun's back, who promptly springs back up to her feet. Her legs still numb, she struggles to keep her balance, as such she uses the rope dart to maneuver behind him, and manages to slash Chen's shoulder. Wounded, Chen starts to flee, but Jun again uses the rope dart to move across the trees and to continually move ahead of him. Eventually he dives into the nearby waters, and as she follows, he manages to land a solid strike with his weapon on her shoulder wounding her. He then begins to swim towards a nearby float with people singing in a private party. Calling out he is pulled onto the boat, with Jun following. She tries to swing her sword at Chen, but a wooden stick blocks her strike. A young man then struck her cleanly, which her diminished body could not move fast enough to block. She falls unconscious.

Unknown location, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Shao Jun awakens on a bed, tended to a servant girl named Yanfei. She asks to meet the servant's master, who is revealed to be outside amongst the gardens. When Jun approaches him, she is challenged to a mock duel with bamboo canes. Emerging the victor, she is led to a quiet room where he reveals his name as Xu Pengju, commander in chief of the Nanjing prefecture. He returns her weapons and the jade pendant to her, revealing that she is actually at the Temple of Jade of the Five Virtues – the place her Mentor had urged her to go to. He urges her to stay at his house for some time, as forces loyal to the Tigers continue to search the city for her.

Several days pass, and Jun's wounds slowly heal. Xu reveals that his master Yang Yiqing, Wang Yangming, and Zhang Yong all originally held the three jade pendants. Yang had apparently been recently visited by Yong, and they had shown the pendants to each other. Somehow, Yong knew that Shao Jun carried a pendant, meaning that he would surely now be seeking out her mentor for his, the absence of which would reveal his Mentor identity. She requests Xu to assist her to get out of the city, to which he obliges. A small entourage of his men start to weave through the city, before they are stopped by one of the Eight Tigers, the elusive Yu Dayong – who apparently has the city under lockdown. Yu insists on checking the carriages but finds nothing, as Shao Jun sits astride a horse, posing as a guard. The group moves to a tower outside of the city, where she changes into a messenger's outfit, that will allow her to pass outposts quickly and without questioning. She wishes Xu well, and thanks him for all of his help, promising him a duel rematch when next they meet.

Tianzhou, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Wang Shou, a local military leader of the “Wolves” looks over the chilly walls of the city. He expresses to his younger brother, Wang Zhen, that he fears war is inevitable as Lady Wa leads imperial troops into the region.

As the insurgents plan their defence, amongst the imperial troops is Wang Yangming. He studies maps of the local area for strategy, and is greeted by Lady Wa. The wolves make a surprise attack, and are quickly shocked in return as the imperials use advanced weaponry to reign bullets upon them. After a brief battle, Lady Wa visits the Wolves and peace talks are requested between the two sides. At the peace talks, several guards are killed outside as a distraction as an elderly assassin attempts to kill Wang with poison blades, but even with a younger accomplice the attempt fails. The two would be assassins are executed publicly. As Wang returns to his camp, he begins to stagger but is caught by none other than Shao Jun herself. Carrying him into his tent, he reveals to her that the elderly assassin had been one of the Tigers, Luo Xiang. They realise that Zhang Yong had deliberately created the small revolt in the region to arrange for Wang's assassination to look little more than fallout from a skirmish. Wang tells Jun to now travel to Hongqimen, and to meet a pirate named Tiexin that would be able to help her. He promises to follow later, once the dragon festival begins and after he has returned the imperial army to its garrison.

Guangdong, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Shao Jun travels by horseback, switching horses at each messenger post. Heading south east she comes across an overturned cart with a dead horse, and a crying woman shouting for help. As she approaches, she and her horse fall into a trap hole. Jun tries to use her rope dart to escape, but this is cut down and she falls mid climb back to the bottom. The cart is carried over the hole, trapping Jun. Qiu Ju shouts out to ask if she is still alive, the Tiger clearly behind this surprise trap. He also remarks that they would now enjoy killing Wang Yingming as well. At this moment a mysterious rider approaches. Slaying Jun's captors, they leave before Jun climbs out of the hole, pushing the cart aside to reach safety. Another riderless horse awaits, obviously left by her mystery saviour. Realising her Mentor's life is now in danger she changes course to meet up with the returning army instead.

After travelling for days, she eventually finds them at the town of Huanglong. She speaks with a servant, who advises that Wang had gone for a walk with an old friend known as an “Uncle”. Knowing that this likely was Zhang Yong, she jumps on her horse and heads off in the general direction instructed.

Aboard a small sailboat, Wang Yingming and Zhang Yong discuss philosophy as they play a game of Go. Yong slowly reveals how he came to deduce that Wang was in fact Shao Jun's mentor. The two spiritual masters projected their energies at each other as they played the board game, with Wang emerging as the victor.

As Shao Jun comes across the boat, she sees her Mentor engaged in battle with Yong and four imposing soldiers. The soldiers are referred to as yuxiao and appear to be supernatural, expressionless and unbreathing. They take tremendous amounts of slashes by swords, before they are finally felled into the river. During the battle, Yong manages to land a fatal blow to Wang, and in turn snatches the bag containing the Precursor Box. Leaving Jun to defeat the remaining soldiers, Yong makes for the river bank to escape. With Wang breathing his last breaths, Shao Jun returns to her horse to give chase to Yong and the box.

Macau, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Source: Black Tomato
Within his residence in Macau, Yu Dayong enjoys a meal of roast goose. The door to his room suddenly opens, and a dishevelled looking Zhang Yong enters. He instructs that they need set sail for the Dai Yu island immediately. Once the ship crew is gathered, the ship departs shortly after. Yong orders Yu to check the ship thoroughly for stowaways, and retires to his room. After finding nothing, Yu returns to find Yong, the latter of whom is eager to show off the Precursor Box he has just obtained. Due to bad weather, the ship has to stop and take refuge at a small islet halfway to its destination, known as Guimen Reef.

Back in Macau, Shao Jun has followed Yong's trail to the docks but just misses his departure. Whilst travelling there she has met with the pirate Tiexin as instructed by her Mentor, and requested their help. Releasing a group of young girls from the slave trade in Macau, she is greeted by Tiexin's sister A-Qian, who has a small ship of her own. Suggesting that Zhang Yong is probably already on his way, Jun climbs aboard and heads out into the unpredictable weather ahead.

Ningbo Port, China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

The small ship quickly reaches the Reef in the dead of night, and spots that Yong's vessel is stationary. Silently pulling alongside, Shao Jun climbs the larger boat and sneaks aboard.

Going to the lower deck, she is ambushed in the dark by several guards and is bound by a rope to each arm, whilst Yu Dayong steps out of the shadows to greet her. On a chair in the background is Zhang Yong, who rises to his feet. Mocking her he pulls out a dagger, before a flare fires in the distance illuminating the room. A hole suddenly explodes in the ship wall, and Tiexin bursts into the room forcing Yong into a defensive position and eliminating Jun's captors, freeing her for the fight. Yu throws a device at the floor, and a blinding bright light illuminates the room, and the two Tigers escape through a trap door.

As Jun returns to the deck, a small boat emerges from the bottom of the ship, and Yu Dayong and Zhang Yong escape the scene. The two Tigers had punctured the ship, and it began to sink. Jun, Tiexin and his own ship and crew all rush to reach the main rock of the reef, and stand upon it. One of the Tigers crew has survived, and offers to help them navigate to the “Isle of Demons” (Dai Yu) in exchange for sparing his life.

Dai Yu Island, Sea of China, 1526 AD (Ming Dynasty)

Tiexin's ship eventually reaches Dai Yu island after a few days under the cover of darkness. Shao Jun looks upon the central mountain, which is clearly a volcano. As they circle the island, several yuxiao stand upon the beaches, the mysterious undying men waiting to grab the boat if it comes within reach. Finally finding the dock, the Tiger crewman reveals the entrance is underwater, and they have to board a large barrel like vessel to enter the base. He climbs into the vessel along with Shao Jun, Tiexin and a few of his crew, before it disappears into the water, and floats under and into the secret Tiger base. On the other side of the water way, they open the barrel, and one member of the crew gets out first. He is immediately beset by a yuxiao killing him near instantly. Tiexin and Shao Jun both have to work together to ultimately bring it down.

Dai Yu Island
All around them are flowing lava pools, along with a large metal door. The Tiger crew member flips a switch to open a door revealing the insides of the volcano, which is lined with metal and two impressive towers. Atop one tower are Yu Dayong, Pyros and Zhang Yong, standing over a prostrate man. The three men fiddle with the Precursor Box, until it finally starts to glow a pale blue light, displaying the translated version of the Dai Yu scroll. The metal door begins to close again, but at the sight of Shao Jun coming through alone, Yu Dayong goes down to face her. Trying to blind her with his flash device once more, Jun uses her rope dart to stab both his legs. With a blade to his throat, she demands he open the door which he dutifully does, allowing Tiexin and his men to enter. Another yuxiao attempts to follow them in, but Jun again takes care of it. Yu escapes amidst this fight, and takes a ladder back up to Yong. Jun gives chase, throwing and swinging her rope dart to climb the tower quickly. Yu Dayong climbs the ladder but is stabbed through the throat by Pyros, and then falls to his death.

Tiexin sees an opportunity to leave, and orders his men to reopen the door. In reclosing the door, they also activate a self-destruct mechanism, and resign themselves to having to return to the ship, taking the barrel vessel back out to the surface.

Jun climbs the ladder to the top, and dodges the falling Dayong. Swinging herself up one last time, she slices Pyros's throat, and lands at the top platform. With his back turned, she charges at the remaining Zhang Yong, but her sword is snapped in half by an attack by the new yuxiao that has suddenly come to life on a table. Using her rope dart she swings around the tower to lose the undead warrior, before finally tricking it and forcing it off the tower to fall to the distant ground below. As she reaches Zhang Yong again, he rushes at her with a dagger, but foolishly runs into her half of a sword – which she was still brandishing. Injured, he grabs the Precursor Box and runs for a ladder leading to a roof hatch. Above the tower is a large balloon, and Yong climbs into the basket before launching it skywards. Launching her rope dart into the wall, Jun starts to climb out of the volcano, but as the facility below starts to self destruct, black smoke starts to block her vision. She spots a small opening to what looks like a tunnel outside, and climbs to it in order to breathe. Realising the warm air would offer her some buoyancy, she holds her cloak wide and leaps towards the water below, soaring through the air with great speed.

A-Qian is waiting in a small rowboat, having been convinced that Jun would make it out alive. She sees her fall into the water, and quickly rows to her before pulling her aboard. The two women then follow the currents away from the island, as it explodes behind them, and attempt to rejoin Tiexin's main ship. Convinced that his sister had died in the explosion, Tiexin's ship disappears into the distance, leaving the two women abandoned. Their boat gets caught on the reef, and begins to sink. Standing atop a nearby rock for safety, they are shocked to see a different boat coming towards them.

Yanfei calls out to them, and Jun is surprised to see her again. Climbing aboard, Yanfei revealed that Xu Pengju had worried and followed Jun at a distance ever since she left his home, and that it was in fact he that had rescued her from the hole in Guangdong. Feeling relieved, Shao Jun is pleased to be returned to allies she could trust, but she knows her mission to stop Zhang Yong still remains.

Final Thoughts - Analysis

This book certainly took a very long time to reach us in English! It is sadly difficult to give much of an analysis honestly, when you
Source: Fodor's Travel Guide
already know that the content itself cannot be directly compared to existing canon, nor has any impact upon it.

Even as a short summary, the book covers many strange oddities that really shouldn't have been present. Examples include; characters openly talking about “magnetics”, no real sense of the passage of time (which is strange when you consider that it took Jun six years to eliminate all of the Tigers), Jun using her rope dart to zoom around like Spider-Man, characters attacking each other mentally with spiritual energy, superpowered zombies, and to top it all the appearance of a hot air balloon - over two hundred years before they were invented.

Fans have debated whether a multiverse exists in the Assassin's Creed universe, and this book certainly should be presented as sound evidence of this in my humble opinion. It's clearly in a fantastical different reality completely separate to that of the games. In the end, it is down to you dear reader whether that interests you enough to buy it.

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