Monday, March 4, 2013

The Eight by Katherine Neville

Synopsis From Back Cover:

New York City, 1972 - A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis is also a computer expert for a Big Eight accounting firm.  Before heading off to a new assignment in Algeria, Cat has her palm read by a fortune-teller.  The woman warns Cat of danger.  Then an antiques dealer approaches Cat with a mysterious offer:  He has an anonymous client who is trying to collect the pieces of an ancient chess service, purported to be in Algeria.  If Cat can bring the pieces back, there will be a generous reward.

The south of France, 1790 - Mireille de Remy and her cousin Valentine are young novices at the fortress like Montglane Abbey.  With France aflame in revolution, the two girls burn to rebel against constricted convent life - and their means of escape is at hand.  Buried deep within the abbey are pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, once owned by Charlemagne.  Whoever reassembles the pieces can play a game of unlimited power.  But to keep the Game a secret from those who would abuse it, the two young women must scatter the pieces throughout the world....

There are certain books that feel like home.  I'm not talking about a physical home, because unless you are a Smurf, I'm not sure you could find one big enough to live in.  Even then, I think it would take a book like War and Peace, to find one big enough to make it work.  What I'm talking about are the books that you have read so many times, that diving back into their pages, feels like you are being welcomed back by family you haven't seen in a while.  When you are feeling down, or in a rut, they are the books you return to in order to make everything right with the world again.  There is never any sort of judgement or restrictions on what you need to make it all good, but those characters, their story, always seems to be what you are needing at that time.

The Eight by Katherine Neville, is one of those books for me.  To tell you the truth, I have a lot of them, since I'm such a huge rereader, but this is one of my favorites.  First published in 1988, Katherine Neville was doing the whole Dan Brown thing, before anyone even knew who Robert Langdon was.  Cat Velis was cool before Laura Croft, and a hell of a lot more interesting.  This is even one of the few books where I'm not bored by the historical flashbacks.  I find Mireille to be just as interesting as Cat, and when their two stories come together in a very physical sense, I'm amazed by how much I'm willing to buy into the concept and storyline.  I think it's a credit to the author that my willingness to suspend disbelief, never waivers.  She has me from the first page to the last, and often times I'm so into the story, that I forget what time of day it is, or even if I've ate anything or not.

That is the power of a good reread for me, that no matter how many times I've delved into a specific world, or ran along with the characters as they are being chased through a desert, I'm never bored.  I'm engaged the entire time, and am already looking forward to the next time I pick the book up.

I was going to leave the review likes this, but then I remembered I have read the sequel to this book, The Fire, recently, and if I want to review that as well, I'm going to have to talk about the action in the book itself.  Otherwise, the upcoming review, will make entirely no sense.  So really quickly, I'm going to touch on a few things, that I will not be able to leave out of the review for The Fire.

As you can tell by the cover, and by the synopsis, chess, in all is facets, plays a huge role in this book.  From the teams, white and black, on down to the various characters who not only play the game, but seem to be masters at it, chess is the lifeblood of the book.  Cat Velis and her begrudging friend, Lily Rad, are drawn into a game of chess played on a global board, with players as pieces, and others pulling the strings for the last few hundred years.  The object of the game is to collect the Montglane chess set; pieces, board, and cover, discover it's secrets, all before the opposing team.  It's a game that has been nonstop for years, and has been played by some major figures in history; Catherine the Great, Voltaire, Napoleon, Robespierre, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, to name just a few.  Maurice actually plays a huge role in the life of Mireille, and ends up being a pivotal player of his generation.

That game, with some of the same players, is still going on when Cat is dragged into it.  At first, she has no idea of whom to trust or what the endgame is supposed to be.  Through some great teamwork with Lily, a Russian chess master, Alexander Solarin, and a few others who she grows close to, she is able to bring the game to a point that will allow her side to claim victory for the first time.  The fact the is faced with a duplicitous opposition that will do everything to gain the service for themselves, even murder, doesn't stop her from being a kick ass heroine that would give Allan Quartermain a run for his money.

Challenges: A-Z


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Chess is my favourite sport/game and yet I never read this book in spite of having a paperback edition for several years. I wonder if it's still around. I have heard a lot of good things about THE EIGHT. Thanks for the reminder, Ryan.

Angela's Anxious Life said...

I love love this book. my mom recommended it to me way back in 2005 and I finally read it. Amazing. Now book 2 on the other hand-boring. I just couldn't get into that one.

Angela's Anxious Life

Mystica said...

The author and the book are both new to me. I like this story.

Anachronist said...

The Eight by Katherine Velis,

Sorry for being a bit anal but I think the author of this one was called Katherine Neville and Miss Velis is just the main character. ;)

I like this book as well!!!

bermudaonion said...

A book that stands up to so many rereads must be good!

JaneGS said...

I'm a big fan of rereading favorite books too--I like your notion of living in a book. I like having a relationship with the books I resonate with and that's why I try to authors and their stories on as well as revisiting old friends.

This sounds like a terrific story--I like the idea of a Dan Brown story more than I like the implementation of the couple I've read, and having just finished Tale of Two Cities, I'm hungry for more set in France in that time period.

It's on the list!

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Great review! I thought that this was a reread for you when I saw it in my email. I remember you reading this before, or mentioning you had. I have both books in my library. Yet another author I need to get to. Get in line, baby! LOL!

Heidenkind said...

I read this book years ago and I still remember scenes from it. Did you ever read the sequel? I heard there was one but I never got around to it.

Staci said...

I love rereads that never get old! For me that is Harry Potter, Outlander, and Jane Austen's works. I hardly ever reread but these are ones that I have started to read again. This sounds like a great book!

Matt said...

I cannot believe it takes this long for me to discover this book. Where have I been? The credit goes to California Bookstore Day. I stopped by my local indie for the party and somebody had written on the board his favorite book is The Eight. :) I just started this morning.