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.