[Review] The Eight by Katherine Neville

Title: The Eight (This link goes to Amazon)
Author: Katherine Neville
Series: Montglane Service #1
Page: 598 pages
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Historical Fiction
Subject: Chess Sets, Puzzles
First Published: 1988

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.

- Synopsis from Goodreads

I read The Fire by Katherine Neville a while back not knowing that it was actually a sequel to The Eight (I was halfway through by then). I thought the story about the legendary chess set known as the Montglane Service was very intriguing and loved the historical references and adventures. Read review of The Fire here.

So naturally I like to read the first book. From the reviews I read, most people liken this book to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code but way BETTER (plus The Eight came out more than two decades earlier). Now I am not someone who would lean towards books like The Da Vinci Code (yes, I haven't read the book yet despite the hype) but I do appreciate history once in a while.

I have no way of comparing the two books but one thing I know for sure is that The Eight was much more intriguing than its sequel, The Fire. So in a way I am glad I read it backwards because if it’s the other way round, I know I would have been disappointed with the second book.

The Eight is a multi-layered story alternating between 1790 and 1972, two women from different centuries caught up in a quest involving chess pieces of the Montglane Service. Mireille, an eighteen-century French nun and Catherine Velis, the present-day computer geek from New York City did what they had to do to prevent the chess pieces from falling to the hands of the wrong/selfish people. But what makes the pieces so coveted by many? The answer will be in the book.

Several historical figures made appearances in the book: Catherine the Great, the empress of Russia; Jacques-Louis David, the French Neoclassical painter of that late eighteen-century; Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler; also important figures during the French Revolution like Maximilien Robespierre and Napoleon Bonaparte.

This book is jam-packed with scholarly references any historical buff would appreciate. And to me, it was a delightful departure from the usual topics I used to read.

Comments

Tiny Library said…
This sounds great. I loved the Da Vinci Code, it is tacky but that's one of the reasons I loved it (although Angels & Demons is better). I'll definitely be checking this one out when I get a chance :)