Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Fire by Katherine Neville

In The Fire, the long awaited sequel to The Eight, Katherine Neville tells the tale of the Montglane Service, a chess set that once belonged to Charlemagne. It's rumoured to have special powers and for centuries people have sought to possess it. Switching back and forth between present day (2003) and the 1800s, this novel offers a story within a story. After the French Revolution, the chess set rears its head in Albania and Haidee's father enlists her to embark on a journey to save it. Skip to present day. Thirty years ago, the chess set was scattered around the world and was buried. Recently it's surfaced again and the hunt for its powers have resumed with a whole new set of players.

This sensational thriller with intricate puzzles and conspiracies was fun to read. It was not only entertaining, but it was also informative. The story line contained a little something for everyone: history, romance, mystery, puzzle-solving and strategy. I love it when authors combine fictional characters with real life famous people. In this book, Neville includes Lord Byron, Napoleon, Napoleon's mother, Percy Shelley, Isaac Newton and others. Some readers might attempt to draw some comparisons between this novel and The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. In my opinion this novel is far superior in almost every way. Better writing, better storyline and better characters.

While I really enjoyed the story, I found the whole "Game" aspect confusing. There were many references to the "Game" and the players, but I couldn't quite figure it out. I kept looking for some rules or explanation on game play, but I had a hard time deciphering any from the story. Perhaps it would have been clearer had I first read The Eight. The parts set in the 1800s also gave me a little trouble. I got lost more than once and stumbled with the Middle Eastern and European names and places. Some pieces of the plot in that time period were convoluted and hard to follow. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, though.

My husband is the chess player in this family. I know how the pieces move, but don't have the patience to learn strategy and I just don't get the whole war/battle aspect. I do, however, find it fascinating. I've read a few other novels featuring chess and have enjoyed each one.

This novel undoubtedly required massive amounts of research on so many varying subjects. That fact is not only verified by the intricate details in the story, but also by the "Acknowledgements" section at the back of the book which ranges from "Albania" to "Volcanoes and Geysers" and much, much more. Very well done.

I think I might track down and read The Eight and then go back to this book to see if I can get a better understanding of the parts I found confusing. For now, the book is going back to the shelf.

Recommended for mystery, chess and history lovers as well as fans of The Eight. I'd also recommend it for book clubs. There's lots of symbolism and themes running through the book that should keep discussions going for hours.


  1. I have heard about this book and now that I've read your review it will go on my "Recommended Books" list but I think I'll try to get The Eight first.

    If you enjoyed this book with chess and a mystery I recommend The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I believe I have "The Flanders Panel" on Mt. TBR. I'll see if I can dig it out and move it closer to the top of the pile.

  3. I read The Eight a couple of years ago and have this one in the queue. I'm glad to hear that you liked it!


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