Book/page totals

Top 10 Lists

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This sequel to The Eight primarily follows Alexandra, the daughter of Cat and Solarin-- although it couldn't follow The Eight properly if it didn't also have a parallel story in another time line (filled with cameos of famous historical personages); among others, this alternate story includes Charlot, the prophet son of Mireille, but it also includes some new characters including the young Haid&eactue;e, the adopted daughter of Ali Pasha who makes a journey from Albania to Europe- in part to find her natural father, Byron; but of course, there is something to do with pieces from a certain chess set. As a child, Alexandra was a chess prodigy, and on a fateful trip to Russia - where she might have become the youngest chess grandmaster ever had she won - her father is shot and killed. Now, Alexandra is a young woman living in D.C., working at an open-hearth restaurant, and completely estranged from her mother-- until she gets a strange, mysterious invitation to her mother's birthday party in Colorado. what Alexandra doesn't know is that she is being drawn into the Game that her mother has tried to protect her from since Alexandra was a child.

I didn't find this book nearly as compelling as I thought The Eight was the first time I read it-- although recently I was disappointed in my re-reading of that book, too. I suppose it's hard to find an engaging mystery when readers already know most of the secrets about the Montglane chess service. It is revealed (or at least hinted at and then soon confirmed) early on in this book that there may be two copies of the Black Queen, but it was never clear to me what the significance or import of that might be (although we are eventually told how it happened). The most engrossing part of the plot doesn't come into play until much closer to the end of the book, when we learn that the formula hidden in the chess set isn't the only esoteric secret it carries, and that in fact anyone who uses the first formula for personal gain will be unable to discover or use the more important secret, which is intended to be used for the betterment of the world. Although that mystery is left pretty vague and open-ended, which makes the end of the book a little unsatisfying-- a bit like the end of The Eight in some ways, actually.

Until closer to the end of the book, I felt like I was slogging through this book. I didn't care that much about any of the main characters-- Alexandra didn't seem to have all that much personality, and I almost felt like I was supposed to like her simply because she was Cat and Solarin's daughter. Like her mother, she meets an incredibly handsome, foreign, chess grandmaster-- and of course, they fall madly in love. (In fact, there is another big parallel to a fairly significant plot twist from the original book, but it wasn't nearly as shocking here-- I suppose because it's a bit familiar by now.) Alexandra works tending the huge fires at a Basque open-hearth restaurant, and apparently this fire-working is significant because it relates to Alchemy and the deeper secrete of the chess set and the game; although that significance was never that clear to me, and it was not apparent that Alexandra had any extra insights into the Game or its mysteries because of her expertise with fire.

In her afterword, Neville says that she was inspired to write a sequel to The Eight by the events on 9/11 and the war in the Middle East-- the book suggests that the war is motivated by someone trying to get the chess pieces, rather like the machinations during the French civil war in the first book. But not enough time is spent on this to give it much weight.

Title:The Fire
Author:Katherine Neville
Date published:2008
Series:sequel to The Eight
Number of pages:451


Google Search