The Eight

The Eight

by Katherine Neville

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Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years...In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the world, because the game that can be played with them is too powerful....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345366238
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/14/1990
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 249,295
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Katherine Neville is the author of The Eight, The Magic Circle (a USA Today bestseller), and A Calculated Risk (a New York Times Notable Book). The Eight has been translated into more than thirty languages. In a national poll in Spain by the noted journal El País, The Eight was voted one of the top ten books of all time. Neville lives in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

The Eight

By Katherine Neville


Copyright © 1988 Katherine Neville
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1367-3



Characters tend to be either for or against the quest. If they assist it, they are idealized as simply gallant or pure; if they obstruct it, they are characterized as simply villainous or cowardly.

Hence every typical character ... tends to have his moral opposite confronting him, like black and white pieces in a chess game.

— Anatomy of Criticism Northrop Frye



A flock of nuns crossed the road, their crisp wimples fluttering about their heads like the wings of large sea birds. As they floated through the large stone gates of the town, chickens and geese scurried out of their path, flapping and splashing through the mud puddles. The nuns moved through the darkening mist that enveloped the valley each morning and, in silent pairs, headed toward the sound of the deep bell that rang out from the hills above them.

They called that spring le Printemps Sanglant, the Bloody Spring. The cherry trees had bloomed early that year, long before the snows had melted from the high mountain peaks. Their fragile branches bent down to earth with the weight of the wet red blossoms. Some said it was a good omen that they had bloomed so soon, a symbol of rebirth after the long and brutal winter. But then the cold rains had come and froze the blossoms on the bough, leaving the valley buried thick in red blossoms stained with brown streaks of frost. Like a wound congealed with dried blood. And this was said to be another kind of sign.

High above the valley, the Abbey of Montglane rose like an enormous outcropping of rock from the crest of the mountain. The fortress-like structure had remained untouched by the outside world for nearly a thousand years. It was constructed of six or seven layers of wall built one on top of the other. As the original stones eroded over the centuries, new walls were laid outside of old ones, with flying buttresses. The result was a brooding architectural melange whose very appearance fed the rumors about the place. The abbey was the oldest church structure standing intact in France, and it bore an ancient curse that was soon to be reawakened.

As the dark-throated bell rang out across the valley, the remaining nuns looked up from their labors one by one, put aside their rakes and hoes, and passed down through the long, symmetrical rows of cherry trees to climb the precipitous road to the abbey.

At the end of the long procession, the two young novices Valentine and Mireille trailed arm in arm, picking their way with muddy boots. They made an odd complement to the orderly line of nuns. The tall red-haired Mireille with her long legs and broad shoulders looked more like a healthy farm girl than a nun. She wore a heavy butcher's apron over her habit, and red curls strayed from beneath her wimple. Beside her Valentine seemed fragile, though she was nearly as tall. Her pale skin seemed translucent, its fairness accentuated by the cascade of white-blond hair that tumbled about her shoulders. She had stuffed her wimple into the pocket of her habit, and she walked reluctantly beside Mireille, kicking her boots in the mud.

The two young women, the youngest nuns at the abbey, were cousins on their mothers' side, both orphaned at an early age by a dreadful plague that had ravaged France. The aging Count de Remy, Valentine's grandfather, had commended them into the hands of the Church, upon his death leaving the sizable balance of his estate to ensure their care.

The circumstance of their upbringing had formed an inseparable bond between the two, who were both bursting with the unrestrained abundant gaiety of youth. The abbess often heard the older nuns complain that this behavior was unbecoming to the cloistered life, but she understood that it was better to curb youthful spirits than to try to quench them.

Then, too, the abbess felt a certain partiality to the orphaned cousins, a feeling unusual both to her personality and her station. The older nuns would have been surprised to learn that the abbess herself had sustained from early childhood such a bosom friendship, with a woman who had been separated from her by many years and many thousands of miles.

Now, on the steep trail, Mireille was tucking some unruly wisps of red hair back under her wimple and tugging her cousin's arm as she tried to lecture her on the sins of tardiness.

"If you keep on dawdling, the Reverend Mother will give us a penance again," she said.

Valentine broke loose and twirled around in a circle. "The earth is drowning in spring," she cried, swinging her arms about and nearly toppling over the edge of the cliff. Mireille hauled her up along the treacherous incline. "Why must we be shut up in that stuffy abbey when everything out-of-doors is bursting with life?"

"Because we are nuns," said Mireille with pursed lips, stepping up her pace, her hand firmly on Valentine's arm. "And it is our duty to pray for mankind." But the warm mist rising from the valley floor brought with it a fragrance so heavy that it saturated everything with the aroma of cherry blossoms. Mireille tried not to notice the stirrings this caused in her own body.

"We are not nuns yet, thank God," said Valentine. "We are only novices until we have taken our vows. It's not too late to be saved. I've heard the older nuns whispering that there are soldiers roaming about in France, looting all the monasteries of their treasures, rounding up the priests and marching them off to Paris. Perhaps some soldiers will come here and march me off to Paris, too. And take me to the opera each night, and drink champagne from my shoe!"

"Soldiers are not always so very charming as you seem to think," observed Mireille. "After all, their business is killing people, not taking them to the opera."

"That's not all they do," said Valentine, her voice dropping to a mysterious whisper. They had reached the top of the hill, where the road flattened out and widened considerably. Here it was cobbled with flat paving stones and resembled the broad thoroughfares one found in larger towns. On either side of the road, huge cypresses had been planted. Rising above the sea of cherry orchards, they looked formal and forbidding and, like the abbey itself, strangely out of place.

"I have heard," Valentine whispered in her cousin's ear, "that the soldiers do dreadful things to nuns! If a soldier should come upon a nun, in the woods, for example, he immediately takes a thing out of his pants and he puts it into the nun and stirs it about. And then when he has finished, the nun has a baby!"

"What blasphemy!" cried Mireille, pulling away from Valentine and trying to suppress the smile hovering about her lips. "You are entirely too saucy to be a nun, I think."

"Exactly what I have been saying all along," Valentine admitted. "I would far rather be the bride of a soldier than a bride of Christ."

As the two cousins approached the abbey, they could see the four double rows of cypresses planted at each entrance to form the sign of the crucifix. The trees closed in about them as they scurried along through the blackening mist. They passed through the abbey gates and crossed the large courtyard. As they approached the high wooden doors to the main enclave, the bell continued to ring, like a death knell cutting through the thick mist.

Each paused before the doors to scrape mud from her boots, crossed herself quickly, and passed through the high portal. Neither glanced up at the inscription carved in crude Frankish letters in the stone arch over the portal, but each knew what it said, as if the words were engraved upon her heart:

Cursed be He who bring these Walls to Earth
The King is checked by the Hand of God alone.

Beneath the inscription the name was carved in large block letters, "Carolus Magnus." He it was who was architect both of the building and the curse placed upon those who would destroy it. The greatest ruler of the Frankish Empire over a thousand years earlier, he was known to all in France as Charlemagne.

The interior walls of the abbey were dark, cold, and wet with moss. From the inner sanctum one could hear the whispered voices of the novitiates praying and the soft clicking of their rosaries counting off the Aves, Glorias, and Pater Nosters. Valentine and Mireille hurried through the chapel as the last of the novices were genuflecting and followed the trail of whispers to the small door behind the altar where the reverend mother's study was located. An older nun was hastily shooing the last of the stragglers inside. Valentine and Mireille glanced at each other and passed within.

It was strange to be called to the abbess's study in this manner. Few nuns had ever been there at all, and then usually for disciplinary action. Valentine, who was always being disciplined, had been there often enough. But the abbey bell was used to convene all the nuns. Surely they could not all be called at once to the reverend mother's study?

As they entered the large, low-ceilinged room, Valentine and Mireille saw that all the nuns in the abbey were indeed there — more than fifty of them. Seated on rows of hard wooden benches that had been set up facing the Abbess's writing desk, they whispered among themselves. Clearly everyone thought it was a strange circumstance, and the faces that looked up as the two young cousins entered seemed frightened. The cousins took their places in the last row of benches. Valentine clasped Mireille's hand.

"What does it mean?" she whispered.

"It bodes ill, I think," replied Mireille, also in a whisper. "The reverend mother looks grave. And there are two women here whom I have never seen."

At the end of the long room, behind a massive desk of polished cherry wood, stood the abbess, wrinkled and leathery as an old parchment, but still exuding the power of her tremendous office. There was a timeless quality in her bearing that suggested she had long ago made peace with her own soul, but today she looked more serious than the nuns had ever seen her.

Two strangers, both large-boned young women with big hands, loomed at either side of her like avenging angels. One had pale skin, dark hair, and luminous eyes, while the other bore a strong resemblance to Mireille, with a creamy complexion and chestnut hair only slightly darker than Mireille's auburn locks. Though both had the bearing of nuns, they were not wearing habits, but plain gray traveling clothes of nondescript nature.

The abbess waited until all the nuns were seated and the door had been closed. When the room was completely silent she began to speak in the voice that always reminded Valentine of a dry leaf being crumbled.

"My daughters," said the abbess, folding her hands before her, "for nearly one thousand years the Order of Montglane has stood upon this rock, doing our duty to mankind and serving God. Though we are cloistered from the world, we hear the rumblings of the world's unrest. Here in our small corner, we have received unfortunate tidings of late that may change the security we've enjoyed so long. The two women who stand beside me are bearers of those tidings. I introduce Sister Alexandrine de Forbin" — she motioned to the dark-haired woman — "and Marie-Charlotte de Corday, who together direct the Abbayeaux-Dames at Caen in the northern provinces. They have traveled the length of France in disguise, an arduous journey, to bring us a warning. I therefore bid you hark unto what they have to say. It is of the gravest importance to us all."

The abbess took her seat, and the woman who had been introduced as Alexandrine de Forbin cleared her throat and spoke in a low voice so that the nuns had to strain to hear her. But her words were clear.

"My sisters in God," she began, "the tale we have to tell is not for the fainthearted. There are those among us who came to Christ hoping to save mankind. There are those who came hoping to escape from the world. And there are those who came against their will, feeling no calling whatever." At this she turned her dark, luminous eyes directly upon Valentine, who blushed to the very roots of her pale blond hair.

"Regardless what you thought your purpose was, it has changed as of today. In our journey, Sister Charlotte and I have passed the length of France, through Paris and each village in between. We have seen not only hunger but starvation. People are rioting in the streets for bread. There is butchery; women carry severed heads on pikes through the streets. There is rape, and worse. Small children are murdered, people are tortured in public squares and torn to pieces by angry mobs ..." The nuns were no longer quiet. Their voices rose in alarm as Alexandrine continued her bloody account.

Mireille thought it odd that a woman of God could recount such a tale without blanching. Indeed, the speaker had not once altered her low, calm tone, nor had her voice quavered in the telling. Mireille glanced at Valentine, whose eyes were large and round with fascination. Alexandrine de Forbin waited until the room had quieted a bit, then continued.

"It is now April. Last October the king and queen were kidnapped from Versailles by an angry mob and forced to return to the Tuilleries at Paris, where they were imprisoned. The king was made to sign a document, the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man,' proclaiming the equality of all men. The National Assembly in effect now controls the government; the king is powerless to intervene. Our country is beyond revolution. We are in a state of anarchy. To make matters worse, the assembly has discovered there is no gold in the State Treasury; the king has bankrupted the State. In Paris it is believed that he will not live out the year."

A shock ran through the rows of seated nuns, and there was agitated whispering throughout the room. Mireille squeezed Valentine's hand gently as they both stared at the speaker. The women in this room had never heard such thoughts expressed aloud, and they could not conceive such things as real. Torture, anarchy, regicide. How was it possible?

The abbess rapped her hand flat upon the table to call for order, and the nuns fell silent. Now Alexandrine took her seat, and Sister Charlotte stood alone at the table. Her voice was strong and forceful.

"In the assembly there is a man of great evil. He is hungry for power, though he calls himself a member of the clergy. This man is the Bishop of Autun. Within the Church at Rome it is believed he is the Devil incarnate. It is claimed he was born with a cloven hoof, the mark of the Devil, that he drinks the blood of small children to appear young, that he celebrates the Black Mass. In October this bishop proposed to the assembly that the State confiscate all Church property. On November second his Bill of Seizure was defended before the Assembly by the great statesman Mirabeau, and it passed. On February thirteenth the confiscation began. Any clergy who resisted were arrested and jailed. And on February sixteenth, the Bishop of Autun was elected president of the Assembly. Nothing can stop him now."

The nuns were in a state of extreme agitation, their voices raised in fearful exclamations and protests, but Charlotte's voice carried above all.

"Long before the Bill of Seizure, the Bishop of Autun had made inquiries into the location of the Church's wealth in France. Though the bill specifies that priests are to fall first and nuns to be spared, we know the bishop has cast his eye upon Montglane Abbey. It is around Montglane that many of his inquiries have centered. This, we have hastened here to tell you. The treasure of Montglane must not fall into his hands."

The abbess stood and placed her hand upon the strong shoulder of Charlotte Corday. She looked out over the rows of black-clad nuns, their stiff starched hats moving like a sea thick with wild seagulls beneath her, and she smiled. This was her flock, which she had shepherded for so long, and which she might not see again in her lifetime once she had revealed what she now must tell.


Excerpted from The Eight by Katherine Neville. Copyright © 1988 Katherine Neville. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Susan Isaacs

This is a Quest with something for everyone: ancient curses from the Fertile Crescent; Russian chess masters; sexy, savvy, American computer whizzes, Napolean and Robespierre; grave nuns; valiant Jewish diamond merchants; magic numbers; secret hiding places; the music of the spheres. In other words, Katherine Neville's big adventure novel is great fun!

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The Eight 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 144 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's a really good book if you like suspense and some mind challenging.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A page turner of a novel that kept me in my seat of what's going to happen next! It may be a long novel, but there is a good story behind it! And though it does seem to reflect the persona of the author herself, it showed how she can marvel at storytelling putting history and adventure into play. This is an excellent read that I have ventured as I'm more of a Rollins fan, but I do love a story that has some history and myth behind it and added with adventure that puts you right into the story itself.
PrincessFrosteen More than 1 year ago
The Eight is an amazing book for all those readers who enjoy a compelling mystery in both the past and present. Those who enjoyed The Davinci Code will be riveted by this amazing story.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
A jeweled chest set called The Montglane Service is given to Charlemagne. It is believed to have a code that will give the person that solves it great power. The set is broken apart and the pieces are spread through the four corners of the world during the French Revolution. In present day, Cat Velis is a computer expert that is hired to find the pieces and complete the chess set. But it is a race against time to get all of the pieces. Cat is not the only one looking for them. This book is told in two parts. The first part starts during the French Revolution and the second is in the 70’s. You can tell there is a lot of research put into this book for the first part as there are a lot of historical people mentioned relating to this chess set. In the 70’s we follow Cat as she is hired to find all of the pieces. Unfortunately I have to admit that I have read The Da Vinci Code and I find myself being drawn back to that book. There are many similarities in how The Eight unfolds. I have to remind myself that The Eight came out first and it is quite the opposite. I admit that the story bouncing back and forth in time did get a bit over whelming. It would have been better if we just followed along with Cat and a couple hints to the past. This is not a bad story. I do recommend reading it, it was an enjoyable read and one that I had on my TBR list since I first saw it released years ago. If you liked The Da Vinci Code and other books that followed I think you will like The Eight. I received The Eight for free from A Meryl Moss Media Production in exchange for an honest review.
Pure_Jonel More than 1 year ago
This novel was interesting and perplexing, thought inducing and chill seeking. The different areas that Neville worked into the story were fantastic. History and mythology rule the day while adventure had me on the edge of my seat. This novel is fantastically and captivatingly written and plotted. The flipping back and forward from the past to the present allows readers to get to know a myriad of characters who are all important to the tale. The contrast between present day characters and those in the past allowed each to shine to their fullest. This novel may be long, but it was unendingly fascinating. I read it in a single day, unable to put it down. It definitely sets the bar for all novels in the genre. I can’t wait to delve further into the world created by this author. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book and LOVED IT. All of these great reviews, in my opinion are right on target. Frequently, after reading a good book, I will buy the audio, for my less adventures family members who won't put or don't have the time to 'read' a book. I liked this one so much, I did just that.....However, this is a HEADS UP to all of you 'listeners' - a large portion of the book is ommited in the cd version. It is still a 'good' story but much of the detail is missing. It just skips it. The entire 'drive thru the dessert and the 'bats' and much more is just not there.!!!!
PghDragonMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading a series in reverse order can be interesting. Having recently finished Katherine Neville¿s The Fire, I went in search of the predecessor of that book, The Eight. As expected, since one story is a continuation of the other, there are many similarities. Enough so that you almost know what is coming at you in terms of plot development. One phrase, spoken by the main protagonist, Catherine Valis, resonated with me. In one scene she says, ¿I don¿t believe in coincidences¿. Coincidences are an overplayed device in this work and added a high distraction factor to this otherwise really good read.Another device that was overused were the numerous flashback scenes designed to give the reader the history behind the search for the mythic mystic Montglane Service, a chess set once created for Charlemagne. The main problem is the same story told so many times becomes annoying after a while. Neville becomes that teacher we all had at one point who insisted on you memorizing something through endless repetition. I¿m left wondering what is so important about this tale that I need to memorize it.The strongest points of this book are the rich descriptions Neville creates for us. You will have no trouble visualizing everything as it is taking place. The dialog also helps move the story along, but at times, the language becomes a little forced. This is not too objectionable as there are a number of characters from other countries speaking in English and the phrasing helps to remind us of that.I tried to divorce myself from what I know of The Game, the chess game played with real people in search of mystic knowledge and the theme binding the two works together, when reading The Eight. Taken by itself, The Eight is entertaining and thought provoking, yet it is not worthy of being deemed an eternal classic. I found the flaws annoying enough that I had to pull this down to a three and a half star rating from a four star experience.Having now read both books about this chess service and The Game, there is a theme that is voiced in both works: the game continues. I can¿t help but wonder if there is a third book yet to come involving the Montglane Service. I hope I¿m teasing you into reading The Fire and not spoiling it, but there are enough plot similarities between the two books already a part of this greater story that you can¿t help but wonder if the pattern will not repeat itself at least one more time.Not your traditional thriller genre read, but readers of that genre should find plenty to keep them entertained. If you like books with a mystical bent to them, read on. While not truly historical fiction, there are plenty of historical figures representing the literary, mathematical and political worlds of the past to keep followers of this genre on their toes. An above average novel that just misses the mark for a great read.
sarah_rubyred on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of reviews of this before I started, but I like to think I keep an open mind... I liked it overall, good fun, puzzles and adventures can rarely go wrong, especially if they involve a bit of magic. I am not so keen on reading about real characters of history as if they are involved in the tale, but this is only in one half of the story, and none take any real lead role in the story.Some books do come across as though they were meant for the big screen and this is definitely one of them, in fact, as Katherine Neville has produced a sequel, I wouldn't be surprised if this came soon....and was successful. I particulary imagined the boat scenes at the end with the New York skyline coming into sight as a great visual picture.A rip-roaring yarn with intelligence, but a beach read nonetheless.
dasuzuki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first time I read this was back in the early 90s. It was actually an assigned reading book for my Modern European History class. I have to say I am so glad we had to read it because it became one of my favorite books of all time. I¿ve re-read it so many times my copy is near falling apart and I just bought a replacement copy.I loved both the story lines although I have to say following Cat¿s story was my favorite. She along with the help of a friend, Lily Rad, and the handsome chess champ, Solarin(mmm¿sexy and smart!), she has to solve the mystery surrounding the Montglane Service. Although I am not a chess player I found the references interesting especially as you start to see what parts each of the characters in the story take and eventually finding out who the Black Queen is. The reader is introduced to a cast of interesting characters, each who grabs you in their own way with their quirks of personality. Sometimes I found it hard to decide if I wanted to cheer Lily on or strangle her and her little dog. I highly suggest this book to everyone!I am currently in the middle of the sequel that just came out but I will save that for a review when I am done.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Blurbs on the cover compare this to The DaVinci Code, although it was written well-before, in 1988. I can see the resemblance. Like The DaVinci Code there are various kinds of puzzles involved--crosswords, cryptograms and mathematical puzzles. Like The DaVinci Code there is a mystery of great historical import and a sinister conspiracy. The book shuttled between Revolutionary France and contemporary times to tell the story of a chess set owned by Charlemagne whose owner could change the world.Admittedly, this isn't a genre I'm drawn to--but admittedly this one isn't well done--although I'd rate it considerably higher than The DaVinci Code because it isn't as historically ludicrous or as eye-bleeding in style. It's not strong writing wise though--not in the convoluted plot, one dimensional characters or pedestrian prose.But I think what irritated me most is that this can't quite settle between genres. I love both urban and high fantasy, and have enjoyed works with touches of magical realism. The first depends on strong world-building and the second a magical prose and gift for metaphor. This one is just too implausible--and I say that as a fan of Harry Potter with witches and wizards playing games on flying broomsticks and various vampire tales. Maybe it's just I'm generally allergic to conspiracy scenarios. But this chess set is supposed to be both a scientific key and has an ability to possess those playing a game upon it. It just never gels for me somehow.
amberwitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A mediocre book with a rag-tag plot.
michdubb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly good read about two women whose paths intertwine as they seek to unravel a thousand year old mystery hidden in an ancient chess set. Catherine is a modern-day career woman, computer expert, and artist who is sent to Algeria to work for OPEC. Mirielle is a young nun whose life is turned upside down at the height of the French Revolution. Famous politicians and artists (Napolean, Fournier, Voltaire, Woodsworth) make appearances as players in this real-life chess game. While obviously highly unprobable at times, it is a fun and engaging tale.One element that felt a bit thin was the character of Catherine, who does seem to lack a history or life prior to the start of the novel. She doesn't seem to have any family and this isn't really explained or addressed. There was no 'eureka moment' at the end when her own personal story is revealed. I think this was a lost opportunity and wish the author had been able to weave this last strand into the overarching fabric of the story.
TheCrowdedLeaf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel pretty blah about this book. I thought it was going to be great, had been wanting to read it for a while, but found myself distinctly underwhelmed. The writing seemed amateur-ish and wanting. Perhaps because it was a good idea, but was only her first novel? I am no expert, but I'll be interested to see if her second book is better than the first.
sharontillotson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, it is one of my all-time favorites. The author herself describes it as a swashbuckler. It is that and so much more. It is exotic, historical and suspenseful. The characters are well-drawn, spirited and believable - and sometimes funny and/or downright crazy.
FinnTiger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed The a point. The plotting was splendid, but the writing was clunky; it was one of those books where I found myself wanting to rearrange the author's sentences, which is profoundly distracting. But the characters were decently drawn and the central conceit was fascinating. Chess and puzzles galore!
JessicaCapelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fantastic, complex book. I truly enjoyed how Neville travels back and forth between the eras, unveiling layers of intrigue and adventure. She creates a chess game of a novel that keeps you interested and on your toes. What a fantastic story.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I could tell the author had done her homework and was truly interested in her subject, I found The Eight lacking on too many levels to be more than just an okay read. Unfortunately, since this book was probably way ahead of its time when it was originally written, there now exist just too many books of this same premise - find the secret code in the (insert your favorite object here) - that do the job with more suspense and/or more realism. The Eight just doesn't quite reach the bar.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Eight started out promisingly enough: characters in alternating time periods (1790s and 1972) go in search of hidden chess pieces that unlock the key to a ¿secret formula.¿ The book has been compared to Umberto Eco¿s The Name of the Rose, but in actuality The Eight comes nowhere near that fabulous book. As I read, I hoped that Katherine Neville was writing a parody, but I guess not.Where to begin? Overly contrived plot with more holes than Swiss cheese; really, really bad writing style with an over-use of adjectives and past participles; too much historical inaccuracy; too much historical name-dropping, so much so that this novel read like an issue of US magazine (Catherine the Great, Napoleon, Robespierre, Voltaire, and many, many other historical figures are thrown in, sometimes gratuitously); too much foreshadowing, is in, ¿little did I know¿¿. The characters were extremely one-dimensional, and I absolutely loathed the heroine, Cat Velis. The book started off well enough, but I found myself rolling my eyes the further I read. I¿m all for reading historical thrillers, if the plot is enough to draw me in, but this one didn¿t do it for me, I¿m afraid.
kd9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1973 Cat Velis is a smart, independent computer consultant with a dysfunctional family in New York City. When she refuses to rig a bid for her boss, she is sent to Algeria to help the nascent OPEC. But there is more mystery in store for her than just oil manipulations. Her uncle, an antiques dealer, has asked her to transport a mysterious piece from a chess set.In 1790, the French Revolution has started and the Catholic nunneries are not refuges that they once were. Montglane Abbey has been the sanctuary of a deadly secret for over a thousand years, but now the secret must be moved and scattered to keep it out of the hands of the ruthless who would use it to gain more power. Mireille de Rémy takes a piece of this powerful chess set to Paris and becomes the focus a power struggle that takes the life of her best friend.How the struggle for these pieces from an alchemical chess set transform the people who carry them, whether pawns or queens, makes for a gripping tale. I enjoyed most of the characters and the plot, but every so often, the author's noveau status shows in some poor word choice or too lengthy explanation. I especially grew tired of the phrase "but little did she know..." That is a construction that most novice authors manage to avoid.Overall, if you like novels with strong female protagonists and quite a lot of historical background, but don't mind a strong dose of mysticism, you will enjoy this book.
greytfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first read this book when it was published in 1988. I've read it several times since and enjoyed it every time. I recently read it again to prepare to review the sequel, The Fire, coming out in October 2008. And I enjoyed it again! The interweaving plots continued to surprise and engage me, the pace is fast and entertaining, and the historical facts and chess information are fascinating. It's a fun read that I would highly recommend.
TheBoltChick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If suspense and intrigue steeped in historical data appeal to you, then this is right up your alley>I consider this book to be similar to The DaVinci code, but far superior in writing style. The entire story revolves around the game of chess and the plot itself is allegory of the game. Highly recommended!!
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Published in 1988, the same year as Umberto Eco¿s Foucault¿s Pendulum, which is more or less in the same genre, The Eight was a forerunner of thrillers such as The Da Vinci Code. It is set in two time frames¿the ¿historical present,¿ meaning 1972, and at the time of the French Revolution, during the Terror, in 1790 and beyond. The plot, which revolves around a mysterious, fabulous chess set that once belonged to the Emperor Charlemagne and which is credited with unknown but terrifying powers, flips back and forth between these two periods in a very effective way. Because of its hidden location for a thousand years, the chess set is dubbed the Montglane Service.Chess itself is the matrix for the plot; the modern story involves two Grand Masters, a Russian and an American woman, and the game itself becomes important from time to time. But mainly the plot is a showcase for history and for puzzles. The puzzles are imbedded mainly in interpretation of symbols, rather than in word play, although numbers play a role. However, the main tension in the story is the race, by two different sides that have deliberately taken on identities as the Black and White ¿teams¿ in chess, to collect the pieces of the Montglane Service which were scattered, as a precautionary measure during the French Revolution. Murders occur in both periods during this struggle for obtaining a means to what is thought to be unlimited power.There are plenty of twists and turns to the plot; Neville uses exposition fairly effectively both as a way of introducing plot twists and as a way of forwarding the story. This is no mean feat, because the amount of exposition that she uses can be deadly in an adventure-type story. With a few exceptions, she manages to avoid that problem. However, the device does weaken the plot to a certain extent, since it makes it difficult to keep track of all the different threads. In fact, it can be said that the plot verges on too many sudden twists that many times leap out of nowhere.Neville really uses history and historical figures quite cleverly as a means of generating and maintaining interest in the story. The two main figures are Talleyrand of France and Catherine the Great of Russia. While the historical basis for these figures seems accurate, the rather romantic treatment leaves a lot to be desired.In fact, there are two main defects to this book, one of which is the treatment of characters. Most of them are not very credible, and they never really attain much more than one-dimensional status. Part of that is due to the second defect: the writing. If the story weren¿t so interesting, the style would have been enough to have me out the book down after about a quarter of the way through. Frankly, it lacks such sophistication that it appears to have been written for 10 year olds by someone not much older. It detracts heavily from the book. The ¿sex scenes¿ are so badly written that I wanted to laugh out loud¿when I wasn¿t wincing.Unfortunately, these two weaknesses really detract so much from the book that it becomes a good but far from outstanding read. That¿s a pity, because the premises, the historical settings are really clever. In the hands of a better writer, this book would have been outstanding.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A complex plot that intertwines the past and the present with a treasure hunt of sorts makes this one fun read. It all centers around a chessboard and its pieces--pieces that seem to give those that hold them power, and then when all assembled could give even more. Two women, one in the past, one in the present are chosen as 'queens' to guard--or to find?--this great treasure. But they aren't the only players in the game.This was a lot of fun to listen to, a great adventure tale with many twists and turns. I got amused at the number of historical figures that popped up. It is quite unbelievable, so take it all in fun and enjoy the ride as the story takes you across a chessboard that spans the globe.
majorbabs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Five stars for plotting, one star for dialogue. (Has this woman never heard people talk to each other?) A page-turner for sure, but let's hope the sequel, The Fire, is better.
wbentrim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Eight by Katherine NevilleThe story seemed like one that Dan Brown and Sandra Brown might have collaborated to create. It is a study of mysticism and mysterious formulas, treasure, clues and a wealth of historic personages wrapped in emotional relationships. A mysterious, ancient chess set is the center piece of a frantic and fanatic hunt detailed in the 1790¿s and the 1970s. Whosoever holds the chess set will rule the world, according to legend. The forces of good and evil have been striving to capture the board for a millennium. Neville bounces back and forth from the 1790¿s to the 1970¿s without promoting a great deal of confusion. Her characterizations have depth, breadth and color. There are times where it appears she may have read a little too much Clive Cussler but the introduction of historic figures and preposterous chases is very entertaining. I¿m not sure if there is an attempt to challenge the intellect but regardless, the book is a fun read. I recommend the book and look forward to the sequel, "The Fire".