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The Eight #1

The Eight

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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....

598 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published December 27, 1988

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About the author

Katherine Neville

44 books1,325 followers
Katherine Neville is an American author. Her novels include The Eight, A Calculated Risk, and The Magic Circle. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and she previously worked as a photographer, a model, a consultant at the Department of Energy, and a vice president of the local Bank of America.

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5 stars
14,485 (35%)
4 stars
14,359 (34%)
3 stars
8,339 (20%)
2 stars
2,825 (6%)
1 star
1,235 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,014 reviews
Profile Image for Jamal.
14 reviews12 followers
July 16, 2008
Three weeks ago I held a yard sale. To pass the time I picked up this book I'd never seen from a box of books none of which I'd ever read and none of which I remember buying.

Of the many surreal happenings of that day one of the most strange was when, immediately after reading the first page, a well-groomed homeless man or a poorly groomed homed man rode past on a bike. He looked over and upon seeing The Eight lurched off his bike stumbled to my gate and, grasping it with all the force and desperation of a kindergartener being left by mommy, bellowed, "That book! Man! That book, man, is the biggest fucking mind trip it's the best book you'll ever read. That woman [the author] used to be an executive at Bank of America until those Southern fuckers came in and they fired EVERY woman in the company. God damn mother fuckers! But man, she's beautiful too man, like a triple threat. And let tell you something..." and here he became quiet and conspiratorial, "....it'll never NEVER be made into a movie. I won't tell you why. 2/3 into the book BAM! [he yelled] it's a fucking bomb on your brain! She just fucking drops that bomb on your brain and it'll NEVER be a fucking movie!"

How could I do anything but read this book after such an endorsement?

It's pretty typical of the genre. A collection of mostly tropes -- the mysterious and reclusive genius somehow at the heart of the mystery; the one no-one including his co-commiserators can trust has a hidden agenda that has to do directly with the heroine? No way! After he takes a personal interest in her, we find out he's tall, handsome, devilishly charismatic, seductive and, wait, can't be completely trusted? Didn't see that one coming! -- including the drunken socialite, the clueless petty bourgeoisie, the quirky but lovable math/ computer whiz, the evil and menacing foreign intelligence agent, the surprisingly Western and enlightened foreign man incredibly open, and the revelation that the Other is actually more welcoming than We...to name a few. Anyway, this collection are interwoven into a story that touches on Charlemagne, OPEC, Chess, the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon among other things and which is mostly entertaining if much too long.

The double narrative serves an obvious purpose but makes the book cumbersome and unnecessarily obtuse. When one story line enthralls, Neville switches to the other forcing the reader to reinvest; a tiring exercise. It's an unfortunate thing really, because both narratives on their own are interesting and could have been fun, if forgettable adventure books on their own. Should have been. Very much should have been.

2/3 of the way through, the heroines of both narratives go to Algeria and meet tall, dark, handsome and capable men who save them from vile agents of the bad guys. There's also an Erich Von Daniken moment which is probably what the lurcher was talking about. It was a mind bomb about as much as the turn in the new Indiana Jones movie.

I am ambivalent about this book. I'd be more enthusiastic if it had been about one story or even one more so than the other.
Profile Image for Deborah Harkness.
Author 54 books28.5k followers
August 17, 2010
This book was the first of its kind: a historical thriller/whodunnit/magical story that was published in 1988. In a way, all the similar books that have come after (Dan Brown, Kostova's The Historian) are following in Neville's footsteps. If you read it now, it may seem flat in comparison with these later works, which have taken a genre that in many ways Neville created and taken it to new levels. However, I'm giving it this rating because I still remember back more than two decades to my first encounter with the book and the sleepless nights that followed as I rushed to finish it!
Profile Image for James.
Author 19 books3,579 followers
September 1, 2017
4 stars to Katherine Neville's The Eight. I stumbled upon this one by hearing about book #2's release and had to start first from the beginning. I'm so glad I did.

Characters are well developed. Plot is intricate. Suspense is on target. Story-telling and narration are rich. I want a third book in the series!

It's all about a chess match. In theory. But in reality. Russian history. Clever moves and alliances. Family connections. Politics. Strong motivation. Good, thought provoking suspense.
Profile Image for Diana.
506 reviews20 followers
November 3, 2012
I was told by several people whose books tastes I generally respect that I would love this book - sadly, that wasn't the case. I found it tiresome, hard to follow, and the writing was almost impossible to slog through in several places. The characters were never fully developed, I never got invested in any of the characters, and I found the book too plot-driven to an irritating degree - with too many historical elements "dropped in" (almost like name dropping) in order to tie the events to historical situations.

The only part of the book that I found remotely interesting and attention-holding was the very first chapter. It's a book that has reached something like cult status, but I found the plot hard to follow, lots of twists and turns that only confused me, and a very unsatisfying ending. I finished it only because I hate to leave a book unfinished if I've committed to reading it.

It just doesn't live up to its hype for me.
Profile Image for Robert Beveridge.
2,402 reviews157 followers
January 23, 2008
Katherine Neville, The Eight (Ballantine, 1988)

This novel has achieved almost cult status in some circles, and many people consider it one of the best adventure novels ever written. It's a useful way to separate folks you know into two categories: those who are more interested in plot, and those who are more interested in writing.

The plot is pretty darn good, when it comes right down to it. The novel takes place in two parallel times, the first being 1972 and the second the years during and after the French Revolution. Both plot lines center around the search for a mystical chess set and attempts to discover the human counterparts to various pieces (the hero and villain in each time line are the Black and White Queens, respectively; very nice little twist, that). The board, once complete, will supposedly impart unlimited power to he who possesses it, and thus leaders from Marat and Catherine the Great to Muammar Khaddafi run throughout the book, looking to get their hands on it. The pace is quick, the action almost nonstop (the present-day time line is quicker-paced and much more compelling, but the past ain't all that bad).

The writing, on the other hand, is almost painful in places. Neville descends in to the realm of cliché at least once per chapter, at times more than once per page. Clumsy attempts at foreshadowing (you know the type: "but I never thought, when I woke up in the morning, that this day would change my life forever!") are more commonplace here than in a whole shelf of novels by Bulwer-Lytton. It's possible that Ms. Neville took the nineteenth-century definition of "romance novel" a tad too seriously for being a twentieth-century writer. And this is certainly an unique experience in that regard; a classic nineteenth-century romance novel written, all too often, like a Harlequin circa 1985.

All in all, it is a fun little book requiring great suspension of disbelief. I'd have given it another star if part of my suspension of disbelief didn't have to be in the author's writing ability.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,820 followers
July 25, 2018
FLASH! Definition of the word "thriller" changes. Now the word "thriller" can be deemed to include slow moving, overly convoluted stories that wander from point to point with little actual plot development or indeed plot involvment!

Yes we have another story here in the vein of The Da Vinci Code. (I have been informed that this book was written in '88. I had originally said it was "apparently inspired by said Da Vinci Code". My error. That said, it doesn't make the book any better.) Taking place in both the past and the future with "countless" number based clues, cues and proofs.

That's right the number.....8! FIGURES HEAVILY in the story, duh,duh,duh.

Beginning back in the time of Charlemagne (or....does it go further back?) our story revolves around an ornate chess set that is imbued (or possibly endowed) with some great and (possibly) evil power.

So...a cunning abbess In order to break up the threat sends off some nuns each of them carrying a single piece of the chess set, well except she also sends two novices off who haven't taken their vows yet. They go to the big city and become nude models... an interesting career choice, you know for would-be nuns.

Anyway we are also tracking things in the "present" as "powers" seek to find said chess set.

So with all this, plots, counter plots, conspiracies going on, how can this be one of the most boring, slow moving, stultifying books I've picked up in weeks?

I don't know. But it manages.

Can't recommend this one.
10 reviews
June 26, 2008
The two more recent books that most closely resemble The Eight are The Da Vinci Code and Kate Mosse's The Labyrinth, but I found The Eight a more enjoyable read than either of them. The novel is utterly audacious in its (ab)use of historical characters, completely, joyfully implausible in its plotting, and I'm not certain whether the language of Romantic page-turners the author makes frequent use of ("dear reader, little did I know that in two hours' time I would be running for my life trying to escape a KGB killer") is ironic or not. However, I found the book hugely enjoyable as it is - I don't know anything about chess, the basic conceit of the book, but any novel in which Jean-Jacques Rousseau figures as one of the bad guys, J.S. Bach as one of the good guys, and female solidarity is an important theme has a good chance of winning my heart.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,972 reviews850 followers
April 20, 2021
Leído por primera vez en 2004. Le puse un ocho (no es coña)
Leído por segunda vez en 2013. Se quedó en 6/10.

Pues eso, que recordaba que me había gustado mucho por el rollo de misterio & ajedrez, salió en un Club de Lectura y lo re-leí. Otro fracaso en relecturas (¡Y luego me decís que por qué no re-leo!)

Mejor ni cuento nada sobre el libro (todos ya lo conocéis) ni, por supuesto, vuelvo a abrir sus páginas. No sea que siga bajando la nota.
Profile Image for Aitor Castrillo.
Author 1 book806 followers
March 3, 2019
Me gusta el ajedrez + me gustan los misteros = me encanta El ocho.
Es indispensable entrar a fondo en la trama ya que hay momentos que no son precisamente fáciles de seguir, pero a poco que te impliques y acompañes de la mano a lo personajes a lo largo de las dos historias, conseguirás que esas piezas de ajedrez tan especiales también te atrapen captando toda tu atención.
Un 8 (sobre 10) para El Ocho.
Jaque mate.
Profile Image for Nastja .
225 reviews1,395 followers
March 24, 2021
В общем, это как если бы Дэн Браун решил написать «Ход королевы», но по дороге вспомнил, что он все-таки Дэн Браун.

В итоге получилась книжка о том, что вот уже много тысяч лет мы живем не слишком хорошо, потому что все видные политики и деятели искусства вместо того, чтобы заниматься политикой и искусством, собирают волшебные шахматы, дарующие т�� ли вечную жизнь, то ли вечную власть, никто толком не знает, но шахматы по ходу хорошие и надо брать, и вот уже и Наполеон идет на Россию, потому что в Зимнем дворце, говорят, Екатерина Вторая шахматн��ю доску под половицами упрятала, (нет, серьезно, в принципе-то в Россию ехать больше не за чем).
И в целом там примерно все такое, и русские крестьяне в дирндлях глядят на все происходящее темным взглядом прямиком из глубин загадочной нашей души, а советский шахматист побеждает всех, потому что за ним стоит Дворец Пионеров, единственное, как замечает автор, продвинутое учреждение, где штампуют шахматных чемпионов, и, короче, прилетает Илон Маск на Марс, а там наши с кружка робототехники сидят, и тишина.
Profile Image for Lone rider 1.
78 reviews37 followers
January 5, 2017
Iskreno, ne znam koju bih ocenu dao sad da je pročitam al te godine, kada mi je dopala šaka, knjiga me je toliko raspametila tako da sam joj se vraćao još dva puta. Pa stoga pet zvezdica.

Za Ketrin Nevil možemo slobodno reći da je preteča Den Brauna, a njena priča o tajanstvenoj šahovskoj garnituri Karla Velikog zaista je bila "iskustvo" kojeg se još uvek sećam.

Profile Image for Ariannha .
1,019 reviews
January 12, 2020
"En el juego de la vida, los peones son el alma del ajedrez. Hasta un humilde peón puede cambiar de vestimenta. Alguien que amas cambiará el curso de las cosas. La mujer que la devuelva al rail cortará los vínculos conocidos y provocará el fin presagiado."

¡En mi lista de favoritos! Lo he recomendado y prestado entre mis amistades.

Katherine Neville nos regala una historia, entre los años 1790 y 1970, siendo un legendario y maldito ajedrez tallado en oro, plata y diamantes por los moros como regalo para el emperador Carlomagno, el escenario sobre el que se mueven los protagonistas.

El ocho es una novela que combina la fantasía y la historia, mucha historia. Muy bien ambientada, muy bien narrada y con exquisito nivel de detalle de los lugares donde se desarrolla.

Narrada entre dos líneas de tiempo, el presente y el pasado de dos protagonistas femeninas que la autora ha sabido entrelazar a la perfección con hechos reales (utilizados según la conveniencia y la necesidad). Resulta un libro envolvente. Considero un acierto esta forma de narrativa para un libro histórico tan denso, haciendo saltos en el tiempo, resulta mucho menos pesado asimilar la cantidad ingente de personajes, pues todos tienen relevante importancia en la historia y sus hechos la conducen de forma trascendental.

100% recomendado
Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
September 12, 2008
The Eight - Ex
Kathleen Neville

The Montglane Service, an ornate, jeweled chess set given to Charlemagne by the Moors, is said to hold a code which when deciphered will bring great power. Nations and individuals have schemed to possess all the pieces. As the set is dispersed during the French Revolution, a young novice risks her life to safeguard it. Alternating with her story are the present-day efforts of a U.S. computer expert and a Russian chess master to assemble the set and solve its mystery. Studying the code involves musical notation, chess strategy, Fibonacci numbers, and mysticism.

I loved this book and have re-read it a couple times. Fans seem to gravitate either to the story in the past or the contemporary story. I'm on the contemporary side. I loved the character Cat and Cat's romance, albeit a small part of the story, with the Russian, and her friend Lily with the Rolls, and the poodle. Overall, it was a captivating adventure and a great read.
Profile Image for Anna.
568 reviews102 followers
March 23, 2019
an amazing book, especially in the end! the last 100 pages were a real page-turner!!!!
Profile Image for Carole.
489 reviews110 followers
January 5, 2022
This is my second reading of The Eight by Katherine Neville. I previously read it a dozen years ago and thought I would give it another try in case I had missed something here. But I cannot tell a lie. I found it to be such a tedious read because I could not maintain interest in the storyline or the characters. I did add one more star to be fair as the author obviously spent a very long time in writing and researching The Eight. This is only one opinion and I realize that most would enjoy this book.
October 9, 2020
The Eight”, 1988, was an enchanting second-hand bargain about 20 years ago. When I felt adventurous, I ignored a peer who low-balls books I revere. Instinct prevailed! This is a masterpiece! Katherine Neville aced essential elements and remarkably, turned traits I avoid on their heads.

I know the bare basics of chess and no chemistry.
I am neither keen on historical fiction, nor on split narration.
If there must be dual timelines, I am always antsy to resume the modern story.
No matter how well I enjoy books, I am usually relieved to see my pages progress.

In a very modern 1972, my year, Cat Velis rattles chauvinist colleagues, who exile her to head a gas company tracking project in Algeria. She is asked to buy valuable chess pieces for the uncle of Cat’s friend, Lily. There is something freaky about the tournament they watch of a Russian champion and intrigue falls into their laps before leaving New York.

In 1790, teenaged cousins Mireille and Valentine, novices of Montglane Abbey, are charged with urgency. The Abbess closes everything before France revolts, where Charlemagne’s game was stored for 1000 years. Everyone takes pieces to different countries. Friend and foe redevelop unpredictably and the visible growth of characters is breathtaking! Brave women drive both centuries.

A true mystery quest is bigger than detective nonsense. 600 pages yield questions and some imperfections but this novel couldn’t get much more magnifique. Multiple plots connect with historic personages, outstandingly original and atmospherically enthralling! I was riveted to every era equally! I am inspired to know historic figures better but nothing impeded an inch of loving these two continent racing missions! These mind-stimulating pages are double what I usually read and they finished quickly! I felt like I had shared years with all of the characters.
74 reviews13 followers
April 29, 2009
The absolute worst. Intolerable.

The kind of endless, deluded, humorless, self-satisfied, tone-deaf, utterly witless manuscript that I'm sure publishers find in the mail all the time but must NEVER EVER PUBLISH. Picked it up hoping for approximately the literary equivalent of "National Treasure," instead got the literary equivalent of diarrhea. That this is beloved by anyone anywhere, and that it ever elicited the press quotes inside the front cover, absolutely boggles my mind. There is NO dimension of this that meets any standard of entertainment; not even as "just a big stupid mess but who cares" is this acceptable. It is far worse and more painful than that.

Solely recommended for those who do not plan to pay much attention to the story, or the characters, or god help you the words on the page - and just choose their reading based on a checklist of genre elements. Apparently there are many such people. Ugh. Even they should just get off on the back cover and move on.

That all said - yes, I did read this to completion. Because I am insane. Do not do this. You might think you are suffering through the prose for the story, but you are not. You are suffering through both the prose and the story, and plenty more besides. Most of all you are suffering the author herself, whose literary company I have grown to loathe and resent. May this bilious review rid me of her forever. Amen.
Profile Image for Keith.
16 reviews26 followers
January 8, 2008
"The Eight" reads like a student attempting to wow her professor by using as many similies as she can (irony intended). I think Neville chose the name "The Eight," because there are roughly eight sentences per chapter that don't contain a forced, awkward similie.

At least that was true for the first 90% of the novel, which was almost Dickensien in its detail. For the last 10%, it is writen more like a short story, with months of time being skiped and important, climactic scenes being rushed into one or two pages. Neither pacing was appropriate, and the juxstaposition of the two was jarring.

Too many characters and clumsy, pointless chess metaphors riddled the narrative. It took me months to finish this book. I'm really not sure why I kept reading it. I suppose the much-hyped secret that would be revealed at the end kept me going; an ending that ultimately failed to satisfy, as it has been done before.

Profile Image for Ray.
1,051 reviews46 followers
January 16, 2009
Sometimes you read a book and find yourself wishing it'll never end. If you want that, this is a book for you. I thought it'd never end, and I don't mean that in a good way. The book has been compared to the DaVinci Code, but I think that's an unfortunate comparison. The story alternates between the 1970's and the late 1700's, both periods linked by the individuals quest for lost ancient knowledge. To me, the action and dangers are contrived, as is the object of the search. If you can get caught up in pure fantasy, and not get too concerned about logic or believability, you may enjoy this book, but if you want something more believable, as I do, it's hard to stay engaged in this long book.
Profile Image for Stratos.
870 reviews87 followers
November 26, 2020
Καλό κι ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο όπου ... μονομαχούσε η αγωνία με την γνώση. Χωρίς να είναι αριστούργημα, μου άρεσε....

ΞΑΝΑΔΙΑΒΑΣΜΑ. Έσβησα ένα αστεράκι, έπεσε στο 3. Ολο αυτό το μίγμα ιστορικών προσώπων με συνωμοσιολογίες και οι εξεζητημένοι χαρακτήρες μάλλον με κούρασαν παρά με ευχαρίστησαν. Ίσως πέρασε η εποχή βιβλίων τέτοιας φιλοσοφίας και δομής....
Profile Image for Artemis Cookie.
58 reviews12 followers
December 7, 2018
Σαν την ατμόσφαιρα δεν έχει ... η Neville γράφει για ένα κυνήγι θησαυρού γκουχου γκουχου πιο νωρίς από τον κύριο Brown ... στο οποίο πρέπει να λερωθεις για να φτάσεις στο τέλος του. Παράλληλα μας πάει πίσω στην γαλλική επανάσταση για να μας διηγηθεί την φανταστική εκδοχή μιας πραγματικής δολοφονίας.
Αν και κάπως αργό στην εξέλιξη (πολλές φορές οι ήρωες βολοδέρνουν άσκοπα) το μυστήριο είναι ακόμα εκεί και εκτυλίσσεται γύρω μια μαγική σκακιέρα ( και πανάκριβη ... άνετα σκότωμα στο eBay) . Ήταν το πρώτο βιβλίο αυτής της κατηγορίας που διάβασα και με μύησε σε αυτό το είδος.
Profile Image for Stacy Green.
Author 49 books874 followers
May 22, 2013
I would give this book more than 5 stars if I could. The plot Katherine Neville created with The Eight is incredible, intertwined with history and myth and science. Her characters are wonderful, and she does a great job of keeping us wondering until the end who is really on the "good" side. As a writer, I am truly stunned by the intricacy of this plot. Anyone who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code should enjoy The Eight, and it is a better book, in my opinion. A must read, especially for writers learning craft!
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,820 followers
September 15, 2014
FLASH! Definition of the word "thriller" changes. Now the word "thriller" can be deemed to include slow moving, overly convoluted stories that wander from point to point with little actual plot covered!

Yes we have another story here in the vein of The Da Vinci Code. (I have been informed that this book was written in '88. I had originally said it was "apparently inspired by said Da Vinci Code". My error. That said, it doesn't make the book any better.) Taking place in both the past and the future with "countless" number based clues, cues and proofs.

That's right the number.....8! FIGURES HEAVILY in the story, duh,duh,duh.

Beginning back in the time of Charlemagne (or....does it go further back?) our story revolves around an ornate chess set that is imbued (or possibly endowed) with some great and (possibly) evil power.

So...a cunning abbess sends off some nuns each of them carrying a single piece of the chess set (well she sends two novices off who haven't taken their vows yet and they go to the big city and become nude models... an interesting career choice, you know for would-be nuns).

We are also tracking things in the "present" as "powers" seek to find said chess set.

So with all this, plots, counter plots, conspiracies going on, how can this be one of the most boring, slow moving, stultifying books I've picked up in weeks?

I don't know. But it manages.

Can't recommend this one.
Profile Image for Έλσα.
494 reviews96 followers
August 3, 2020
"Οχτώ" 3. 7 / 5

Ένα ταξίδι που συνυφαίνει η συγγραφέας μεταξύ ιστορίας και επιστήμης, φυσικής, μαθηματικών, αρχαιολογίας. Βασιλείς, αξιωματικοί, ηγέτες που κατέκτησαν εδάφη, πόλεις κ χώρες μπλέκονται σε ενα παιχνίδι αναζήτησης της αλήθειας κ ενός μυστικού που σε αλλάζει.

Αυτό το στοιχείο που αναζητά όλη η ανθρωπότητα ανά τους αιώνες προσπαθώντας να καταρρίψει τη φυσική εξέλιξη...

Ήταν ωραία η προσέγγιση όσον αφορά τα ιστορικά γεγονότα. Είχε αγωνία, μυστήριο κ ανθρωποκυνηγητό αλλά οι πολυάριθμες λεπτομέρειες σε ορισμένα σημεία σε κούραζαν. Επίσης, το τέλος το περίμενα πιο ανατρεπτικό. Νομίζω πως το τέλος ενός βιβλίου 767 σελίδων δε με αποζημίωσε. Παρ' όλα αυτά αξίζει μια αναγνωστική προσπάθεια για τους λάτρεις του είδους.
Profile Image for Γιώργος Δάμτσιος.
Author 30 books243 followers
November 30, 2018

Δεύτερη ανάγνωση μετά από πολλά χρόνια. Την πρώτη φορά μου είχε φανεί πάρα πάρα πολύ καλό. Πλέον έχω διαβάσει πολλά ακόμα παρόμοια οπότε εκείνο το αρχικό το ''Ουάου'' ξέφτισε. Μου φάνηκε και να πλατειάζει λίγο σε κάποια σημεία (όχι τρομερά πράγματα). Εξακολουθώ όμως να το θεωρώ ένα καλό βιβλίο, από αυτά που αξίζει να διαβάσει κανείς. Θυμόμουν και πολλά σημεία του καθαρά, το οποίο είναι ένα ακόμα θετικό σημάδι.

Δεν θα αναφέρω κάτι συγκεκριμένα για το βιβλίο, πλέον υπάρχουν τόσες κριτικές που η μία περισσότερη δεν έχει καμία αξία.
Profile Image for Jeannette.
664 reviews138 followers
October 3, 2015
Read on the WondrousBooks blog.

Long story short: I got this book from NetGalley and I was unbelievably excited about it. In the end, it took me entirely too many weeks to finish it and now I have to send it to the "mediocre at best" shelf.

Now let me elaborate.

The story of The Eight seemed very compelling: a mysterious chess set, a game that has been going on for ages, two female characters going on the same quest, set apart by 200 years of chasing, a giant battle of good and evil including history's biggest names.

However, what we had was:

The Writing

Silly and childish. The characters have the tendency of becoming pale, very pale, deadly pale etc. in every five sentences. There's a lot of name-throwing, even though all of the big names have little actual impact on the story. What I hated the most about the book was the cheap drama technique, stolen right from Indian/Mexican soap operas. Every chapter ends with something so dramatic it's utterly laughable. It sort of looks like this:
Three bunnies who were friends were taking a stroll in the forest. One of the bunnies decided to pick flowers. The other two were discussing the nice weather. A birdie was soaring the sky. A bee saw the bunnies from afar and decided to join them on the walk, only it was flying, naturally. Suddenly a dark cloud appeared. The three bunnies got worried because they didn't have an umbrella. While they were thinking about what to do and how to escape the possible storm, one of the bunnies turned and told the other two: "I'm actually your father." The bee, shocked, replied: "It's not possible because I'm actually their fraternal aunt."

Five days later the three bunnies were taking another stroll. The weather was a bit chilly.

In the book there was no regard, whatsoever, about the time-frame. The events were happening in the course of so many years, but the narrative continued as if nothing has important or of any value has happened in the missing time. I specifically mean Mireille's story. Can anyone really explain to me how these characters were so mobile in an age when the steam boat was barely a thing? Because the characters were crossing seas and oceans, traveling from America to Russia like it was the 21st century. Nine months pregnant Mireille was traveling between Algeria and France, crossing seas and deserts, climbing steep mountains like it was a walk down the street. Even in the "present", which was actually 1973, the characters were almost teleporting from one destination to another.

This, of course, brings us to

The Characters

Who were so unbelievable that even the author started joking with them at some point, in my opinion. I mean, come on... Really, 18th century underage French nun-to-be-but-not-really who speaks fluent English, learns Arabic, Russian and God knows what else, travels half the globe and manages to give birth to two children before turning 30? A man who supposedly rules France behind the curtains, who is a described as terrifying and evil, and then all of a sudden turns out to be a spineless plaything in the hands of Mireille and is on team Good. Or how about Cat, the first female to become a computer expert, and that, before turning 25, not to mention that alongside her unbelievable expertise, she is also fluent in a couple of languages and knows everything, from music, to computers, to physics, to mythology.

And of course, all of these characters also happen to be chosen to play the game, but how and through what criteria and how did they even get noticed? Figure that out for yourselves. And if there is something that can be considered a plausible explanation about some of the chess prodigies, there certainly isn't one about Cat, who seems to come from nowhere. I don't even thing there was much in the way of a back-story about her.


I didn't expect it and it made me even more annoyed with the book. I'm not going to elaborate, because it's too spoiler-y, but there's insta-love, folks. And a very lame one at that.

What I did like about the story, though, was

The Plot

In the hands of a better writer, this book could have been amazing. The idea about the chess set is very original. The other thing which I really liked was the information of many topics, which flowed through the narrative. The mix of fictional and real personages and histories was deeply appreciated, especially in comparison to everything else in the book. If the famous people which are randomly mentioned just to shock the reader, had any actual role in the book, it might have been much more interesting. But as a whole, I can't ignore the fact that from informational point of view, I learned some things and I enjoyed it.

The Weird Part

At the end of the book, there was a detailed biography of the writer. I guess that could be considered somewhat normal, even though I don't think I've seen it done for anyone but proven authors and ones who have died a long time ago at that.

But putting a gallery of headshots of the author in the book... Well, that's plain strange. Not to be rude, but what do old modeling pictures of a book's author have to do with the book itself? If I'm interested, I can Google the author. I don't really see a need for that self-promotion to be shoved down the reader's throat. Huh?
Profile Image for Marijan Šiško.
Author 1 book63 followers
December 29, 2016
Malo me smeta besmisleni misticizam ali mi se autoričin stil pisanja jako sviđa. zato slabija četvorka.
Profile Image for Sheila.
953 reviews85 followers
September 23, 2016
4 stars--I really liked it.

There are some warnings I feel I should give about this book before recommending it to people:
1. It's about a magic chess set. Yes, literally.
2. The writing is solid, but not great. (There are some dated elements of racism and fat shaming, but these are mild.)
3. The historical facts are shaky.

Despite all these things, though, I really liked this book. It was a nonstop adventure, with lots of action--the perfect summer read. There is both a modern and a historical narrative, and both are riveting (though historical accuracy takes second place to the story. This didn't bother me since I was invested in the story).

There's lots of mysticism, political maneuvering, and international intrigue in this book. Two sections in particular--describing "the Terror" in France, and a car chase through the desert--were really harrowing, and I devoured these sections.

If you like historical mysteries and adventure novels, this one was fun. It's a long book, but it never felt long to me. Nothing deep or world changing--just fun. This book is often compared to Dan Brown, which I think is fair--though this book was written in 1988 and features female leads.

I received this review copy from the publisher on NetGalley. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review; I appreciate it!
Profile Image for Theodoros.
28 reviews47 followers
January 22, 2021
Ένα απ' τα χειρότερα βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει...
Εντάξει πες το θέμα σαν θέμα είναι ενδιαφέρον, αλλά
αν το πιάσεις στα χέρια σου και ξεκινήσεις και διαβάζεις....
θα δεις ότι είναι ένα απ' τα χειρότερα βιβλία
πάει σαν χελώνα, έχει πετάξει (κυριολεκτικά) ότι
πρόσωπο έχει περάσει στην ιστορία μέσα. Και τέλος έχει
μια τάση να πλατιάζει τόσο πολύ που δεν είναι απαραίτο.
Την εποχή που το διάβασα το ανα χείρας βιβλίο ήταν δανεικό, έτσι γλύτωσε από το να το κάψω.
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