The Eight was originally published in 1988 and caused quite a stir on the literary scene. Before this novel, there were no such books like The Rule of Four, no such writers as Dan Brown. Katherine Neville's novel was innovative on many different levels - it had two parallel storylines, it blurred genre boundaries, posing as historical fiction, romance and literary fiction at the same time. Finally, it used historical figures as characters, deliberately throwing them into a plot that mixed conspiracy theories, mathematics, history, literature, and of course, chess.
Retelling the story of The Eight is not an easy feat, because of its many layers. It is safe to say that it follows two female protagonists, one living in modern-day New York City, and one living in France at around the time of the French Revolution. The modern-day hero is Catherine, a computer expert and chess enthusiast, who is suddenly sent to Algeria on business. While there, she gets involved in dangerous, seemingly random situations that are all somehow connected to a mythical chess set. On the other hand, we have Mireille, a novice nun in 18th-century France, who is sent on a mission, along with her cousin Valentine, to scatter what appear to be figures from an ancient chess set. Many important historical figures appear along the way, including Robespierre, Napoleon and Katherine the Great.
The Eight is not a paranormal story about witches, sorcerers and their powers. Rather, it is a book that uses the clever metaphor of chess to portray the ways people act when confronted to danger, and how easy it can be to progress, or on the other hand, get into harm's way. This is all packed into an engaging thriller that will leave your head spinning after each chapter, all the way until the very end. The characters are all made out of flesh and blood. Although they are essentially the good guys, our heroins soon learn that in order to win this deadly Game, they need to take a few detours themselves. Apart from them, the supporting characters are amazing as well, especially Catherine's romantic interest, the mysterious - and quite possibly dangerous - chess master Alexander Solarin.
Katherine Neville's groundbreaking novel has often been called the female answer to Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose", as well as the novel that defined the genre of Quest Novels, by that influencing many of today's writers, such as Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling.
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