Friday, October 31, 2008
Review of Katherine Neville's "The Fire"
From the Sun Sentinel.com Cult classic author Katherine Neville makes next move By Oline Cogdill Mystery Fiction Columnist 11:18 AM EDT, October 31, 2008 Before The Da Vinci Code, there was Katherine Neville's The Eight. More than 20 years ago, this computer consultant's ambitious debut mixed a magical chess set dating back to Charlemagne with mythology, music and math. Set during 1972 and 1790, The Eight flitted from New York and Algeria back to the French Revolution. It featured more than 60 characters, including historical figures. With such far-flung settings and a plot that at first blush would seem to be a mess, The Eight should not have worked. Yet, it became a cult classic, one of the finest, most original examples of historical thrillers, opening the door for novels steeped in mythology, before it all got tangled up with Dan Brown. While Neville has written two other novels, The Fire is the long-awaited sequel to The Eight. Just as ambitious as its predecessor, Neville re-creates her fresh approach to storytelling. In The Fire, the search for the chess set is now up to Alexandra Solarin, the daughter of The Eight's heroine Catherine Velis, and her mother's best friend, Lily Rad. The story smoothly moves from contemporary Colorado, Washington, D.C., Russia and Algeria, then back to the 1800s Rome, the Loire Valley and Morocco. Lord Byron, Keats and Napoleon make cameo appearances. A chess set has never been more exciting than this one created by Neville. However, The Fire is even more complicated and it is easy to get lost in the story's various mythologies. The plot lags in the middle before Neville gets her chess game back on track. A 20-year wait for a sequel is too long, though The Fire nicely wraps up some secrets and twists that were never solved in its predecessor. Readers will want to first learn what The Eight's fuss was all about before tackling The Fire.