The Eight (novel)
Cover of the first edition
|Genre||Mystery, conspiracy fiction, thriller|
|ISBN||0-345-35137-1 (US) / 978-0345366238 (UK)|
|Followed by||A Calculated Risk|
The Eight, published December 27, 1988, is American author Katherine Neville's debut novel. Compared to the works of Umberto Eco when it first appeared, it is a postmodern thriller in which the heroine, accountant Catherine Velis, must enter into a cryptic world of danger and conspiracy in order to recover the pieces of the Montglane Service, a legendary chess set once owned by Charlemagne.
A sequel, The Fire, appeared in 2008.
The Eight features two intertwined storylines set centuries apart. The first takes place in 1972 and follows American computer expert Catherine "Cat" Velis as she is sent to Algeria for a special assignment. The second is set in 1790 and revolves around Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey. The fates of both characters are intertwined as they try to unravel the mystery behind the Montglane Service, a chess set that holds the key to a game of unlimited power. A gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, these pieces have been hunted fervently throughout the years by those seeking ultimate control.
In the throes of the French Revolution, Mireille and her cousin Valentine must help in dispersing the pieces of the chess set to keep them out of the wrong hands. However, when Valentine is brutally murdered in the Reign of Terror, Mireille is thrown into the midst of men and women who would pursue power at any cost, including Napoleon, Robespierre, Talleyrand, Catherine the Great, and more. She comes to realize she must rely on her own intuition and tenacity to accomplish her goal.
In 1972, Cat Velis faces a similar atmosphere of conspiracy, assassination and betrayal. When she is requested by an antique dealer to recover the chess pieces, she unwittingly enters into a mysterious game that will endanger her life. As she learns the story of the Montglane Service, she begins to realize that players of the Game may plan their moves, but their very existence makes them pawns as well.
The Montglane Service
The Montglane Service and Abbey are the creations of Katherine Neville. In The Eight, the set was once owned by Charlemagne. Its design is of early Indian influence and it is created from solid gold and precious gems. The weight and size of each piece is quite large, with pawns starting at about 3 inches high and kings and queens at 6 inches. The story describes how the Montglane Service received its name after it was given by Charlemagne to a loyal friend who controlled the Montglane region of France, and who later willed it to be protected by the nuns of Montglane. Neville based her concept of the chess set on similar sets described in medieval romances such as the "Legend of Charlemagne".
The Eight received positive reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. The Washington Post Book World called it "a feminist answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark". Florence King of The New York Times reviewed the book negatively, criticizing the plot and Neville's writing.
- Jerry Carroll (March 16, 1989). "Computer Genius' Unique Novel Hits Big". San Francisco Chronicle. p. B3.(subscription required)
- Bass, Judy (March 12, 1989). "The Chess Match of History". Los Angeles Times.
- McLellan, Joseph (January 1, 1989). "Mystery to The Eighth Power". The Washington Post.
- King, Florence (January 15, 1989). "It's Your Move Charlemagne". The New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2007.