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5.0 out of 5 stars Neville spins an incredible plot.....
I loved "The Eight". That comment alone causes readers who appreciate fiction writing for the writing caliber, as opposed to the plot, to groan aloud. "The Eight" is an oversized (500+ pages) novel, a first time effort for author Katherine Neville, whose later works are far less popular. "The Eight" on the other hand, is much beloved and...
Published on May 3 2004 by L. Quido

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Trying a little too hard to be smart
After reading Katherine Neville's bio on the inside back cover, it became immediately clear that the author holds herself in high regard. This perspective was reinforced by "The Eight" in which one of the two main characters (Catherine) not only shares the author's name but, apparently, many of her experiences and talents as well.
Overall, I did enjoy...
Published on March 16 2004 by Todd R. Konkel


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4.0 out of 5 stars Chess-Themed, Female-Led, Fast-Moving Adventure Fantasy from the French Revolution to the Present, Oct. 18 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
The Eight is a one-of-a-kind novel. I've never read a book quite like it for drawing on so many genres and interestingly using so many references to history, the arts, culture, geography, mysticism, and religion. It's like watching a more culturally connected version of The Amazing Race television program.

At the same time, the new story combinations mostly work quite well. The queen is the most powerful chess piece, and it makes sense that women should dominate a novel about chess. So there's an integrity to the new mosaic that lends the plot an inner strength.

The book alternates between two story lines with different leading heroines, Mireille de Remy (an apprentice nun, or novice, during the French Revolution of 1789) and Catherine (Cat) Velis (a computer whiz working for an accounting firm in Manhattan in the early 1970s). Most times, the story line hits a cliff hanger just in time to shift back to the other story line. It's a good book structure for maintaining your interest.

Both heroines are drawn into the search for missing chess pieces and board from a set that was once owned by the Emperor Charlemagne, a set which physically represents an age-old secret that conveys some sort of astonishing benefit to the person who employs the secret. Naturally, there are opposing forces looking to find the clues and to grasp the secret for their own advantage. That competition is expressed in terms of chess moves and pieces.

No one, however, will ever accuse Ms. Neville of being a stylish writer in crafting sentences. Rather, she is a writer who evokes emotion in he readers by falling back on favorite techniques of thriller, romance, and mystery novelists to make her story compelling.

She does a good job of keeping the various elements of the story in balance. For that reason, if you don't like one aspect of the story, you won't find yourself putting the book down in disgust. She'll distract you with another aspect of the story before that happens.

Ms. Neville has a prodigious imagination, and she employs it well to connect coincidences, historical figures, important world events, and facts into a new tapestry that seems for vivid for its antecedents in the real world.

Unfortunately, the book's ending isn't quite up to its premise. Ms. Neville has her characters doing things at the end that don't quite fit with the logical flow of her story. But it's only a minor disappointment in the end. The fun of getting to the end is too vivid for the reader to be ultimately disappointed in the experience.
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4.0 out of 5 stars `But all things of heaven and of earth have a reason.', June 7 2008
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
Each piece in a mystical chess set given to Charlemagne by eight mysterious Moors contains a code. Whoever reassembles the pieces will have unlimited power.

The chess set has been carefully hidden for centuries from those who would abuse its powers, However, in the 18th century, with France in revolution, the Abbess of Montglane judges the time has come to unearth the chess pieces and scatter them across the world in the custody of the nuns as they flee the Abbey. Two centuries later, another young woman is chosen to protect the pieces.

This novel is a fascinating blend of fiction and mystery in an historical setting. The action moves between the past and the present in a way that adds to the suspense rather than detracts from the narrative. This is Ms Neville's debut novel and was first published in 1988, and predates a number of the novels to which it is frequently compared by some years.

I think this novel will appeal to those who like historical fiction as well as those who like mystery and problem-solving. I enjoyed it on two levels: the historical setting itself and the snippets about the game of chess. I read it purely for entertainment, but found myself wondering `what if..?'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1.0 out of 5 stars You have to read this book, July 18 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
I cannot recomend this book highly enough. if you want a load of laughs. This is probably the worst book I have ever read! I love mystery, historical thrillers, so was attracted to the title, (well actually, I didn't buy it, someone left it in a collection for me!). but when I started I realised that I was on to something really special. If you thought that the Da Vinci code was bad (and believe me, it was very bad!) then this is for you. I almost don't know where to begin. Like Dan Brown she has the irritating habit of telling you stuff that any moderately intelligent person will already know! She really likes to show off her research. Although there were so many narrators, they all had the same voice, terrible terrible. But my favourite "bad bit" was her habit of saying "little was I to know that later that afternoon......" or "Little was I to know that down the street......." Heavens it was hysterical! I don't blame the author, every author does their best. But the editor should be put against a wall and shot! I look forward to reading her next one, as long as I don't have to buy it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Neville spins an incredible plot....., May 3 2004
By 
L. Quido "quidrock" (Tampa, FL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
I loved "The Eight". That comment alone causes readers who appreciate fiction writing for the writing caliber, as opposed to the plot, to groan aloud. "The Eight" is an oversized (500+ pages) novel, a first time effort for author Katherine Neville, whose later works are far less popular. "The Eight" on the other hand, is much beloved and widely read.
Neville's prose is typical of first time authors. Characterization can be thin, dialogue can be unrealistic, the romance altogether too passionate to be believable. What distinguishes this work, and what has given the book its cult following is the plot, the plot, the plot, the PLOT!
The premise takes two parallel events, in two different timeframes (the '70's and the late 18th century) and weaves the stories together. Both are quests for the mystical Montglane chess set, an Indian relic, once a gift to Charlemagne. Neville's got an imagination that knows no bounds, and she draws dozens of historical figures into the plot mix, both in this century and that. Catherine the Great plays a role, as does modern-day despot Muhammar Khaddafi. The Montglane chess set, like Tolkien's "The One Ring", has mystical powers, and must be prevented, by an innocent, from falling into the hands of those who represent evil and anarchy.
Part fairy tale, part romance, part historical fiction, part suspense novel, "The Eight" is unforgettable for its complexity and the peek into the mind of a great storyteller. You won't soon forget it!
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2.0 out of 5 stars overzealous and disappointing, April 14 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book given the rave reviews, but was sadly disappointed by an author who tries so hard to mesh too many historical characters in such a cursory fashion. Add in the fantasy/mystical angle for the plot, and the book leaves you with the sense that absolutely nothing is authentic. The references to historical figures actually becomes tedious.
In other "semi-historical" books the characters are fictional and the time period pseudo-accurate (e.g., the Alienist, Angels & Demons). Or the characters are as close to what one would imagine (e.g., The Great Train Robbery). In this case neither is true.
Finally, I won't spoil the ending, but the resolution of the plot is horribly disappointing. The whole 600 pages talks about discovering a formula. Well?
Overall, the writing style isn't bad, and the author has a way of keeping you reading. But, too many times I'd put the book down and say to myself, "oh no, here comes another misused historical figure".
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book, April 2 2004
By 
M. L. Jones (Pittsburgh, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
Wow. Amazing. You know, sometimes I put stuff on my wishlist and then later forget why I decided to put it on. When I got this book in the mail, I couldn't specifically remember why I wanted to read it, but as soon as I flipped it over and saw the words 'France, Spring 1790,' I was hooked. And with good reason.
There was so much in this book, I don't even know if I can begin to give a proper synopsis. The plot was very Lord of the Rings-esque. You know, one chess board to rule them all...and all that. The whole story was very dense. I had a lot of distractions over the week or so that I was reading it, so I know I didn't glean everything from the story that I could have, because there was just so much packed in. There were many characters and details that sometimes it was hard to keep up with everything going on. I think I will have to buy another copy to re-read and share.
While reading reviews for this book, I read a lot of stuff about how the author wove history into the story, and it's true. And it was quite clever. But there were so many historical characters that popped up or were mentioned, that by the end, that technique almost because a caricature of itself, I thought. I compared it to Forrest Gump in that way. Somehow he manages to bump into almost every historically important person in his lifetime.
Definitely a book worth reading. My advice is, give it plenty of time. So fascinating. On to the next Katherine Neville...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Trying a little too hard to be smart, March 16 2004
By 
Todd R. Konkel (Sterling, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
After reading Katherine Neville's bio on the inside back cover, it became immediately clear that the author holds herself in high regard. This perspective was reinforced by "The Eight" in which one of the two main characters (Catherine) not only shares the author's name but, apparently, many of her experiences and talents as well.
Overall, I did enjoy "The Eight", but it did not meet the expectations that had been set by reading other reviews. While connoisseurs of Dan Brown and Umberto Eco will probably enjoy this book, it falls well short of the suspense of "The Da Vinci Code" or the historical/intellectual rigor of "Foucault's Pendulum". At times, this book seems like an exercise by Ms. Neville to see how many famous 20th-century politicians, philosophers, painters, composers, mathematicians and soldiers she could squeeze into a historical fiction. By the time I encountered a young French officer named Bonaparte, I had grown weary of the game.
Ms. Neville stretches the limits of credibility from time to time (IMHO, the most notable example being a convertible Rolls Royce driving 1000 miles across the desert). Also, I found the first-person narrative (of the Catherine Velis story) to be a bit tedious. But maybe that is just a personal preference.
Finally, after plowing through 600 pages, I was disappointed by an ending that failed to achieve true closure. Of course, more enthusiastic fans will be excited by this excuse to write a sequel (which I hear is actually in the works, 15+ years after "The Eight").
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4.0 out of 5 stars AN UNEXPECTED DELIGHT, March 11 2004
By 
Dustin Merton (Lubbock, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
I have to say that i really enjoyed this book. when i received it i knew nothing about it and only read it because a friend of mine gave it to me for christmas. the book is about a legendary chess service that belonged to the ruler charlamagne. the chess set is supposed to contain a secret formula that holds some type of tremendous mystical power. the book is broken into two time periods, the 1970s and the 1790s. neville takes the reader all over the world in a came of chess involving real people as chess pieces. there is the white team and a black team, both competing against each other in search of all 32 pieces, the actual chess board, and a piece of cloth that contains part of the formula hidden in the chess service. neville seamlessly weaves these two time periods together very well and always leaves the reader ready to find out what happens next. there are many actual historic characters that are important characters in the game being played in the book. they range from napoleon all the way to isaac newton and voltaire. this is a very well written book but the reason i give it four stars is because it is a little longer than it needs to be. other than that there is plenty of action and suspense within the book and a lot of trying to figure out who is who with regards to the game within the book. all of the characters are well thought out and developed and neville has a way of actually making the reader care and root for them to achieve the mission the mission they are on. this is a good read and i want to thank my friend for giving it to me in the first place.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A decent book, Feb. 1 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a decent book. Neville is a talented writer and she has a wonderful idea. I'd give this 3.5 stars if Amazon let me. The reviews are all over the map, though they average out to the plus side, where it belongs. Despite what others say, however, let me be perfectly clear: This book is no masterpiece.
The difference in reviews can be explained best by (1) the reader's expectations and (2) what the reader looks for in a book.
First, big expectations will lead to disappointment. Many disappointed reviewers scoff at the comparison to Eco's "Name of the Rose." I agree with that sentiment. So if you picked this up because of this comparison on the cover, you'll be disappointed. I've enjoyed many books (and movies) where I didn't know what to expect, though I've hated many equally good books where my expectations were high. If you expect an average novel, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Second, if you read very little, you'll complain about what you get out of 598 pages. It would be a tragedy for someone who reads only a few books a year (and has read few classics) to read this one. On the other hand, if the size doesn't scare you and you read a lot, this is worth reading. Similarly, if you try only to read the very best books, skip this one. If you read a lot, this is another good book. It's an intelligent book with historical fiction, but it went too far -- almost as if the author was paid by the historical reference.
This novel is well researched and the style is good. The character development is average to good. Unfortunately, Neville spent too much time (words) on the wrong things. I would have liked more character development and more detail in the characters' environment and I felt the major action scenes went by too quickly -- before you even had a chance to start worrying about the characters.
The worst part about this book is its unmet potential. The two-tiered novel (in time) is an excellent idea and the chess game (or tournament) played through the ages piqued my interest as I love chess and unique ideas. However, the chess theme fell flat. The significance of who played which piece made no sense to me. What did it matter who was a rook and who was a Bishop or a Knight? What did their moves (in life) have to do with chess? Perhaps I missed it, but I tend to agree with another reviewer who said it may as well have been checkers. If you're scared away from this book because you don't know anything about chess, don't worry. And if you are attracted to this book because of the chess theme, forget it -- it will disapoint you.
In sum, a good book -- but don't expect too much.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Idea that could use ReWriting, Jan. 18 2004
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This review is from: The Eight: A Novel (Mass Market Paperback)
While the basic plot of Neville's _The Eight_ is engaging, the book fails to come through in terms of its storytelling. After a while the revelation of "which French Revolutionary Period Famous Figure are we going to meet next?" became a series of groans as Neville piles one after another within pages.
While the splitting of the narrative into the two distinct time periods was effective, the narrator's use of first person in one half and third person in the rest made little sense. As a thriller by leaving that part of the story in first person suspense was lost as by the voice I was assured that the character would survive whatever scrapes she got into.
Characterization was also rather flat. Neville picks one or two traits for her characters and sticks with them. There is little character growth with a few enjoyable exceptions. Catherine never seems to get a true hold of things, even unto the end. And the romances of the novel seem rather flat, until you get to the steamy scenes straight out of a bodice ripper (and feel way out of place).
These are sad distractions from what I felt was a good plot and good idea. While sometimes the chess metaphors became a little much (every building Catherine visits seems to have a black and white checkered floor), the over all metaphor of conspiracy Neville uses quite well and does not use the standard cliches too often. I rather wish that Neville had trimmed the novel down; instead of relying on famous figures, develop a few full characters that show growth as they discover the dangerous secret of the Montglane Service.
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The Eight: A Novel
The Eight: A Novel by Katherine Neville (Mass Market Paperback - Jan. 14 1990)
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