Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Thoughts - The Eight by Katherine Neville

The Eight by Katherine Neville
first published 1988
598 pages

Synopsis -

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....

My thoughts -

This novel is considered the originator of the "historical-scavenger-hunt-thriller"-type novel that Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian have made famous. Having read both those novels, I was interested to see how the first in the genre would hold up after 25+ years. I'm please to say it holds up quite well indeed.

For me, Dan Brown's novels always feel a little too surface-y, as if they are written for the movie they will eventually become but lack a bit of the substance I really crave in a good novel. Elizabeth Kostova, on the other hand, was SO dense. There were just SO MANY WORDS, and I felt like the plot needed some more action to keep me completely engaged. The Eight was the perfect balance of both worlds - complex plotting with enough thrills to keep me right on the edge of my seat and wanting more.

The Eight uses a lot of ingredients that have been successfully incorporated many times since in popular books and movies - Freemasonry, alchemy, the mysterious Middle East. Because these tropes have become so popular as plot devices, the possibility of them feeling stale is high. I felt like this novel was able to stand on its own well, despite the passing of years, because of Neville's expert weaving together of all these familiar strands into a story both exciting and fresh.

Neville's two main heroines, Cat and Mireille, were intelligent and dauntless, and following their dangerous and heroic exploits was complete and utter fun. I genuinely felt anxious on more than one occasion, because I was that involved in their stories. Because this novel has been the inspiration for so much that followed, some of the plot twists were easier to predict, but there were still plenty of surprises along the way.

I'm extremely glad this novel found it's way into my hands. I enjoyed every minute, and would not hesitate to recommend it.  

Finished - 2/14/16
Source - my shelves #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks
MPAA rating - R for violence, scary situations, adult situations
My rating - 5/5


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I've never even heard of it -- but I agree with your assessment that Dan Brown's too shallow and Kostova's too dense. I'd be eager to try something that could be the Goldilocks-just-right of the genre!

Aarti said...

I completely agree with you on Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova. I feel like Kostova just wanted to put a bunch of research that she had done into her novel, whether it had a place or not, and that Brown just wanted to BE his main character, and it was painfully obvious in the novels.

So glad that this one is spot on!