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The Eight Paperback – June 23, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Katherine Neville's debut novel is a postmodern thriller set in 1972 ... and 1790. In the 20th century, Catherine Velis is a computer expert with a flair for music, painting, and chess who, on her way to Algeria at the behest of the accounting firm where she is employed, is invited to take a mysterious moonlighting assignment: recover the pieces of an old chess set missing for centuries.

In the midst of the French Revolution, a young novice discovers that her abbey is the hiding place of a chess set, once owned by the great Charlemagne, which allows those who play it to tap into incredible powers beyond the imagination. She eventually comes into contact with the major historical figures of the day, from Robespierre to Napoleon, each of whom has an agenda.

The Eight is a non-stop ride that recalls the swashbuckling adventures of Indiana Jones as well as the historical puzzles of Umberto Eco which, since its first publication in 1988, has gone on to acquire a substantial cult following.

From Publishers Weekly

In this "astonishing fantasy-adventure," Catherine Velis, a computer expert banished to Algeria by her accounting firm, gets caught up in a search for a legendary chess set once owned by Charlemagne. "A thoroughly accomplished first novel," praised PW , "daring, original and moving, it seems destined to become a cult classic."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345419081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345419088
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (477 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1945, Katherine Neville has had an extraordinary life, living in almost every state in North America. Aside from her work as an international bestselling author, she has worked as an international computer executive, a painter, photographer, and a waitress. Katherine lives in Virginia, Washington and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Visit the author's website at: www.katherineneville.com

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 192 people found the following review helpful By L. Quido VINE VOICE on May 3, 2004
Format: 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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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's hard to add to the list of superlatives about this book!!
Katherine Neville has woven a wonderful story(?) that continues to haunt me - even almost 10 years after reading it for the first time (and I've now read it 8 or 10 times). It is marvelously inventive, historically (mostly) accurate, and provides wonderful bases for some of the most intriguing conversations.
I've passed this book on to most of my male relatives and friends - who all think I'm nuts when I insist they read a "chick" book, then come to me three days later absolutely amazed how much they liked it!
If there is one weakness, it is that the modern-day characters could be more fully drawn - but that's relatively minor when compared to the intricacy of the story and the wealth of detail Ms. Neville provides.
All I can say is try it! I'm sure you'll like it!
(By the way - wouldn't this make a great computer game, a la "Myst"??)
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on September 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This review is going to contain a lot of criticism of The Eight. So, before I begin let me stress that we chose this as a book club selection and with the exception of one member everyone enjoyed reading the book. If you came here looking for something with a global conspiracy plot and sharp research a la the Da Vinci Code, then you will find what you are looking for with The Eight. The prose is at least not much worse than that of Dan Brown.

The frustrating thing with the novel is that Neville has presented a complex and clearly well-researched book. As a reader, I was rooting for her on that basis alone. This book has been compared to The Name of the Rose, but that comparison is not just. Eco is a master wordsmith with a degree of control and quality that Neville comes nowhere close to exhibiting. However, the quality of her plotting is such that if she does resolve some of her writing issues, then she could justly be placed above airplane literature.

The first and largest quality problem with the Eight is the freshman feel of the prose. There are places in the book where it is so badly written that it distracts from the reading experience. For example, she has a habit of using heavy-handed foreshadowing ("little did I know that in two days I would...") that is particularly irritating.

The second largest issue is the incomplete character development and strange plot cul-de-sacs. I actually do not believe that this is a quality issue. I have read in interviews with Neville that the original manuscript was more than 1200 pages long. I suspect that we are missing a number of plot points that would have made some of these characters much more complete and some of the transitions much less abrupt.
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48 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Karen Bierman Hirsh VINE VOICE on January 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is by far the best book I ever read. I ALWAYS recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read. It not only teaches you a little about history but you don't even realize that you are learning while enjoying the amazing plot!
Katherine Neville is brilliant as is her story in The Eight. The book combines two interwoven plots and keeps you interested in both of them! This is one book that I never wanted to finish. I fell in love with the characters and felt that this book could go on and on and not bore me one bit.
This is the story of the Montglane Chess set, supposedly a gift to Charlemagne that held unimaginable power within, when he played he became obsessed to the point of near destruction. Upon his death his sons fought over the set which ends up getting built into the walls of an abbey to protect it as well as the world from it's power. The story takes place in two eras. One where they many historical figures are after the set which is being split up across the world and then in the 1970's when the set is being searched for (again).
Catherine Neville deftly weaves these two stories together, along with historical facts and wonderful characters.
I could read it over and over again (and I have - I think I just finished it for my 7th time)and still enjoy it. The writing was superb and the plot was original!
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