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The Fire: A Novel Hardcover – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fans of Neville's debut, The Eight (1988), which long before there was a Da Vinci Code featured a complex historical setting, ciphers, conspiracies, puzzles and a hunt for an object that could change the course of the world, will welcome this stellar sequel. Alexandra Solarin, child chess prodigy now grown, finds herself immersed in the Game, searching for a legendary chess set, the Montglane Service, which when assembled spells out the formula for the secret of immortality. The quest for the set ranges from the harem of Ali Pasha in 19th-century Albania to present-day Baghdad and Washington, D.C., and involves such historic figures as Charlemagne, Isaac Newton, Lord Byron and Napoleon. Despite the staggering amount and quality of the research, nothing feels shoehorned or extraneous. The story's relentless pace is matched by characters both sympathetic and real. In the end, readers will be heartened to find signs pointing to the continuation of the Game in future novels. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Twenty years after The Eight, Neville finally unveils the next chapter in Cat Velis’ story. Alexandra Solarin, Cat’s daughter, receives an invitation from her mom to visit her in Colorado. When Alexandra arrives, she finds that her mother has vanished and that the clues left behind reveal a sinister mystery. To find her mom, Alexandra will have to pursue the same “game” that Cat did years earlier, searching for the pieces of an ancient chess set with mystical properties. Unfortunately, the people accompanying her on her journey might not be trustworthy. Alexandra’s quest is intertwined with the story of a young girl in 1822 named Haidee, faced with a parallel challenge involving the great English poet Lord Byron. Fans of The Eight who have long awaited the rest of the story will be delighted with this entrancing blend of history, chess, and high adventure. --Jeff Ayers

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 451 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780345500670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345500670
  • ASIN: 0345500679
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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:

Customer Reviews

There is too much detail, and the book becomes bogged down with it; the story doesn't move very smoothly.
The author's careful historical and literary research again shines out, though it is not possible to know where fact ends and fiction begins.
Happy Camper
To me it seemed like the author got bored and just wanted to finish the darn thing to get it off her desk.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Scott Bright VINE VOICE on October 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a sequel to the spectacularly awesome 20-year-old book, "The Eight," I was sure I was going to love this book. "The Eight" was so well written. It was challenging and fun and intriguing and deep. I was on the edge of my seat and lost quite a bit of sleep trying to finish it. I was so impressed with Ms. Neville's writing skill that I was certain I'd love anything else she'd written.

Wrong. I'm so incredibly disappointed. The style of "The Fire" was so different that it seemed like it was written by a completely different author. I just couldn't believe it was written by the same woman. It was complicated and convoluted rather than refreshingly complex. The prose at many points was trite, whereas "The Eight" was stylish and significant.

I wasn't excited about the plot until about 250 pages into the book. That's a long time to be plodding through. I felt particularly mired down early in the book during a chapter filled to the brim with Arab names of people and places. I had a really difficult time figuring out what was going on with the story because I couldn't pronounce the names or keep them straight. There were plenty of Arab names in "The Eight," too, so I guess they weren't all crammed in there like a history lesson since I didn't stumble at all in the first book.

There were two things in particular that really bugged me about this book. The first was the overuse of clichés while trying to be clever about it. If you read this book, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about after you read, "As Key would say," followed by a cliché like Practice Makes Perfect for the tenth (or twentieth) time. The second was the lack of real tension or danger. The characters kept saying they were scared to death, but I couldn't reason why.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By L.Jacobsen on November 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm sorry to say that I found this book to be an utter disappointment. The Eight was amazing, so if you haven't read it - do, but then resist the temptation for more and don't read The Fire. It's too bad that Katherine Neville didn't go with her initial gut reaction that "the way for [The Eight] to remain unique was not to make it into a sequel..." because I really feel like she slapped something together to sell books to everyone who loved The Eight. I would have liked this book much better if there had been a depth to character development that there was in The Eight, and plot development, and denouement equal to that of The Eight. Someone mentioned cider and roller skates - it was really ridiculous. And then it just ends. Like she just got up from her desk one day and said, "okay, I'm tired of this, let's wrap it up." then wrote two more pages and called it done. It's really too bad, because with more time and attention it could have been great.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Karen Marie on November 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I started re-reading The Eight as soon as I found out that I was going to get an advance reader's copy of The Fire. It was as good as I remembered.

The Fire, on the other hand, was like a knight on a chessboard. It moved two forward then one sideways, then two to the right and one back. I didn't find it cohesive. Characters appeared and left abruptly, plot lines started up then petered out.

It picks up many years after Cat Velis and Alexander Solarian ended The Game and got married. Their 12-year old daughter Alexandra is a chess wizard. Something goes terribly wrong in Russia when she and her father go there for a match, and it turns out that The Game has started up again.

The action was very improbable. Alexandra is estranged from her mother but gets invited to her house in Colorado, solves some very strange and esoteric clues, and all of a sudden her aunt and opponent-to-be from the never-started or finished match in Russia show up. Nokomis Key, a childhood friend, is coincidentally available to fly everybody all over the place to meet people who spout obscure clues and hint at things never explained. Then we're back in Washington DC, with a lot of early American history thrown in to explain the interesting nature of the city's layout and a strange dinner party that just seems put there to describe the meal and exclaim over who was invited. But the food sounded wonderful.

We also meet some extremely surprising characters. There is the obligatory second time period plot and it all gets convoluted and nothing ever seems to resolve to my satisfaction.

There are wonderful historical facts and events explained in ways that tie the entire world together in a satisfying way from a purely intellectual viewpoint.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Devita VINE VOICE on October 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Katherine Neville has once again disappointed me, and this is the last time.

I read "The Eight" years ago, and loved it. Looking back, it was groundbreaking in its use of both contemporary and historical threads to weave its tale, and combining this with its metaphysical aspects, it was indeed a heady brew.

Unfortunately her next two novels were pedestrian at best, and I came to believe that the magic of "The Eight" was not to be recaptured.

When I saw this sequel on sale, I put aside my reservations and jumped at the chance to once again immerse myself in the world I so fondly remember from her maiden novel.

Alas, you cannot go home again- at least Katherine Neville cannot. This book is just atrocious. Starting with her main character, who juxtaposes the qualities of a chess genius with a simpleton, and who fails to incite any interest or care on the part of the reader, this story is a horrible amalgamation of lame characters [even those who had seemed fascinating all those years ago], indecipherable plot twists, no real action or suspense other than an absurd ending which involves roller skates and cider jugs, and a Secret which is revealed in the last two pages, and which winds up being more a hackneyed cliche than an Earth shattering [and reforming] Ultimate Truth [or Original Direction to use the novel's own terminology].

I have reluctantly realized that Ms. Neville is not a very good writer, and that "The Eight" was one of those serendipitous occurrences, a true Black Swan, which is unexplainable, and, unfortunately, unrepeatable. It took her decades to attempt to recreate her success- now we know she shouldn't have tried.
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