Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Fire by Katherine Neville

My review of The Eight here.

Twenty years after first publishing her bestselling novel The Eight, Katherine Neville has written its sequel, The Fire. In reading the sequel, we enter the Game again, and meet up with several characters from the first adventure.

We pick up the story 20 years after Catherine (Cat) and Solarin believe they have put a stop to the Game. We find they now have a 12-year old daughter, Alexandra who is a chess-playing prodigy. Unfortunately, at the tournament that could make Alexandra the youngest chess grandmaster ever, Solarin is killed. Alexandra never plays chess again and Cat squirrels her away to a retreat in Colorado. We fast-forward ten years to find that Alexandra is now working as a sous-chef in a Basque restaurant in Washington, D.C. and has not seen her mother in five years. She then receives an unusual invitation to her mother’s birthday party in Colorado. This is unusual because Cat never celebrates her birthday and when Alexandra arrives, her mother is nowhere to be found. Then, Alexandra learns her mother has assembled an interesting crew of people (some characters from The Eight, others new to the Game), which sets the Game in motion again and Alexandra on a cross-country escapade to find her mother and more.
The present day story is again interwoven with a storyline nearly 200 years before. This time we meet a young girl named Haidee who finds herself part of the Game, which also involves Lord Byron as well as others from the previous book.

Having just finished The Eight two weeks ago, I was a little nervous to start The Fire. The Eight took me a month to get through and was so complex and dense, I was worried this would be more of the same. I was pleasantly surprised with The Fire. I delved into it and was excited to see where everyone was 20 years later. I was interested to learn what Cat and Solarin’s daughter was like and I was curious where Neville could be taking the story. It seems Neville has learned a few things as an author in the last 20 years. She learned to edit a bit. There was less of the story in the past than in the first book. There were a few less characters to keep track of and a good part of Alexandra’s journey took place just in the United States. I was quite intrigued by the puzzles and story through two-thirds of the book. From the beginning, Alexandra doesn’t know who she can trust, even people close to her. She has no idea where her mother’s clues are taking her or what is involved. We learn as she learns. My only complaint is the last third of the book seems to fizzle compared to the first two-thirds. I started losing interest and felt bogged down in random facts. I also don’t think Alexandra is quite as strong as Catherine was in the first book. But I think that just reflects generational differences somewhat. Whereas The Eight was incredibly complex and intriguing, I found The Fire to just be interesting. There were sections I was incredibly engrossed in, such as the description of the philosophy behind the city plan of Washington, D.C. There was information on Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. I found this whole section fascinating. I also really liked her explanation of balance where heaven and earth meet, ying-yang, the marriage of the black team and the white team in the Game. But Neville failed to grasp my attention throughout the entire book and I found myself speeding through to get to the end. I think I give this 3.75/5 stars.

This book has a bit of everything, mystery, suspense, action, historical fiction, and even a touch of romance. Neville also does a nice job of explaining some of what happened in the first book. I believe you could read The Fire as a stand-alone book and be satisfied.

Another review here at The Book Nest.
You can get a copy of The Fire on October 14th when it hits the shelves of your nearest bookstore.

1 comment:

allisonmariecat said...

Ooh, you make this sound like a really enjoyable pair of books. I was nervous about them when The Eight took you so long :)