Saturday, November 8, 2008

Katherine Neville: The Fire

I’ve been looking forward to reading The Fire by Katherine Neville since hearing that she was writing a sequel to The Eight. In preparation, I re-read The Eight ( ), and I think I’m glad I did. In the sequel we don’t get a lot of background on the Montglane Service or The Game, but both are important to the story. Again we have two intertwined narratives, taking place in 2003 and the 1820s.

It’s hard to say too much about The Fire without revealing tidbits from The Eight. I’ll try to limit the damage, but some points are too fundamental to the sequel. So, if you have not read The Eight and plan to ---- STOP!

Alexadra Solarin is the daughter of Catherine Velis and Alexander Solarin, key players from the first book. (And you now know they get together by the end of the first book.) Alexandra is invited to her mother’s birthday party, along with a surprising list of other characters. All seem to have a role in a new awakening of The Game. Most surprising is having a party at all. Catherine Velis’ birthdate figured prominently in her participation in The Game, and so she has refused to acknowledge it in any way. Anther surprise is that when Alexandra and the guests arrive, Cathering Velis has disappeared.

Back to 1822, Kauri and Haidée are entrusted with smuggling one of the chess pieces out of Albania, just before Ali Pasha is crushed by the forces of the Ottoman Empire. Just how this piece came to be in Islamic hands after being hidden in Monglane Abbey for a thousand years is unclear. Kauri and Haidée are captured by corsairs before they can deliver the piece to Haidée’s natural father, the British Poet, Lord Byron. Charlot (Mireille’s son from The Eight) joins the adventure in rescuing Haidée and the chess piece.

Meanwhile, back in the twentieth century, Alexandra returns to her job tending fire at a fancy restaurant in Washington, DC. Suddenly, it appears that her boss, the Basque nationalist, Rodo, is also involved in the maneuverings. It turns out to by significant that Monglane Abbey, located in the Pyrenees, was located in the French portion of the Basque homeland.

In The Eight we sometimes had trouble telling who was on the White team, and who was on the Black team. But White was bad, and Black was good. In The Fire, we still have trouble telling who is White and who is Black, but good guys and bad guys seem to be intermingled between the teams. What’s that all about?

The Eight bounced between the 1790s and the 1970s. But by the end of the book, there did not appear to be any secrets from the 1790s that were not know to Catherine Velis in the 1970s. But The Fire introduces information from the 1820s that is only resolved in 2003. I kept feeling that the 1820s information really should have been included in the resolution of The Eight. It just felt inconsistent to me.

It took three readings of The Eight before I finally started feeling that everything made some sense. After one reading, I do not feel that everything makes sense in The Fire. I was actually disappointed. I didn’t think the pieces fit together well, and I did not think the conclusion concluded well.

1 comment:

shokalatte said...
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