Author: Katherine Neville
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 14, 2008)
2003, Colorado: Alexandra Solarin is summoned home to her family’s ancestral Rocky Mountain hideaway for her mother’s birthday. Thirty years ago, her parents, Cat Velis and Alexander Solarin, believed that they had scattered the pieces of the Montglane Service around the world, burying with them the secrets of the power that comes with possessing it. But Alexandra arrives to find that her mother is missing and that a series of strategically placed clues, followed swiftly by the unexpected arrival of a mysterious assortment of houseguests, indicates that something sinister is afoot.
When she inadvertently discovers from her aunt, the chess grandmaster Lily Rad, that the most powerful piece of Charlemagne’s service has suddenly resurfaced and the Game has begun again, Alexandra is swept into a journey that takes her from Colorado to the Russian wilderness and at last into the heart of her own hometown: Washington D.C
This is the sequel to what was an apparently super-hit novel, The Eight, released a decade or so ago. I haven't read the first one (indeed, I had never heard of it before receiving this book for review) and my feeling is that this second book would have made much more sense to me if I had read the first one.
Let me discuss the pros first. This book is a boiling cauldron filled to overflowing with the essences of history, mystery, chess and intrigue. The research that the author has gone into creating this book is awesome. The quotes, the history, the way it's all incorporated into the story is just stunning. The pace is rapid and the plotting intricate.
There are a lot of good elements in this story. The trouble, at least from my point of view, is that there are too many facets to this story for a reader to keep track of. Too many mysteries wrapped in conundrums wrapped in puzzles. The entire novel is a mix of too many cultures, too many time periods, too many characters, too many things happening on too many fronts simultaneously. I was frankly left bewildered time and again as many things didn't make sense to me at all.
The one basic question that plagued me was - there's a missing chess set and somehow live human beings are being called The White Queen, Black King etc? I mean, how did that come about? Who designates these so called queens and kings? Why is it happening in the first place? People don't age, everybody seems to talk in riddles, there's nothing straightforward about anything. And with the amount of peril surrounding them, you would expect at least the protagonist to be a bit more cautious. But no - that never happens!
It's the first time in my life I've ever been left so bewildered by a book. I would highly recommend readers read the first book in this series before even thinking of reading this one. Hopefully they'll be able to make more sense of this novel that I can.
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