The Eightby Katherine Neville
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Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years...In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the world, because the game that can be played with them is too powerful....
Nearly 20 years after it was first published, Neville's debut novel finally arrives on audio. Its combination of historical references, conspiracy theory and action/thriller format have earned it cult status over the years and may have paved the way for books like The Da Vinci Code. Imposing a new format on a "classic" can be a tall order and a daunting task for a performer; fortunately, Susan Denaker's talents are level to the material. The book offers a full variety of challenges to a reader: over 60 characters, young and old, male and female, with accents from around the world. None of these pose any obstacle to Denaker, who deftly sculpts a voice for every one, including several famous historical characters. The Monteglane Service, a bejeweled chess set that holds great power, has been buried in an obscure abbey in the French countryside and later scattered throughout Europe to keep it out of the wrong hands. The tale takes place both in the 1790s and the 1970s, when it may finally fall into evil hands. Denaker is able to emphasize the appropriate speech nuances of each century with subtlety and deftness by adding the cadence of the aural to the mix. Perhaps the audio book, too, will reach cult status. A Ballantine paperback (Reviews, Nov. 4, 1988). (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
—MATTHEW PEARL, author of The Dante Club
“A BIG, RICH, TWO-TIERED CONFECTION OF A NOVEL . . .
A ROUSING, AMUSING GAME.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“A fascinating piece of entertainment that manages to be both vibrant and cerebral . . . Few will find it resistible.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“With alchemical skill, Neville blends modern romance, historical fiction, and medieval mystery . . . and comes up with gold.”
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 4.14(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.03(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Katherine Neville
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Katherine Neville
All rights reserved.
Characters tend to be either for or against the quest. If they assist it, they are idealized as simply gallant or pure; if they obstruct it, they are characterized as simply villainous or cowardly.
Hence every typical character ... tends to have his moral opposite confronting him, like black and white pieces in a chess game.
— Anatomy of Criticism Northrop Frye
MONTGLANE ABBEY, FRANCE
A flock of nuns crossed the road, their crisp wimples fluttering about their heads like the wings of large sea birds. As they floated through the large stone gates of the town, chickens and geese scurried out of their path, flapping and splashing through the mud puddles. The nuns moved through the darkening mist that enveloped the valley each morning and, in silent pairs, headed toward the sound of the deep bell that rang out from the hills above them.
They called that spring le Printemps Sanglant, the Bloody Spring. The cherry trees had bloomed early that year, long before the snows had melted from the high mountain peaks. Their fragile branches bent down to earth with the weight of the wet red blossoms. Some said it was a good omen that they had bloomed so soon, a symbol of rebirth after the long and brutal winter. But then the cold rains had come and froze the blossoms on the bough, leaving the valley buried thick in red blossoms stained with brown streaks of frost. Like a wound congealed with dried blood. And this was said to be another kind of sign.
High above the valley, the Abbey of Montglane rose like an enormous outcropping of rock from the crest of the mountain. The fortress-like structure had remained untouched by the outside world for nearly a thousand years. It was constructed of six or seven layers of wall built one on top of the other. As the original stones eroded over the centuries, new walls were laid outside of old ones, with flying buttresses. The result was a brooding architectural melange whose very appearance fed the rumors about the place. The abbey was the oldest church structure standing intact in France, and it bore an ancient curse that was soon to be reawakened.
As the dark-throated bell rang out across the valley, the remaining nuns looked up from their labors one by one, put aside their rakes and hoes, and passed down through the long, symmetrical rows of cherry trees to climb the precipitous road to the abbey.
At the end of the long procession, the two young novices Valentine and Mireille trailed arm in arm, picking their way with muddy boots. They made an odd complement to the orderly line of nuns. The tall red-haired Mireille with her long legs and broad shoulders looked more like a healthy farm girl than a nun. She wore a heavy butcher's apron over her habit, and red curls strayed from beneath her wimple. Beside her Valentine seemed fragile, though she was nearly as tall. Her pale skin seemed translucent, its fairness accentuated by the cascade of white-blond hair that tumbled about her shoulders. She had stuffed her wimple into the pocket of her habit, and she walked reluctantly beside Mireille, kicking her boots in the mud.
The two young women, the youngest nuns at the abbey, were cousins on their mothers' side, both orphaned at an early age by a dreadful plague that had ravaged France. The aging Count de Remy, Valentine's grandfather, had commended them into the hands of the Church, upon his death leaving the sizable balance of his estate to ensure their care.
The circumstance of their upbringing had formed an inseparable bond between the two, who were both bursting with the unrestrained abundant gaiety of youth. The abbess often heard the older nuns complain that this behavior was unbecoming to the cloistered life, but she understood that it was better to curb youthful spirits than to try to quench them.
Then, too, the abbess felt a certain partiality to the orphaned cousins, a feeling unusual both to her personality and her station. The older nuns would have been surprised to learn that the abbess herself had sustained from early childhood such a bosom friendship, with a woman who had been separated from her by many years and many thousands of miles.
Now, on the steep trail, Mireille was tucking some unruly wisps of red hair back under her wimple and tugging her cousin's arm as she tried to lecture her on the sins of tardiness.
"If you keep on dawdling, the Reverend Mother will give us a penance again," she said.
Valentine broke loose and twirled around in a circle. "The earth is drowning in spring," she cried, swinging her arms about and nearly toppling over the edge of the cliff. Mireille hauled her up along the treacherous incline. "Why must we be shut up in that stuffy abbey when everything out-of-doors is bursting with life?"
"Because we are nuns," said Mireille with pursed lips, stepping up her pace, her hand firmly on Valentine's arm. "And it is our duty to pray for mankind." But the warm mist rising from the valley floor brought with it a fragrance so heavy that it saturated everything with the aroma of cherry blossoms. Mireille tried not to notice the stirrings this caused in her own body.
"We are not nuns yet, thank God," said Valentine. "We are only novices until we have taken our vows. It's not too late to be saved. I've heard the older nuns whispering that there are soldiers roaming about in France, looting all the monasteries of their treasures, rounding up the priests and marching them off to Paris. Perhaps some soldiers will come here and march me off to Paris, too. And take me to the opera each night, and drink champagne from my shoe!"
"Soldiers are not always so very charming as you seem to think," observed Mireille. "After all, their business is killing people, not taking them to the opera."
"That's not all they do," said Valentine, her voice dropping to a mysterious whisper. They had reached the top of the hill, where the road flattened out and widened considerably. Here it was cobbled with flat paving stones and resembled the broad thoroughfares one found in larger towns. On either side of the road, huge cypresses had been planted. Rising above the sea of cherry orchards, they looked formal and forbidding and, like the abbey itself, strangely out of place.
"I have heard," Valentine whispered in her cousin's ear, "that the soldiers do dreadful things to nuns! If a soldier should come upon a nun, in the woods, for example, he immediately takes a thing out of his pants and he puts it into the nun and stirs it about. And then when he has finished, the nun has a baby!"
"What blasphemy!" cried Mireille, pulling away from Valentine and trying to suppress the smile hovering about her lips. "You are entirely too saucy to be a nun, I think."
"Exactly what I have been saying all along," Valentine admitted. "I would far rather be the bride of a soldier than a bride of Christ."
As the two cousins approached the abbey, they could see the four double rows of cypresses planted at each entrance to form the sign of the crucifix. The trees closed in about them as they scurried along through the blackening mist. They passed through the abbey gates and crossed the large courtyard. As they approached the high wooden doors to the main enclave, the bell continued to ring, like a death knell cutting through the thick mist.
Each paused before the doors to scrape mud from her boots, crossed herself quickly, and passed through the high portal. Neither glanced up at the inscription carved in crude Frankish letters in the stone arch over the portal, but each knew what it said, as if the words were engraved upon her heart:
Cursed be He who bring these Walls to Earth
The King is checked by the Hand of God alone.
Beneath the inscription the name was carved in large block letters, "Carolus Magnus." He it was who was architect both of the building and the curse placed upon those who would destroy it. The greatest ruler of the Frankish Empire over a thousand years earlier, he was known to all in France as Charlemagne.
The interior walls of the abbey were dark, cold, and wet with moss. From the inner sanctum one could hear the whispered voices of the novitiates praying and the soft clicking of their rosaries counting off the Aves, Glorias, and Pater Nosters. Valentine and Mireille hurried through the chapel as the last of the novices were genuflecting and followed the trail of whispers to the small door behind the altar where the reverend mother's study was located. An older nun was hastily shooing the last of the stragglers inside. Valentine and Mireille glanced at each other and passed within.
It was strange to be called to the abbess's study in this manner. Few nuns had ever been there at all, and then usually for disciplinary action. Valentine, who was always being disciplined, had been there often enough. But the abbey bell was used to convene all the nuns. Surely they could not all be called at once to the reverend mother's study?
As they entered the large, low-ceilinged room, Valentine and Mireille saw that all the nuns in the abbey were indeed there — more than fifty of them. Seated on rows of hard wooden benches that had been set up facing the Abbess's writing desk, they whispered among themselves. Clearly everyone thought it was a strange circumstance, and the faces that looked up as the two young cousins entered seemed frightened. The cousins took their places in the last row of benches. Valentine clasped Mireille's hand.
"What does it mean?" she whispered.
"It bodes ill, I think," replied Mireille, also in a whisper. "The reverend mother looks grave. And there are two women here whom I have never seen."
At the end of the long room, behind a massive desk of polished cherry wood, stood the abbess, wrinkled and leathery as an old parchment, but still exuding the power of her tremendous office. There was a timeless quality in her bearing that suggested she had long ago made peace with her own soul, but today she looked more serious than the nuns had ever seen her.
Two strangers, both large-boned young women with big hands, loomed at either side of her like avenging angels. One had pale skin, dark hair, and luminous eyes, while the other bore a strong resemblance to Mireille, with a creamy complexion and chestnut hair only slightly darker than Mireille's auburn locks. Though both had the bearing of nuns, they were not wearing habits, but plain gray traveling clothes of nondescript nature.
The abbess waited until all the nuns were seated and the door had been closed. When the room was completely silent she began to speak in the voice that always reminded Valentine of a dry leaf being crumbled.
"My daughters," said the abbess, folding her hands before her, "for nearly one thousand years the Order of Montglane has stood upon this rock, doing our duty to mankind and serving God. Though we are cloistered from the world, we hear the rumblings of the world's unrest. Here in our small corner, we have received unfortunate tidings of late that may change the security we've enjoyed so long. The two women who stand beside me are bearers of those tidings. I introduce Sister Alexandrine de Forbin" — she motioned to the dark-haired woman — "and Marie-Charlotte de Corday, who together direct the Abbayeaux-Dames at Caen in the northern provinces. They have traveled the length of France in disguise, an arduous journey, to bring us a warning. I therefore bid you hark unto what they have to say. It is of the gravest importance to us all."
The abbess took her seat, and the woman who had been introduced as Alexandrine de Forbin cleared her throat and spoke in a low voice so that the nuns had to strain to hear her. But her words were clear.
"My sisters in God," she began, "the tale we have to tell is not for the fainthearted. There are those among us who came to Christ hoping to save mankind. There are those who came hoping to escape from the world. And there are those who came against their will, feeling no calling whatever." At this she turned her dark, luminous eyes directly upon Valentine, who blushed to the very roots of her pale blond hair.
"Regardless what you thought your purpose was, it has changed as of today. In our journey, Sister Charlotte and I have passed the length of France, through Paris and each village in between. We have seen not only hunger but starvation. People are rioting in the streets for bread. There is butchery; women carry severed heads on pikes through the streets. There is rape, and worse. Small children are murdered, people are tortured in public squares and torn to pieces by angry mobs ..." The nuns were no longer quiet. Their voices rose in alarm as Alexandrine continued her bloody account.
Mireille thought it odd that a woman of God could recount such a tale without blanching. Indeed, the speaker had not once altered her low, calm tone, nor had her voice quavered in the telling. Mireille glanced at Valentine, whose eyes were large and round with fascination. Alexandrine de Forbin waited until the room had quieted a bit, then continued.
"It is now April. Last October the king and queen were kidnapped from Versailles by an angry mob and forced to return to the Tuilleries at Paris, where they were imprisoned. The king was made to sign a document, the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man,' proclaiming the equality of all men. The National Assembly in effect now controls the government; the king is powerless to intervene. Our country is beyond revolution. We are in a state of anarchy. To make matters worse, the assembly has discovered there is no gold in the State Treasury; the king has bankrupted the State. In Paris it is believed that he will not live out the year."
A shock ran through the rows of seated nuns, and there was agitated whispering throughout the room. Mireille squeezed Valentine's hand gently as they both stared at the speaker. The women in this room had never heard such thoughts expressed aloud, and they could not conceive such things as real. Torture, anarchy, regicide. How was it possible?
The abbess rapped her hand flat upon the table to call for order, and the nuns fell silent. Now Alexandrine took her seat, and Sister Charlotte stood alone at the table. Her voice was strong and forceful.
"In the assembly there is a man of great evil. He is hungry for power, though he calls himself a member of the clergy. This man is the Bishop of Autun. Within the Church at Rome it is believed he is the Devil incarnate. It is claimed he was born with a cloven hoof, the mark of the Devil, that he drinks the blood of small children to appear young, that he celebrates the Black Mass. In October this bishop proposed to the assembly that the State confiscate all Church property. On November second his Bill of Seizure was defended before the Assembly by the great statesman Mirabeau, and it passed. On February thirteenth the confiscation began. Any clergy who resisted were arrested and jailed. And on February sixteenth, the Bishop of Autun was elected president of the Assembly. Nothing can stop him now."
The nuns were in a state of extreme agitation, their voices raised in fearful exclamations and protests, but Charlotte's voice carried above all.
"Long before the Bill of Seizure, the Bishop of Autun had made inquiries into the location of the Church's wealth in France. Though the bill specifies that priests are to fall first and nuns to be spared, we know the bishop has cast his eye upon Montglane Abbey. It is around Montglane that many of his inquiries have centered. This, we have hastened here to tell you. The treasure of Montglane must not fall into his hands."
The abbess stood and placed her hand upon the strong shoulder of Charlotte Corday. She looked out over the rows of black-clad nuns, their stiff starched hats moving like a sea thick with wild seagulls beneath her, and she smiled. This was her flock, which she had shepherded for so long, and which she might not see again in her lifetime once she had revealed what she now must tell.
Excerpted from The Eight by Katherine Neville. Copyright © 1988 Katherine Neville. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
Katherine Neville was a global executive in data processing, and was a vice president of the Bank of America for many years. As an international consultant, she delivered computer systems for corporations and governments around the world. She was for some years a commercial photographer, professional model, and painter.
Katherine Neville's novels have been translated into more than fifteen languages. She lives in Virginia and abroad.
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It's a really good book if you like suspense and some mind challenging.
A page turner of a novel that kept me in my seat of what's going to happen next! It may be a long novel, but there is a good story behind it! And though it does seem to reflect the persona of the author herself, it showed how she can marvel at storytelling putting history and adventure into play. This is an excellent read that I have ventured as I'm more of a Rollins fan, but I do love a story that has some history and myth behind it and added with adventure that puts you right into the story itself.
The Eight is an amazing book for all those readers who enjoy a compelling mystery in both the past and present. Those who enjoyed The Davinci Code will be riveted by this amazing story.
I read the book and LOVED IT. All of these great reviews, in my opinion are right on target. Frequently, after reading a good book, I will buy the audio, for my less adventures family members who won't put or don't have the time to 'read' a book. I liked this one so much, I did just that.....However, this is a HEADS UP to all of you 'listeners' - a large portion of the book is ommited in the cd version. It is still a 'good' story but much of the detail is missing. It just skips it. The entire 'drive thru the dessert and the 'bats' and much more is just not there.!!!!
A jeweled chest set called The Montglane Service is given to Charlemagne. It is believed to have a code that will give the person that solves it great power. The set is broken apart and the pieces are spread through the four corners of the world during the French Revolution. In present day, Cat Velis is a computer expert that is hired to find the pieces and complete the chess set. But it is a race against time to get all of the pieces. Cat is not the only one looking for them. This book is told in two parts. The first part starts during the French Revolution and the second is in the 70’s. You can tell there is a lot of research put into this book for the first part as there are a lot of historical people mentioned relating to this chess set. In the 70’s we follow Cat as she is hired to find all of the pieces. Unfortunately I have to admit that I have read The Da Vinci Code and I find myself being drawn back to that book. There are many similarities in how The Eight unfolds. I have to remind myself that The Eight came out first and it is quite the opposite. I admit that the story bouncing back and forth in time did get a bit over whelming. It would have been better if we just followed along with Cat and a couple hints to the past. This is not a bad story. I do recommend reading it, it was an enjoyable read and one that I had on my TBR list since I first saw it released years ago. If you liked The Da Vinci Code and other books that followed I think you will like The Eight. I received The Eight for free from A Meryl Moss Media Production in exchange for an honest review.
This novel was interesting and perplexing, thought inducing and chill seeking. The different areas that Neville worked into the story were fantastic. History and mythology rule the day while adventure had me on the edge of my seat. This novel is fantastically and captivatingly written and plotted. The flipping back and forward from the past to the present allows readers to get to know a myriad of characters who are all important to the tale. The contrast between present day characters and those in the past allowed each to shine to their fullest. This novel may be long, but it was unendingly fascinating. I read it in a single day, unable to put it down. It definitely sets the bar for all novels in the genre. I can’t wait to delve further into the world created by this author. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
The Eight by Katherine Neville starts in France in 1790. Valentine and Mireielle are novices are Montglane Abbey. Due to a new act that has been recently passed, the government is seizing possessions of the churches. This particular abbey hides a very special chess set. It was once owned by Charlemagne who gave it to Garin de Montglane. It is supposed to possess special properties and hides a formula. The Abbess’ of abbey have been protecting it for many years. Now it is being unearthed and sent out with the nuns. Valentine and Mireielle are given two pieces and special instructions. They are going to Paris to stay with their godfather, M Jacques-Louis David, a painter. They will act as a gathering point. If a nun has to flee, the girls will receive their pieces and keep them safe. The girls are only sixteen and have been raised in the convent since they were orphaned. They are very naïve. Are they up to the task? Catherine “Cat” Velis is twenty-three and lives in New York in 1972. She works as a CPA and auditor for Fulbright, Cone, Kane, and Upham (a prestige firm). When she refuses to do something underhanded (and illegal) at the request of her boss, they decide to send her to Algiers for a year. On New Year’s Eve a fortune teller gives her an ominous reading. Cat is the “hand of destiny” and is in danger. Several months later (just before she is to leave for Algiers) Lily Rad takes Cat to a chess match. Lily is obsessed with chess and the daughter of a dear friend, Harry Rad. There Cat meets Alexander Solarin, a Grand Master of chess from Russia. He also warns her that she is in danger. Catherine is to embark on a journey to find the pieces of the chess set. They are set to be in silver and gold with uncut, polished gems set in them (not a small chess set). It will be black (the good) versus white (the bad). Cat will need to stay one step ahead of the competition to stay alive and win the game. Cat is going to have to be careful who she trusts. You never know who will be working for the enemy. It is a game that has been playing for hundreds of years. Will Cat be able to obtain the pieces in time and figure out their mystery? The Eight is a long and very complicated novel (I have given you just the briefest of overviews). It contains a lot of history, science, and chess. It is just too much for one book. The concept or mystery is interesting but it gets lost. I give The Eight 2.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the history contained in the book (I am a history buff) but with all the science and the chess (I was never able to master chess because I did not sitting still for so long) the reader is soon experiencing a headache (or sound asleep). It took me a couple of tries to get through the novel (it is over 600 pages long). But I did persevere because I wanted to see how it turned out (I was disappointed). There was one twist in the book that I liked even though I had figured it out (the first section dealing with Cat). If you are looking for a novel to help you sleep, then The Eight is the right book for you. I received a complimentary copy of The Eight from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.
Eight by Katherine Neville The Montglane Service - a chess set that holds the key to a game of unlimited power - is a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne. Its pieces have been hunted fervently throughout the years by those seeking the ultimate power. Carved in gold and silver, filled with precious gemstone, they contain the formula for the elixir of life. The person who can decipher the secret formula held by the pieces, will have not only ultimate power, but also, immortality. The first game with these pieces was played by Charlemagne himself against Garin Montglane. The destructive forces of the game were so great that Charlemagne decided to bury the chess set in the Abbey of Montglane where it lay until the French revolution when the Republic declared war against the clergy and decided to steal all the religious treasures of the kingdom. Helene de Roque, the abbess of Montglane, decides to uncover the hidden treasure and spread it around the world so that no one can abuse the magnificent powers that it contains. Thus a chess game is started and continues throughout history. The Eight features two intertwined storylines set centuries apart. The first takes place in 1972 and follows American computer expert Catherine "Cat" Velis as she is sent to Algeria for a special assignment. The second is set in 1790 and revolves around Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey. The fates of both characters are intertwined as they become pawns behind the Montglane Service and are nothing but players in a sinister and deadly chess game. The book is narrated from the first person point of view by Catherine, and from the third person point of view by Mireille. Every now and then a character narrates his or her tale - a revelation into the puzzles that are needed to gain the knowledge to decipher the formula hidden by the chess set. The book is fascinating and it is masterful in its use of historical fiction. I loved it. A great mix of romance, historical fiction, and medieval mystery - both vibrant and cerebral.
I was thoroughly disappointed with The Eight. The synopsis led me to believe that Katherine Neville had a great idea for this mystical historical fiction with two plot lines both about Charlemagnes all-powerful chess set. But, one should never judge a book by its cover, or its summary. I had just read and fallen in love with The Da Vinci Code and was looking for a similar historical fiction/action type book. And the cover of the edition that I purchased had reviews from dependable sounding sources that promised this book to be as good, or better than Dan Brown's. But it was a huge disappointment. This book had many problems. But underneath the boring writing and the historical facts, the slow plot. Everything just happens too slowly. Yes, I understand that this is a book. No, I don't read slowly. What? You don't like fast story lines? Well, I do. And this is my review. I absolutely hate when a story gets so slow that you have to force yourself to continue reading. And that was exactly the case with this book. There were too many times whilst I was slogging away I told myself, Okay, just keep reading. The next page will probably get better. If I hadn't had to read this book for school, I would have given up a hundred pages in. The 'wow' factor was just missing. When you have a good book, you want to keep reading until the very last page. There's something just pulling you, making you want to know more about the story. The Eight was missing that. But, regardless, I slowly and painfully pulled through to the end. And so I can fairly say, that I did not enjoy this book. If I had read The Eight for pleasure I would have thought it descent. But with the pressures of school and comparing it to other books I've read, this was bad. It was 600 pages of historical facts, chess quotes, mind puzzles, a silly storyline, and poor writing with a few sex scenes thrown in as Neville's desperate attempt to keep your attention. This book was written for a very select audience. And after every page, that audience shrank as they got bored and left. If you love history, hate fast plots, enjoy boring writing, and are a chess master, this book is for you. If not, I highly recommend you find yourself another book and not waste your time reading this one.
I had heard so many glowing reviews about Katherine Neville's debut novel. I finally got around to reading it and was underwhelmed. Maybe you can chalk that up to me expecting a lot coming into it but I thought the book relied way too heavily on coincidences and conveniences. Every person that the characters ran into in the 1700s just happened to be a huge figure in world history. Also, the writing style was very thick which made the read a little more difficult especially with all of the technical chess talk that I didn't know much about to begin with. Overall, I thought it was a decent book but certainly not worthy of the praise it received.