Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The Fire" a washout

When I received an advanced reading copy of "The Fire" I anticipated an enjoyable read. This is the long awaited follow up to Katherine Neville's well reviewed "The Eight." However, I was disappointed with the book.
In "The Eight" the characters are unique and energized. In this work there is a lack of character development and the characters come across as stereotypes and cardboard figures.
Alexandra Solarin was in a chess tournament at the start of the story. If she won, she would become the youngest chess grandmaster while still under the age of 12.

Later, she is a young woman, she is attending the Culinary Institute and she is recruited by the CIA. Is this a play on letters? Culinary Institute is also CIA.
She travels to her mother's home in Colorado to attend a birthday party. The odd thing is that her mother never has birthdays. At the party is a room full of chess champions. The mother has disappeared but has left clues to her disappearance in the form of a chess game and riddles that must be solved. There has been some comparison of this novel to "The Da Vinci Code" with the puzzles but "The Fire" doesn't measure up.
There are alternating chapters where we are in present time and go back to ancient Persia. In many novels this is an effective tool to give background and history but here, in a slow moving story, it lessens any suspense and makes the novel more ponderous.
In addition, I had difficulty with the premise of the Magdalene Chess set that was the search in which the novel centered. The possession of the chess set contained a curse but also gives great power to the possessor. Therefore the set was scattered around and now Andrea was attempting to find the final pieces. She was also deemed to be the white queen. Preposterous.

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