I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Fire by Katherine Neville.
Magic, alchemy, chess, a history lesson, a fairy tale, a love story. Stories within stories, real people in new settings, a secret history of the modern world. Katherine Neville’s The Eight, published in 1990, was all of these things, moving from the Terror of the French Revolution to Algeria minutes before anyone knew the name OPEC. I knew little about chess but I did know a big, swashbuckling romantic tale with a couple of fierce female characters, and I’ve loved and talked about The Eight for many years. The only problem was, what happened next? I never forgot the story of intrepid accountant Cat Velis and her adventures in the middle east, or the brave novice Mirielle who leaves her convent, survives the Terror and joins The Game (that’s the secret human chess game that’s been going on for centuries and controls the fate of the world. What, you didn’t know about that?) and when the sequel The Fire unexpectedly appeared on my desk, I think I actually squeeed. Even more exciting was getting to talk to the author, Katherine Neville, so I couldÊ find out what took her so long! (Partial answer: she was most of the way through when 9/11 happened and she figured correctly that a book about oil, the middle east, world power and money needed a re-write.) Also, I’m pleased to report that Ms. Neville is as elegant and gracious as a fan might hope. Plus, she’s a heck of a story teller!