The Eight (The Eight #1) by Katherine Neville

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.

A chess set whose pieces have been scattered across the globe because the game that can be played with them is incredibly powerful.

The Eight is a book comprised of two different stories set over 200 years apart. One story is set in 1972 and follows Catherine Velis as she is sent to Algeria on a job for her work. The second story is set in the 1790’s and follows Mireille and Valentine, cousins and novice nuns from the Montglane Abbey.

The stories of the women are both separate and intertwined as each revolves around the Montglane Service – a chess set once owned by Charlemagne. The set is said to hold the key to unlimited power and the person who holds the set has control of that power.

The plot of The Eight revolves heavily around the game of chess. Every character is connected to the game itself somehow, but are also connected to the Game of the chase after the Montglane Service. Some have knowledge that they are playing, while others like Catherine, learn they are along the way.

I found the overall plot of The Eight to be somewhat interesting. Personally, I enjoyed the sections set in France during the Revolution more than the sections set in 1972. Perhaps it is because I found it difficult to relate with Catherine, or perhaps it is because I found the people that surrounded her incredibly irritating.

Neville is commendable in that she is able to combine individuals who actually existed with the characters she has created for the novel. Individuals such as Robespierre, Talleyrand, even Catherine the Great are weaved in to the narrative in the search for the Montglane Service.

On the whole, I am rather ambivalent in regards to The Eight. There were times I wanted to stop reading it and there were times I found that I couldn’t stop. Considering my own feelings on the novel, I cannot easily recommend it nor do I believe I will be seeking out the rest of the series.

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Provided for Review: Death of an Eye (Eye of Isis #1) by Dana Stabenow

Alexandria, 47BCE: Cleopatra shares the throne with her brother Ptolemy under the auspices of Julius Caesar, by whom Cleopatra is heavily pregnant with child.

A shipment of new coin meant to reset the shaky Egyptian economy has been stolen,and the Queen’s Eye has been murdered. Queen Cleopatra must turn to her childhood friend Tetisheri, to find the missing shipment and bring a murderer to justice

I was provided with this book from Netgalley in exchange for my review. Thank you!

As much as I claim to enjoy the adventures of one Sherlock Holmes and anything set in the Victorian era, there is another era of time that has had my interest for just as long – that of Ancient Egypt. So when I saw this book listed on Netgalley, I immediately put my name in to request said book.

I am so glad my request was granted and I was able to read this book because I personally enjoyed it from cover to cover.

Set in the ancient city of Alexandria, Death of an Eye follows the young Tetisheri as she attempts to solve a murder on behalf of her queen. The Queen’s Eye has been murdered – an average woman who lives and works in the city and is charged with keeping tabs on certain individuals and reporting back to Cleopatra – and a large sum of coins has been stolen. Finding out how the Eye was murdered is simple enough, finding out who would want to murder her and why is another matter.

Stabenow has a masterful grip of the language as she creates the various settings in the novel. From the back streets of Alexandria to the home of Cleopatra herself, Stabenow’s writing makes it easy to envision these places. This however is also a drawback because with so much put towards setting the scenes, there is little left for the actual mystery itself.

Names of characters can also be a bit problematic as many of them use nicknames and Stabenow uses the given names and nicknames interchangeably. There were a few times I found myself having to reread a passage just so I could get a better grasp of who was talking.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading Death of an Eye. With Elizabeth Peters’ passing, there is precious little fiction dedicated to Egypt and Ancient Egypt in particular. Death of an Eye is a promising start to what I hope is an enjoyable series. Readers who liked Elizabeth Peters’ series should definitely check this one out.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Nora hasn’t seen or spoken to Clare in ten years. Not since they were both in high school.

Not since Nora walked away one day and never looked back.

Until, one day an unexpected e-mail arrives. Clare is having a hen do and Nora is invited.

Reluctantly, Nora agrees to go and at first all seems well. But as the weekend goes on, things start to go wrong. And when Nora suddenly wakes up in a hospital with no memory of what happened, she desperately needs to remember because one of the guests might be a killer and she might be next on their list.

In A Dark, Dark Wood is supposedly a dark thriller, but I would be more likely to describe it as a light mystery. Based on the cover and the blurb on the back, one would expect something deeper and far darker than what is delivered. Yes, there is a bit of mystery involved, and yes someone does die, but the actual build up and final resolution left me wanting more.

The characters themselves were difficult to develop any kind of emotional attachment to. Several times I found myself wanting to give the main character Nora, a good shake. For a supposed crime novel writer she can be quite blase at times. Add to that the fact that she doesn’t have a very large online presence. In this day and age of social media, an author like her would at least have a Facebook or Twitter. It comes across that she has nothing like that. She also admits to only looking up her old boyfriend ONCE in the 10 years since the separated. That too I find hard to swallow, especially if we are to believe that they were a very close couple.

While In A Dark, Dark Wood started strong, by about halfway through it began to slow down tremendously. And while Ware tried to set the narrative to point to one character as the baddie, it didn’t quite work. I was able to guess the ending far before the big reveal. It was almost anti-climactic.

Ruth Ware has written some excellent books – her The Death of Mrs. Westaway has garnered some major acclaims. And while there are some readers who enjoyed In A Dark, Dark Wood from beginning to end, I was not one of them. While it started very strong, it finished weak. This isn’t one I would recommend to every one, but if you’re looking for a fast read with a touch of mystery, you could certainly give this a try.