Recommended Reads: ‘The Fire’ presents a mysterious, living game of chess around the world


The FireThe Fire, by Katherine Neville

There has been a 200-year-long quest for the fabulous, bejeweled chess set of Charlemagne. The historical and modern people participating in this quest have taken on the persona of each of the different, opposing chess pieces. The Black Queen from the first novel “The Eight” suddenly surfaces in Russia 30 years later, launching the living chess game search once more in the sequel “The Fire.”

You’ll enjoy this sequel, even if you haven’t read the first novel. The children of the previous characters know nothing of their parents’ game, but find themselves drawn into it. Much of the story is told in parallel between the historical actions of characters in the 1800s with the modern players’ actions today. In 1822, at the dawn of the war of Greek Independence, Haidee, daughter of the powerful ruler, Ali Pascha, smuggles the most valuable piece of the chess set out of Albania under the very noses of the attacking Turks. In 2003, former child chess prodigy Alexandra Solarin returns home to Washington, D.C. at the dawn of the Iraq War, the exact moment of U.S. entry into Baghdad. She begins to discover a connection between the “chessboard” of modern D.C. and the key to the ancient city of Baghdad, where 1,200 years earlier the magical chess set of Charlemagne was created.

Chess hobbyists will enjoy the extrapolation of the game and all its pieces into a living competition. There is the mystery of where all the pieces of the stunning set are scattered around the world. There is also the intrigue of the chase, and the allure of what seems to be an eternal game. “On one side lies freedom. On the other lies eternity. The choice is everything.”

To the victors go the spoils. But what is the prize for winning this mysterious chess game? What is the miraculous fire power that is released when all the pieces are reunited on the original board? Is it a thing to possess? What knowledge is gained from the journey? And why have so many failed to “rise from the ashes” of the game in the past?

“I am ashes where once I was fire,
And the bard in my bosom is dead,
What I loved I now merely admire –
And my heart is as grey as my head”
– Lord Byron

In 2008, this long-awaited sequel was published to international critical acclaim. It spent more than six months on bestseller lists around the world, and has been translated into nearly 20 languages. Join these colorful characters on their chase to the end game.

Thereby hangs a tale . . . .


– By Wendy Kendall


wendy kendallWendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.



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