The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Fire, by Katherine Neville

Katherine Neville used to be a favorite of mine, and I wished she were more prolific. Her complicated tales of historical conspiracies played out in modern times are suspenseful and perfect for the thinking reader who likes a nice solid chunk of science, history, and mythology  woven into a book. However, The Fire is a disappointment. I would recommend anything Neville wrote previously, but I had a lot of issues with this book.

The Fire is a sequel of sorts to The Eight, which came out more than 20 years ago and which I loved. I also read The Magic Circle, which I plan to reread and review here. The Fire is the next generation’s take on The Eight, in which a chess set with mystical powers is found and its pieces scattered. Well, guess what? Someone is locating the pieces and the chess game is being played out by humans. The “good guys” have to get moving again, in other words.

And this is where Neville lost me. There was all this talk about danger to the protagonist, Alexandra, and whether she was the white queen or the black queen or whether there were multiple black queens and who else was what chess piece, etc., etc., etc. And yet with all the talk about danger, the threat remained vague. Who is out to get her? What is the threat? And how are they going to harm her? There was no palpable sense of near misses or anything more dangerous than bugged cell phones. It reminded me of why writers are told to show rather than tell. There was too little showing and too much telling in this book.

In fact, Alexandra’s story (there was a smaller, parallel historical story) has a characteristic of romance novels that I particularly dislike: no thought, feeling, or observation goes unreported. This book was thick with detail that added nothing. Like, I know what pancakes taste like, you don’t need to tell me twice, and I seriously doubt Alexandra’s uncle’s pancakes were “famous.” That’s just one tiny example of the kind of thing that bugged me. It was unnecessary detail that slowed things down and made Alexandra less interesting than she could have been. It made pacing a problem, whereas I remember Neville’s other books as moving fast. So I am not recommending this book. I was very disappointed. Just to see what others thought, I checked the reviews on Amazon, and no one seemed to love it. This saddens me, because I loved Neville’s previous books.

As for animals, not much happens. A secondary character has a dog, horses appear in the historical parts, there’s reference to a private zoo in the 1800s, there are a few observations of dogs and birds, and that’s it. So this book is SAFE for animal lovers.

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September 24, 2009 - Posted by | Book Reviews |

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