Belated sequel to The Eight (1988), Neville's sprawling mystical-thriller debut novel about a quest to locate and decipher the secrets encrypted in an antique bejeweled chess set.
Ten years after Alexandra Solarin's father was murdered at a chess tournament in Russia—and 30 years after he and her mother, Cat Velis, managed to scatter and hide the pieces of the Montglane Service to prevent their falling into the hands of evildoers—former chess prodigy Alexandra receives a summons to return to her family’s vast Colorado estate to celebrate her mother’s birthday. But Alexandra arrives to an empty house: no departing footprints in the snow, a fire burning mysteriously in the fireplace and no sign of her mother. However, a series of cryptic clues, together with a steady stream of visitors—including Alexandra's chess-whiz aunt Lily Rad, Russian chess grandmaster Vartan Azov, Alexandra's friend Nokomis Key and some insistent neighbors—soon put Alexandra on the track of a new and perilous adventure: One of the most powerful pieces of the Montglane Service, the black queen, has suddenly reappeared, threatening doom and destruction. In the Turkish-occupied Albania of 1822, meanwhile, young Haidée must seek out her true father, the romantic poet and Greek freedom fighter George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron. Along the way we learn why the Montglane Service is so dangerous and important: It was crafted in the eighth century by the greatest of Sufi alchemists, al-Jabir ibn Hayyan, who encoded within its structure the secrets of immortality, the transmutation of elements and what-all.
Packed with the sort of bamboozling twaddle that should come with a warning: Belief in Alchemy Required. Still, fans of The Eight, Dan Brown, etc., will jump right in.