As the French Revolution is kicking into gear around them, Mirielle and her cousin Valentine find themselves entrusted with a dangerous task by the Abbess of Montglane - to be the waypoint for nuns who are spiriting away the pieces of the famed Montglane Service, once they are sent to live with their godfather, Jacques-Louis David, a famed painter in Paris. Little do they know that their lives will never be the same. Even as they are hiding from the evil Bishop of Autun, Maurice Tallyrand, who has been known to seek the Montglane Service, they come to know him as a friend of David's, and eventually, something much more. As the revolution rages on around them, Mirielle soon finds herself not only traveling around the world in an attempt to secure the safety of the pieces of the Service, but also encountering a myriad of interesting and sometimes dangerous historical figures such as Napoleone Buonaparte, Charlotte de Corday, Maximilien Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat, and many others will be involved in the story, including a number of philosophers, musicians, poets and scientists of the time, and even Benedict Arnold and Catherine the Great of Russia.
Meanwhile, in 1972, Catherine Velis manages to anger a member of upper management at her company and finds herself being shipped to Algeria just as OPEC is gaining some traction. While she is disheartened to be sent across the world, her dear old friend Harry Rad insists she come out to celebrate New Year's Eve with his family, including his wife, Blanche and her brother, Llewellyn, an antiques dealer. Llewellyn is thrilled Catherine is headed to Algeria because he has a client searching for pieces of - you guessed it - the famed Montglane Service, and he hopes she can locate them for him while she is there. Meanwhile, Harry is just hoping that Catherine will become a good influence on his bombastic daughter, Lily, who is obsessed with chess. After receiving a cryptic fortune and warning from an odd looking fortune-teller, Catherine is on edge about her impending move. Lily insists she attend a chess match with her, so she can scope out a Russian chess master named Solarin, so she'll be more prepared when she faces him. A mysterious murder at the chess match sets the girls off on a dangerous path around the world, and little does Catherine know that she has been drawn into a chess game much larger than she could ever imagine. One that has been being played for hundreds of years and will continue to rage on, claiming lives as it progresses.
The story will bounce between the time periods and what is happening with Mirielle and Catherine and those around them. Freemasons, mysticism, secret societies, murder, and political intrigue abound, but chess is the overarching focal point of The Eight. I found it to be incredibly dense, with so many characters that crossed paths with the main characters in the book that at first, they were hard to keep up with. Katherine Neville definitely weaves an intricate story in The Eight and I enjoyed it, but a person enthralled with chess will get a lot more out of it. It does have a satisfying ending, but one which sets up the story for the next book, so be aware that you'll be setting yourself up to read the series if you want to see the characters through.