Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m confused: are gods meant to wear flowing robes or leggings and cloaks?
Corwin awakes in a hospital after a car crash. Not everything is on the up and up, as the staff are keeping him overly sedated and aside from a lack of memory he appears to be healthy. He sets out on a quest to find out how he ended up in hospital and why all roads lead to Amber, whatever that is.
The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny is a series that kept popping up in recommendations of awesome fantasy. So I found a copy of the first in the Corwin cycle to see what the fuss was about. Quite frankly, I’m still trying to figure out whether I understand what the fuss was about.
On the one hand this tale of gods roaming parallel worlds and fighting for the throne of the empire (Amber) has a lot of interesting and novel fantasy elements. On the other hand things just tend to happen without much in the way of tension. We are presented with the tyrant who has usurped the throne via a “hero” who sounds just as bad. This novel raises so many conflicting aspects that you could almost mistake it for a first draft of something that will be great. Maybe.
I’m not sure I’ll read any more of the series despite how interesting the fantasy world on offer is.
4 thoughts on “Book Reviews: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny”
I was introduced to Amber when in highschool and I was so confused that I left it alone for almost 15 years after that 🙂
I do believe it is over-hyped though…
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I understand your confusion. Because it doesn’t build tension, nor engage you, you end up floundering around. If it engaged you more the ideas would be less opaque.
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In defense of a fine author, the pentalogy (or was it a trilogy in five parts?) that became the Chronicles of Amber was written in the 70s. The more recent, and rather forceful, demand for things to hurry up very early in the narrative does not quite apply here. Add to this that the main character has lost his memory, so he brings us with him on how he gets it back, while getting us up to speed with a rather complicated magical world just on the other side of wall drawings.
I quite like those books, if only because of the back and forth travels between our world and Avalon (some of the things carried over work but not all), and the cynicism of the main protagonist. The convoluted family history is well rendered, without losing the reader into complicated family trees and too many flashbacks.
For those interested in more ambitious (and shorter)works from the author, I would strongly recommend Lord of Light and This Immortal. Zelazny could make myth dance on the pages.
Odile, I agree with you that we do get a fairly seamless introduction to a complex world. I also didn’t mind the pacing. My issue was more with the way it all just seemed to happen and the aforementioned “hero” being just as bad as the “villain”.
For example, when they are fleeing the hunters on horseback there is little to no tension. They are running for their lives yet it doesn’t feel different from the moments where they are just driving through the Shadows.