Nine Princes in Amber by Zelazny. The only book I’ve ever read more than this is Dr Seuss’ ABC’s. When I was two. The reason my child wasn’t named Corwin was that me and his mom figured no one would listen to us when we said we don’t like ‘Corey.’ So I know this book.
It’s a biggun in the genre. You’ve got to be a biggun to have a ten book set published. When you’ve graduated from ‘series’ to ‘cycle,’ you’ve written something pretty important. So I’m sure most people who would see this, know all about this.
Back of the book time anyways!
Long exiled to the Shadow Earth, Corwin has returned to sieze the throne. Yet his bloody path is blocked and guarded by eerie structures beyond imagining… impossible realities forged by demonic assassins… and staggering horrors to challenge the might of Corwin’s super-human fury.
Back of the book time was pretty short back in 1970.
This isn’t so much of a real book review so much as a “Woo! Lookit my favorite book!” It starts out with a theme that I love to read about. Corwin doesn’t know who he is on page one. He wakes up with amnesia. It takes a third of the book for him to admit it. I really don’t know why this is a topic that facinates the crap out of me, but it is. I’m sure there are some sort of professional could figure it out with ink blots, but whatev. I like to read about it. It shows up in my Shelf of Honor a couple other times. It’s a quest and a mystery that works out as an internal and external thing. In this book, it gets amped up because Corwin keeps it a secret for so long. Adds to an intensity.
The concept of walking through Shadows is a very philosophical thing, which is the stuff Zelazny liked to play with in his writing. In the over arching cycle, there’s the whole spectrum of chaos and order and the conflict between them. Amber is the center of the universe and order. In the later books, we’re introduced to the Courts of Chaos. These are physical places that represent each end of the philosophy and the worlds that Corwin and his siblings travel through are all the points in between.
Some more of the plot points what since this isn’t a philosophy textbook. The battle going up the mountain steps to Amber is one of the most unique I’ve ever read to this day. An undersized army fights via swords up a single file switchback trail. Corwin’s punishment before being dumped into Amber’s prisons for defying the crown is pretty intense. It leaves him riding around the edge of madness.
As a reread of a set I’ve read plenty of times, the first book sits alone just fine. For a new reader, it mostly does. The ten book cycle is split up in two halves, the first about Corwin and the second about his son. So for this first five books, the first is the most stand-alone. It has a self contained story arc but doesn’t exactly resolve all the big questions. In today’s market, I’m not sure how that would sell at all. I think it leaves too much open for a brandy new book one in today’s world. People expect the Star Wars arc now, with One being self contained and Two and Three tied together. I think that goes a long way towards why the only way you can buy the Amber books now is as the whole ten book set.
Even ten small books put together make a serious tome. Don’t let that be daunting because the read just flies by. It’s solid. It’s fun. And I’m going to read it dozens of more times.