Roger Zelazny's chronicles of Amber have earned their place as all-time classics of imaginative literature. Now, here are all ten novels, together in one magnificent omnibus volume. Witness the titanic battle for supremacy waged on Earth, in the Courts of Chaos, and on a magical world of mystery, adventure and romance. --back cover
Roger Zelazny made his name with a group of novellas which demonstrated just how intense an emotional charge could be generated by the stock imagery of sf; the most famous of these is A Rose for Ecclesiastes in which a poet struggles to convince dying and sterile Martians that life is worth continuing. Zelazny continued to write excellent short stories throughout his career. Most of his novels deal, one way or another, with tricksters and mythology, often with rogues who become gods, like Sam in Lord of Light, who reinvents Buddhism as a vehicle for political subversion on a colony planet.
The fantasy sequence The Amber Chronicles, which started with Nine Princes in Amber, deals with the ruling family of a Platonic realm at the metaphysical heart of things, who can slide, trickster-like through realities, and their wars with each other and the related ruling house of Chaos. Zelazny never entirely fulfilled his early promise—who could?—but he and his work were much loved, and a potent influence on such younger writers as George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman.
He won the Nebula award three times (out of 14 nominations) and the Hugo award six times (out of 14 nominations). His papers are housed at the Albin O. Khun Library of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
I adore this series. I have read and re-read this book since high school. What can I say? It captured my imagination and has kept ahold of it for years. This was the work that Zelazny worked on through his career. I think it is what he wrote for fun. It isn't complicated but it is epic.
Imagine that there is only one true world and it casts "shadows" that make up the rest of the worlds. All are variations of that true world, Amber. Or are they? Another order vs chaos though this story focuses more on relationships and war. Don't think this is a touchy-feely book. The writing style is very easy to read. I breeze through it every time I read it even though I am enjoying every bit.
The series has two five book sets. The first follows Corwin and the second... well, I'll let you read it. The first set is the most complete. It starts and finishes a story. Most if not all loose ends are tied up.
The second set isn't nearly as complete however, it has many more interesting elements. The problem is that Zelazny planned on having 3 sets to this story (or possibly a much longer 2nd set) but he died before he could even start it. The 2nd set feels rushed and the ending isn't right. You can find a few short stories that Zelazny wrote that were going to be part of the 3rd set but I found them more frustrating than fun. I want to know what happens in the 3rd set but I will never find out. It may be easier to just accept the 2nd set as flawed but final. ::pouts::
17/Jan/23: 10. Prince of Chaos: Regarding this book and the Merlin cycle as a whole (especially when compared with the Corwin cycle) - it's just not as gripping as the Corwin cycle, and it strikes me that the number one difference between the two is the 'diffuseness,' of the villains. Nearly every villain is at some point rendered into a friend, or vice versa, and if the journey is from friend to enemy, then bargains are struck and conflict diffused.
Given I'm someone who loves a well-delineated ruthless committed villain, I'm kinda bemused by my own 5 stars for this book and the Merlin cycle as a whole. I'll put it down to unrestrained Zelazny fanboying on my part ... I just love the milieu, the depth of imagination and the narrative density of the story telling too much to go for less than 5 stars.
Recommended 5 'Beware Ambitious Mothers,' stars.
29/Dec/22: 9. Knight of Shadows: Merlin, his (older & wiser) brother Mandor, and a former foe come somewhat ally share an exquisite meal for two chapters while managing to 'info dump,' without boring the reader ... (takes notes on the special secret sauce used here...)
Merlin is beset from all directions by the great powers as he has a foot in both camps and can shift the balance of power. But he refuses to play ... and attempts to assert his independence with mixed results.
The story drew me in and I had to start reading the next and last book straight away.
Recommended, 5 'I'm not a pawn,' stars. (pun slightly intended...)
18/Dec/22: 8. Sign of Chaos: 'The whiffling, the wailing, and the burbling suddenly echoed down the shaft, along with hissing, scraping and occasional snarls. The two beasts came together and tore at each other, eyes like dying suns, claws like bayonets, forming a hellish mandala in the pale light which now reached them from below.' A fire angel and a Jabberwock in a boss fight... With more intrigue than a bagful of hairless primates this volume kept me awake at night.
Recommended, 5 'Team Jabberwock,' stars.
22/Nov/22: 7. Blood of Amber: Merlin largely spends this book trying to work out, 'What the Bloody Frack is Going ON!!!' and 'Who the Hell is Trying to Kill Me!!!' Frankly, it's one mysterious villain after another, even the help - here's looking at whoever is possessing Vinta Bayle - is mysterious. That said, he begins to seize the initiative by the end of this volume and assert some authority on events.
Recommended. 5 'Villain du Jour,' stars.
25/Oct/22: 6. Trumps of Doom: I could almost ping a star for Merlin being kinda naïve, but then he is also kinda a 'computer nerd,' and so I get it. Very much full on entertainment and thoroughly refreshing compared with some of the dross that I'm currently wading through (here's looking at you Thomas Covenant).
Recommended. 5 'One Damned Thing After Another,' stars.
14/Jun/19: 5. The Courts of Chaos: - First duty, then liberty shall be the whole of the law.
Corwin, prince of Amber rises to face the threat of existential obliteration of all he holds dear. In the process discovering that his most defining characteristic is duty to others.
Surrounded by tragedy, insanity, and a philosophical raven, Corwin completes a journey I wouldn't wish on anyone.
As usual, Zelazny writes with verve, wit, and wisdom, delivered with an admirable narrative economy that brings to mind Blaise Pascal's famous quote.
“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
The upshot: Writing the way Zelazny does, packing narrative into a few well-chosen words, displays a powerful mastery of form and genre.
Read this series, read this master of the fantasy genre.
06/Jun/19: 4. The Hand of Oberon: Now this story starts 5 seconds after the last one finished. (I wonder why I like that?...)
OMG! This was a completely satisfying read.
At a time in my life where it's been difficult to read anything and enjoy it - this has been another standout read by a master of the fantasy genre.
I just love how Zelazny packs pure narrative power into so few pages.
Now onto book #5 - The Courts of Chaos. (A suitably daunting title that...).
27/May/19: 3. Sign of the Unicorn: Read this over the last handful of nights, not the last handful of months... life and other interventions, etc, etc....
Zelazny wrote ... 80% of this story in conversations between the characters. Past deeds of daring were related, punctured with a real life rescue followed immediately by a pair of assassination attempts ... than more conversations, some filled with half-lies, mixed with half-truths. Followed by a journey to a tenuous land of moonlit dreams, the recovery of a magical artifact that echoes the hand of the Norse god Tyr, and the final discovery of the true and broken heart of Amber. And about all, a shimmering, emerald eyed unicorn with golden hooves, and whorled horn, guiding its champions to their quest.
A beautiful, intense, intriguing, and above all, seamlessly constructed work of an imagination at the upper end of story-telling mastery.
19/Jan/19: 2. The Guns of Avalon: 5 glorious stars... Sheer Genius. Roger Zelazny simply speaks to every aspect of what I want in a story. He nails it, he just nails it. I'm gobsmacked. This review is brief, because I do not have the words to honor what I've read. I had to make a new shelf just for this book.
08/Jan/19: 1. Nine Princes in Amber: 5 fabulous stars...
Tolkien, Feist, Erikson - and Zelazny - all masters of epic fantasy, possessed of towering imaginations allied with the authorial skills to honor their visions.
Just finished what I estimate to be my 6th re-read of this story. It's still fresh, still gripping, still enthralling. I never tire of this tale of Corwin, prince of Amber. Lost to amnesia, thrown back into a multiverse of plotting princes and princesses who if not actively stabbing each other in the back will pause to gossip about the state of play while drinking a fine whiskey and enjoying a good cigarette.
The only problem is, while Corwin has been lost on Earth for about four hundred years without his memory he's picked up a few vices his siblings lack - compassion, a sense of honor, and a penchant for duty...
Just noting that some readers have remarked that if a number of princely types were to be contesting for the empty throne of Amber, and were also blessed with the capability of finding shadow realms that looked just like Amber where they could rule forever - why didn't they - after all it would be so much easier.
Let me introduce you to the distinction between the real and the unreal. The Real world is 'Amber,' the shadows are just that - pale reflections of the real world - i.e. not the real world.
The value of ruling in the real world is qualitatively different from the value of ruling in a shadow world. Not the same, like chalk and cheese.
For any of the contenders for the throne of Amber, this distinction is an acute one that pervades their world view.
Imagine if you will, you are an immortal, and you have the option of choosing between real sex and masturbation for the rest of your immortal life.
Which do you choose?
And now you understand why the princes fight to win the throne of the one real Amber, and forsake the fake illusions of the shadow worlds they could easily rule.
Update (Please read this first before complaining about my rating)
People keep complaining that my 1 star is unfair because some books were better than others. Here's how I see this work. I don't see it as different books the way one would read say an Agatha Christie novel. Each Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple mystery is a stand alone even if characters recur from book to book. They are meant to be read as stand alone novels and should be treated as such.
This book, on the other hand, is clearly a single narrative telling one story. The fact that was published as separate books does not change that. The Count of Monte Cristo was published as a serial. Should I give each chapter of that book a separate rating? Similarly, War and Peace is, in the text, divided into several books. Should it be rated on the basis of each book too?
We would never presume to rate Hamlet on the basis of each act, nor a symphony on each movement. We understand that these are works that have to be treated as a whole. The publishing or writing decision to split a work into several parts does not change how I approach that work.
My view is that a work stands or falls by all of its parts. If I'd wanted to rate each book separately, I would have given a GR rating to each individual book (Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, etc) listed here and not this edition. I didn't because I didn't read this in parts with each part a stand alone work. Given that the entire narrative is treated as a whole, I think it only fair to the author to treat his work as one whole. Some books benefit by that approach: an apparently weak beginning or middle may be improved when seen in the context of the ending or as a whole. This one, sadly, did not.
I am sure there are those who will disagree with this approach. You are certainly welcome to rate books how you please. There is, however, a reason to my rating this work this way.
Seriously? One star? WTF??
Yep, one star. Okay, admittedly, the first half of the series is not bad. I'd have given it 3 stars for its twists and turns and fairly well constructed plot. The second half is so bad, I just have to wonder if the writer of the second half is the same as the writer of the first half. Maybe the second half was written by some pattern-construct or a shadow Zelazny twenty five tiers down. What did I object to? Let's see, where to start.
1. The inconsistent and wooden characterization--characters change as the plot requires and not through some natural evolution. 2. The clunky dialogue that made all the characters sound like they were American actors in a bad soap opera despite the fact that they live in some totally foreign and exotic environment like the Courts of Chaos. 3. The multiple rabbits that get pulled out of a hat. 4. The plot! The plot that was like yesteryear's stale soap opera. The mad stalker ex-girlfriend, the family feud, the controlling mother, the best friend cum enemy, the possessed friend. Honestly! The only clunker it didn't have was a Bobby Ewing moment. Actually, wait a minute…
Ugh! I feel like I just watched a year's worth of Jerseylicious reruns with this book. Shudder!
Perverzija! Zelaznijev stil pisanja je neponovljiv, covek ima svoje "atribute" he he Delo mu je jako koliko i prezime. Ni za zivu glavu ne propustajte ovaj serijal, krucijalno je vazno da ga procitate kako bi mogli da gradite misljenje o tome sta je dobra, sta vanserijska a sta osrednje napisana fantastika. Samo cu jos reci da mi Amber u polici stoji pored Hiperiona i Iliona, na najvisoj polici!
Please note: this review applies only to the Corwin Cycle as I have never particularly liked Dara or cared about Merlin.
Can you imagine a world without fantasy books? Can you remember your world before you had read your first one?*
I snatched the Nine Princes in Amber from my Father’s shelf and read it during one afternoon. Then I returned to him – seated in his usual armchair – and asked him breathlessly: “Dad, are there more books like this one?” When he nodded, I knew my world is about to change. And it did!
I have been in my teens back then, and so my perception of the book, or rather, the whole series, was that of princes and princesses, unicorns, magic, evil things and saving the world. I most definitely would not have been able to tell you that Zelazny created a Platonic universe of true world and shadows or that he forged the way with so many fresh tropes scattered carelessly on the many pages of the Chronicles of Amber that the genre is still able to scavenge on its carcass. Unbelievable? Take the Lannister siblings and then revisit Corwin and Deirdre. There are many similar examples.
Today, I can say all this. I can also add that the narrative is problematic, the plot jerky, sometimes outright boring sometimes condensed like astronaut’s food rations. The protagonists not properly fleshed out, in many cases talked about instead of being shown in action, sometimes clearly not credible. I have read so many better books since then...
All things being equal, this all does not matter. Zelazny took me through the Pattern of all things fantasy and I owe him big times. Up to the Courts of Chaos (probably even there and back again). I see in the Chronicles of Amber, through my nostalgia lenses of the *first ever* all the brilliance in its glory of genius and all its shortcomings in the vintage halo, dimmed by the patina of time. You have my five stars. And a thank you.
* Attention! Achtung! внимание! The Lord of the Rings does not apply as it talks about reality, not ‘fiction’. Tread carefully.
I was still new to fantasy, having been a hardcore horror and sci-fi fan, then going through all of Zelazny's other works, when I decided to sit down to these stories. Seriously, I was impressed with the easy progression into a multi-universe view delineated between ultimate order and ultimate chaos. Gorgeous magic system where you follow mandalas, epic battles, and the almost requisite tripe of amnesia. (Oh, sorry, i meant trope.) I loved the first 5 books better than the second 5, but Merlin's story did have a more epic feel, in my opinion. It's still hard to find fantasy as good as what he wrote, although I'm still willing to keep looking. :)
This is all 10 books of the Amber series, but is not complete. It is nice to have them all in one place, but the book is a paperback & a bit delicate due to the size. Unless you're extremely careful, you'll only get a few reads out of this & it's a doorstop to put most others to shame. I prefer the smaller paperbacks for normal reading.
The biggest lack in this book is it doesn't have the prologue to Trumps of Doom, but only the HB issued by the book club had that, I think. It's also in Manna from Heaven, the "Collected Works" by NESFA, & possibly elsewhere. It's certainly around on the Internet along with the other Amber shorts. but they're illegal, pirated copies.
While I won't recommend piracy, I will say that publishers have made a good case for it with the lack of availability of the Amber shorts, including the prologue. The prologue is important to the series, but I didn't even know of its existence until years after I'd read it. There's just no mention unless you're a FAN or are told by one. Publishers shouldn't make it so difficult for the reader to get the entire series. Shame on you, Publishers!!! You bitch about piracy & then encourage it by being greedy & lazy - or possibly you're just victims of Byzantine contracts & copyright law. I don't know, but you get the blame until I hear otherwise.
Manna from Heaven is expensive, even used, often running $30 or more. It's worth the price - I've bought two copies & given one to my son who also likes this series & Zelazny a lot. A better deal is to pick up The Road to Amber, one of the NESFA 'Collected Works of Roger Zelazny'. That's a 6 set series with a 7th book, a bibliography, that is a must-have for anyone who really likes Zelazny's work.
Roger Zelazny's Amber series is one of the best sci-fi/fantasy epics ever written. Not only was it highly imaginative and original when it was published (in the 70s and 80s), but it remains so -- there's nothing else like it.
Corwin and his brothers and sisters are clever, sophisticated, sarcastic, and extremely ambitious. They constantly scheme and plot to outmaneuver each other as they vie for political power. If you knew these people in real life, you'd probably hate them, but in Zelazny's hands they're charming (especially Corwin). Zelazny's writing style is solid: fast-paced, exciting, and witty. Plot twists and cliff-hangers make it hard to stop reading.
With all that praise, I must mention two little problems: 1. The Merlin Cycle is not as good as The Corwin Cycle. Corwin is just more interesting than his son. 2. The story never quite wraps up because Zelazny died before finishing it.
Bottom Line: Read The Corwin Cycle (the first half). If you're hooked, keep going.
The name Zelazny is used in conjunction with words like "Classic" and "Quintessential" high fantasy. So I went into this dictionary-sized tome with high expectations of fantastic locations, rules, and characters. I got the first two.
The idea of Amber, being the only "real" world, with countless other "shadow" worlds branching off (think alternate universes, but not quite), is a great concept. Unfortunately, I'm a big fan of strong characters and their growth, and I just didn't find that here.
None of the characters seem to have any reason for their actions at any point. There is one big overriding motivation for most of the characters, yes, but all the specific actions they take and decisions they make don't make sense in context. And no, they don't have these grand plans where eventually all their little quirks and unexplained actions come together in a giant epiphany at the end; they just do things. It feels like certain things had to happen for the plot to move forward, so the characters make these things happen regardless of how much sense it makes from their point of view.
I was very disappointed by the book, honestly. I feel like an ambitious author could take the setting of Amber and make a spinoff novel or series with strong characters that would make a better story than the original.
Probably one of the best fantasy stories I’ve ever read.
Corwin wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, so he doesn’t understand why everyone he meets is trying to kill him. With wit and daring, he learns that there is a plot to steal the throne of Amber. He is a primary candidate and the Earth is only one of many shadow realms of the “real” world Amber.
Give it a try. The complete series is contained in this one book. -Wendy M.
Well, it took about two months, but I finished the "Great Book of Amber." I feel a little better knowing that it was technically TEN books in one, but only moderately better. It was partially due to things going on in the "real world", but for some reason this book was a fairly slow read for me.
My initial reactions after the first "book" were that: 1) I enjoyed the world/characters 2) I thought the author was very imaginative and had some cool ideas 3) I didn't like the narrative voice 4) The copy-editing was awful (numerous typos/grammar errors)
After having finished the entire saga, I would say that those reactions stand but I would expand them a bit and add a couple of other comments.
World/Characters The world itself was very intriguing...the concept of a "true" reality and everything else is a "shadow" of that reality is cool. It's not a new idea per se (I've had soooo many discussions in similar veins in many of my English classes as we talk about meaning and ideas...discussing Plato's concept of the "real" or "true" ideal thing and everything else is just a reflection that helps to understand or draw near to the ideal). But it was still cool.
It was both comforting and annoying to have so much of the story based in our "own shadow Earth." It was good to have a foothold that was familiar and relatable. Still, it seemed that by relying on our "own" Earth so much and using it as the comparisons for Amber, it almost made Amber become the shadow and Earth become the ideal. This was never presented as the case, and was often spoken of in the contrary, but the overarching presence of Earth in terms of plot usage and in terms of the characters comparing points in Amber to memories on Earth made the distinction difficult at times.
In terms of character development, I really liked Corwin being an amnesiac to begin with so that I was learning everything with him. It also helped set the tone of knowledge development for the rest of the stories since lack of knowledge was an underlying plot driver...since the 'amnesiatic reader' was already in place, it was easy to continue that mode and provide lots of questions and expository monologue.
By the end of book 10, I felt like I'd read Dickens' Bleak House or some other novel with a ridiculous amount of characters each with their own individual plot threads drawn out to indeterminate conclusions. All of these were seen from a singular point of view and loaded with the narrator's own insight and bias, which made the multiple characters' threads all that much more difficult.
I loved the characters and many of them were well developed and rather unique. A lot of them were composites of one another and blended together at times. This was especially true of their voices which were indistinguishable.
Imagination/Plot While I can see a lot of external influences creating various plot elements and concepts (such as Plato's ideal as mentioned above), I applaud the author for a very imaginative world with dynamic characters and a very intriguing plot line. While the novel itself is likely wholly classified as "Fantasy" on a large level, I could almost see it sub-classified as "mystery"/"suspense" or possibly "political thriller."
Because of the "amnesiac reader" syndrome, the plot arc was able to change many times through the ~1200 pages and still maintain a good flow. The overarching plot remained largely unchanged from a general sense...in that the plot was that of a power struggle...the players seeking the power changed over the course of the novel, mainly as the scope of the power changed. First it was a struggle for intellectual power, then for a throne, then for vindictive power, then a struggle for knowledge or freedom from persecution (not quite sure how to classify Merlin's first stories as power struggles), then for power over enemies, then larger power struggles between the powers of the universe.
The overall plot was actually fairly simple. Where it got complicated was in the delivery of the plot as well as the wide range of subplots within the adventure.
I rather enjoyed a lot of the subplots and the deviations from the main plot mainly because they helped maintain momentum which was vital because frankly I felt the story really dragging at many points. In looking back, I suspect that the main plotline could be followed through effectively in about 1/3 of the real estate used (so ~400 pages instead of ~1200).
The subplots helped maintain my interest level as a reader while also providing small nuggets of information that was vital or at least intriguing with relation to the main plot.
My biggest complaint in terms of the wide variety of subplots was that there were SO MANY individual plot threads partially developed. I would have HATED to have read these as 10 individual books published every year or two. Each "book" ends only resolving a portion of the plot lines it introduced or followed (and sometimes completely ignored points introduced in previous books).
The easiest break point is to call books 1-5 the "first story" and books 6-10 the "second story", but that too is oversimplification since at the end of book 5 you have a ton of plot points that are unresolved and never brought up again in 6-10 and at the end of book 10 you have numerous plot points just dropped for good. Since there are literally dozens of plot lines explored through each "book", this is a ton of information that the reader is invested in but never achieves resolution for.
I've spoken briefly to the delivery of the plot. It was effective initially because of Corwin's state of being. It was intriguing throughout the entire story because it kept the reader as much in the dark as the main protagonist trying to figure out the mystery/conspiracy. My main complaint with the delivery method is due to the narrative voice which is one of my initial observations and complaints so it deserves its own section.
Narrative Voice I've already commented that I found that even though there are dozens and dozens of characters, most of them had nearly indistinguishable voices. That in itself was confusing at times. Add to that the sections with full pages of dialogue with no identifiers. Numerous times I had to back up to near the beginning of a dialogue and then count from the first identifier...HOPING that the author stuck with a normal pattern (which was a very optimistic hope, since he very frequently diverted from convention with regards to spoken word...sometimes within multiple speakers within what page/paragraph formatting would designate for a single speaker...for example: "What do you mean?" Eric asked to which I replied "Nothing". It's not awful...and not as bad as no identifiers, but was still troubling).
In addition to the same voice throughout everything, the voice itself annoyed me at times. I understand that Corwin and later Merlin (the primary narrators) spent a lot of time on "our Earth", but it still felt that there was far too much of what felt like earth-specific jargon. This sort of goes to the first point. If I write off Corwin and Merlin (and perhaps also Fiona and some of the others who loved earth) as just really liking Earth...that's one thing. To then take those same conversational nuances to other characters, many of whom never ventured from Amber or the Courts of Chaos or wherever else they lived...that's stretching it too far. My biggest pet peeve was the "Whatever" usage.
My other complaint with the narrative voice doesn't have to do with the dialogue voice, but rather with the narrative presentation itself.
"All my life", I've been taught "show, don't tell". Perhaps this novel is the case study that first coined that phrase. Pulling a number out of my butt, I would say that this novel is 80% tell vs 20% show. The plot delivery is nearly always handled through expository monologues either from the narrator himself or as presented by a supporting character.
I acknowledge that the novel is done in first person and that as such he "has to" tell us what's going on. My point is that he can "tell" without "telling"....describe the action, describe the scene, describe the emotions...describe rather than explain.
Summary I really did enjoy the creativity and imagination used throughout the story. I also really had fun with the political intrigue and conspiracies at a universe level. It was very entertaining in that aspect.
However, the "tell" vs. "show" presentation made this novel almost a chore to get through at times. It truly felt a tedious read on numerous occasions and I almost gave up on it. When I finally reached the end and found so many plot threads unresolved, I almost wished I had given up rather than push to the end hoping for a solid resolution.
Still, enough was resolved that I can't hate myself for finishing it.
My suggestion might be to hope for an abridged version or perhaps a movie. In lieu of that, go for it. The story itself and the ideas it might get you thinking about are definitely worth pushing through even the boring segments.
I will update this review as I complete each installment. The individual reviews will be behind spoiler tags to help differentiate between the books and to conserve space. Actual spoilers will be kept to a minimum if not avoided altogether.
Book #1 - Nine Princes in Amber - 4 Stars - Review:
Book #2 - The Guns of Avalon - 3.5 Stars - Spoilerish Review:
agh, ten books 1200 pages i am obsessive and can't quit reading a book i have started even when i know it will be pointless to finish and i have already read 500 pages! i do not know what these other people are talking about! the first i would say three books were pretty good, then it kind of lost its train of thought, hmmm really wish i had never started this epic tale i wouldnt have wasted three weeks (i mean three weeks!!!!) of my life. i could have read like six to twelve other books in the same amount of time, i found i skimmed A LOT, and never really regretted it,... too much intrigue not enough guts
Since his eruption in the field, the Nebula and Hugo Award-winner Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) had been unquestionably an important figure of speculative fiction, managing to inspire with his talents other aspiring writers of his generation, and to leave his own mark through his greatest achievement: The Chronicles of Amber.
And in The Great Book of Amber, this magnificent omnibus volume by Avon Eos, are compiled all ten novels written by Roger Zelazny, taking us in ten incredible tales of magical beings, royal families and alternate worlds; but also of magic and mystery, rivalry and power, and Chaos and Order, in an all-time classic fantasy series.
For eons, the sons and daughters of the royal blood of Amber have held dominion over the Shadows, walking between alternate universes where every possibility exists and the real world which contains everything – but Corwin, having been in a car accident, had woken up in a hospital bed without recollection of his past self.
However, when – after he manages to escape from the hospital that held him against his will – he seeks to restore his memory by going to one of his relatives, learning about his family history and of the current state of affairs, he will soon return to a life beyond his wildest dreams, taking him into a multiverse of strange worlds and unbelievable wonders.
Nevertheless, with his return to have put him back to the succession for the throne of Amber, upsetting the status quo and putting him in a rivalry with his family, when he comes into conflict with his siblings, and in his weakest moment utters a powerful curse, Corwin will find himself on a quest for his survival, seeking answers to mysteries, fighting battles against the most unlikely odds, and gambling with the fates...
The first five books consist the first cycle of the Chronicles of Amber and focus on Corwin’s adventures.
Five books in which, inspired by works such as Henry Kuttner’s novel The Dark World and Philip José Farmer’s World Tiers series and borrowing their main concepts as the basis of his imagination, Zelazny builds a fantastic multiverse, taking us to Remba, where the mirror-city within the sea is a reflection of Amber; to Lorraine and Avalon, where their worlds – like the shadow Earth – are just a shadow; to Amber itself, where deep under the palace lies the Pattern from which those of royal blood gain the power to walk among shadows; to Tir-na Nog’th, the ghost-city in the sky, where dreams come true, prophecies are disputed, and unknown truths are revealed; and to the Courts of Chaos, where Chaos is the opposite pole of the Order of Amber.
Five books in which Zelazny, combining our own world with an imaginary one, bringing reality and fantasy together and using them as the basis of the series, creates an extraordinary multiverse of many and different worlds, but also a unique family drama of politics and intrigue full of magic, mystery and mayhem that, through his crisp, minimalist narration, his colourful characters and his fantastic world-building, bring something truly magnificent.
Some time has passed since the Patternfall War, and now everything has quieted down between Chaos and Amber – but Merlin, having spent the last few years on the shadow Earth – where his father, Corwin, lived for a while – learning computer science, has been waiting for someone to try to kill him.
However, when – after receiving a mysterious message from his old girlfriend, Julia – steps by her place, finding her murdered and leaving him with questions about what’s happened, Merlin will soon begin digging around for information, searching for the perpetrator of her death.
However, with his investigations to have lead him from one clue to the next, digging up answers to mysteries and starting to connect the dots, when he gets in the middle of something he does not understand, and the universe conspires against him, Merlin will find himself in centre of things, pursuing truths, fighting sorcerers, clearing vendettas, and balancing between the cosmic powers…
The last five books consist the second cycle of the Chronicles of Amber and follow Corwin’s son, Merlin.
Five last books in which, returning to the series seven years later, Roger Zelazny expands the world and universe of Amber further, taking us to the town of Amber, where its streets are full of various trades and of people of dubious intent; to the Keep of the Four Worlds, which lies at the crossroads of the worlds of the four elements; to the land between the shadows, a place inaccessible to the Powers of Chaos and Order; and to the Courts of Chaos, where is the domain of the Logrus, opposite number of the Pattern of Amber, and of the noble houses of Chaos.
Five last books in which Zelazny, focusing this time on Merlin’s adventures, developing the story through his eyes and seeing his character growth through his difficulties, delves deep into the poles of existence – of Chaos and Order – of his universe and everything that moves them, crafting an epic of cosmic scale that, despite the differences in writing style, direction and setting, is full of schemes, family intrigues and power struggles, of new and old faces, and of powers greater than us which make this cycle as extraordinary and crazy as the first one.
All in all, The Great Book of Amber is a magnificent omnibus volume, with Roger Zelanzy creating an extraordinary series through his imagination, and ten unparalleled adventures that take us on a crazy ride through the ways of his multiverse.
I read this book during huricane Ivan, when three of my four homes (My dorm, My Parent's house, and my boyfriend's house) were pretty much falling down around me. A very awesome guy named Barry lent me his battered copy...and by battered I mean well loved. This book filled a lot of space that could have been spent in what Floridians know as a huricane coma. No lights, no Phone, no tv, just snuggling,reading and occasional looting! I't will definately take you at least a week to read this bad mama-jama, so carve out some serious "me-time" before tackling it. The sub plots are some-what confusing, and the time line jumps around a bit, so notes may be helpful if your into that particular sort of nerdery. Awesome book, buy it for yourself, and your children, definately in my top 3 favs!
I rescued this monster some few years ago, probably from the local transfer station and have been eyeballing it ever since. My latest sci-fi read was less than 200 pages so I feel justified in re-visiting that part of my book shelves. I read "Damnation Alley' a while back and liked it a lot and have likely read at least some short stories by RZ as well. So here we go off to a good start as RZ gets the action started right away. He's a pretty straight-forward writer. Blunt even. The prose isn't what you'd call inspiring, but in this genre the tale's the thing. Connections to/suggestions of other sci-fi/fantasy = "The World of Tiers" for starters. The cover reminds of "Lord Valentine's Castle." I assume more will pop up. The hero(I assume) closely resembles Hell Tanner from "D. Alley" too. The trip from NYC to Amber(I'm still in the middle of it) is pretty crazy/imaginative and suggestive of Catherynne M. Valente's "The Girl/Boy Who ... Fairyland" series. I wonder if she read this stuff.
- All the smoking is distracting. We also get a bit of the old women's body parts focus and some casual sex among the Amber gods.
So this stuff was written during the 70's and shows it. RZ has decided to have a lot of the dialogue be in the mode of hard-bitten 50's-60's or laid-back 60's-70's adventures. You dig? This aligns with the style of "Damnation Alley" but it definitely is a far piece from the high-falutin' "Lord of the Rings" saga. Also deliberate I'm sure. The tobacco burning and inhaling continues relentlessly. Seems like every few pages Corwin has to do the "I lit a cigarette." thing. Maybe it helps him think. I ASSUME that Zelazny was a smoker and that this is perhaps a raised middle finger to the anti-smoking movement of the seventies. Things are different now for sure. It does bother me a little, along with the women's body parts attention. This reminds me of Dan Simmons. To me it indicates a writer without enough sense to realize that smoking would probably seem out of place in fantasy settings. Then again, Shadow-Earth had plenty of smoking, so I suppose that maybe it does make sense after all. Whatever ...
- I thought that "I had escaped." might be the last sentence of story #1, but I was wrong. That sentence(verbatim) WAS close to the end, however. Me so smart!
- About that finger-and-toenail growing thing while you're in a dungeon. You can keep them down simply by rubbing them against the stone walls of the cell. Dogs that are outside and active a lot of the time don't need to have their claws trimmed. Nature does it for them.
- plenty of misprints so far
Now in the middle of part two ("The Guns of Avalon") after last night's reading. My forward progress was aided by a gap of 33 missing pages. There was no actual physical gap in the book, the pages seem to have been omitted by the printer. Weird ... One of RZ's great assets is his assertive prose. He doesn't waste words and keeps the old plot ball rolling along nicely. This makes up for the general lack of literature cred. I imagine that didn't bother him much, as it might've Tolkien, for instance. Last night included a bit of the poetic-delirium stuff that was in "Damnation Alley." He does that well enough and doesn't ramble on too much with it.
- BTW, this is not the COMPLETE be-all-and-end-all "Amber" book as a reader might assume. RZ wrote other related bits and pieces(short stories, etc.) that are not included here.
#3(Sign of the Unicorn) is in the books - as it were - and all I can say is a bucket of yellow golf balls to anyone who can explain WHAT it was all about. After a ton of action in the first two stories, we get a bit of action and: A)a whole lot of twisty and impenetrable Agatha Christie kind of mystery stuff as various political intrigue/conspiracy speculations are presented to Corwin for his consideration, and B) a lot of delirious prose near the end of the story as Roger Zelazny unleashes his inner William Burroughs. There was some of this - just enough in fact - in "Damnation Alley," but perhaps too much in this story. I have NO IDEA what it was all about. Pretty spacey. Drug-induced perhaps? Did Zelazny himself even know what the meaning was of he was writing? ONWARD! ...
#4(The Hand of Oberon) ... the action continues to be toned down so far in this one relative to the beginning two tales as more of the "Big Picture" gets filled in for the benefit of Corwin as well as the reader. Still, there are enough fights, flights and battles to keep one's blood up. Definitely a page-turner for the most part.
Finished with #4 last night as the action and plot twists keep coming. Last night's conclusion came with a neat plot twist, one that had been hinted at a bit by the author. There's still a lot explanation going on as Corwin has to sift through the stories of his many conniving siblings. Who and what to believe and trust are a challenge for him.
- as seems to be the case with almost every book I read these days, old or new, there are lots of misprints and other text errors.
Finished with the first half a couple of nights ago by finishing "The Courts of Chaos." Swear to God there was a scene straight out of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People"! I'll take a break now, as Zelazny did(8 years) and read some other stuff before continuing. My overall opinion so far? A bit dated I guess but still entertaining. That Corwin can take a licking and keep on ticking - big time!
- RZ throws in a little of the Nordic mythology stuff to go along with all the rest. He borrows from many different mythic stories.
After a little break I'm back at it with the second half of the saga. The first installment is "The Trumps of Doom" and Corwin is not mentioned so far. Instead, we get his son Merlin as narrator, and just when things seem to be a bit draggy, BOOM! ... it's clobberin' time, it's fantasy time, and it's movin' time. As with the first five tales, a fair amount of time is spent with Merlin moving in and out of fast-changing fantasy landscapes. For some readers there's probably too much of that stuff, but it gives RZ a chance to break out his descriptive chops. I'm OK with it.
- cigarette smoking seems to have bee replaced by pipe smoking somewhere along the way
- Merle? I'd prefer "Lin" for a name for our hero but ...
Finished up with #6 last night with our narrator/hero locked up, much as his old man was at the almost end of Part 1. Meanwhile, that same old man(Corwin) is out there somewhere - maybe - running around doing ??? - much the same as in the first five parts when it was Corwin's daddy(Oberon) hanging out there in mystery-land. Things seem a bit repetitive after a while.
- The road from Santa Fe up to the ski area(Ski Santa Fe) - been there, done that, also not in winter.
- Merle's Ghostwheel takes on a prickly and dangerous selfhood, a la HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey" and Elefsis in "Silently and Very Fast."
Now into story #7 - "Blood of Amber" - still entertaining.
Finished #7 last night and on to "Sign of Chaos." While there is a certain sameness to all the crazy comings and goings and monsters and magic and fighting and stuff, the author keeps up a decent level of interest due to his imaginative chops. One minor complaint for me is that the plot is VERY intricate and complicated. I sort of gave up trying to keep track of it all. Even Merlin is struggling trying to figure it all out!
RZ rolls out his imagination and descriptive chops in a passage where Merlin gets drawn into an LSD trip that Luke is experiencing(involuntarily) - crazy stuff.
Slowly getting towards the end as the characters and complications are piling up and wearing me down bit. Still, "only" about 300 pages to go ...
Finished with #8 and now on to "Knight of Shadows." ...
And then there was one ... #10 = "Prince of Chaos" ... In general I think I can say that the first half is better than the second half. I suppose it might be asking too much to expect Zelazny to keep coming up with interesting stuff given the limits of the world(s) within which he set these stories. Might have been more fun if the second half had more to do with Earth-Shadow. Instead we get a seemingly endless tangle of plot twists, new characters, more battling with wizards and monsters and a minimum of originality/humanity. It does go on ...
Into the final chapter as the sort-of obvious endgame presents itself. Still reasonably well-written, if a bit repetitive at this point.
HOOOOOOOO-Rah! Finally finished with this beast last night. The highlight of the endgame was a well-described sorcery duel in which Merlin outdoes both his formidable mother and his devious brother(he has more than one, of course). All in all I'd say it was a fun ride, if not exactly transcendent. Both Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings were better. I have to hand it to the late Mr. Zelazny, however. His descriptive pen never wavered.
The Great Book of Amber is trippy people! Roger Zelazny is unlike any other author I have ever read before. He is disinterested in details and gives cursory descriptions of areas and people. Instead he focuses more closely on plot and the thoughts of the main character. The plot always centers around the search for answers. The setting is quite unique and interesting to learn about. Zelazny never makes his reader go through info-dumps and I found it interesting to puzzle out the workings of his world, Amber.
The first five books star a man named Corwin, one of the nine princes of Amber, who wakes up with a strange case of amnesia. In the first book Corwin staggers through Zelazny's version of earth looking for answers. I enjoyed the first book the most, mainly because the beginning was killer!
SPOILER - Corwin wakes up in a hospital and finds he is being forcefully sedated. When the doctor tries to put him under yet again Corwin clobbers him with a crutch! (Now that's what I call a hook.)
The first five books where well written but upon reading books six through ten I began suspecting Zelazny of doing drugs. His plots for the character Merlin start taking erratic turns. Don't get me wrong these peculiar parts are fun to read. Made me wonder what he was taking when he wrote them.(I'm speaking of the Corridor of Mirrors and the in-between shadow chapters here) He even had one of the side characters slipped acid. They then promptly descended into an Alice in Wonderland dream-scape to wait for the effects to wear off. Despite these bemusing plot decisions I still liked the Great Book of Amber. I don't think I'll be rereading it for a while though...
as a whole this series is the most fantastical fantasy world i have as yet come across. i did like the first five a little better then the last five. i loved the character of corwin, he was wonderful and unlike most of the rest of his family he seemed to have more good then bad. his son has much the as history. i recommend this book to all how have read fantasy before, it is something different from the mainstream of the genre.
Nine Princes of Amber: It was an ok story. Not great, but not bad. I sort of got annoyed with the faux-medieval language towards the end, and I didn't care that much about the characters, but the cliff-hanger ending did leave me curious and wanting to read the next in the series.
I was a bit annoyed that none of the sisters are relevant characters.
The Guns of Avalon: I just finished this yesterday, and had to think a minute to recall what happened. It was anti-climactic in itself, and generally set up for the rest of the story.
Hand of Oberon: Didn't expect that particular twist, though I did think there was something fishy about "him".
The Corwin Arc
So last night I finished book 5, completing the Corwin Arc of the story.
First off let me state that this is one of those series/arcs which is really one story which is split into parts, and not a series where each book is self-contained. I don't mind this in the least, but I think it's good for people to know so they don't think they can just jump in anywhere. Though each book does have a sort of "reminiscence" of past events, it is something you really need to read in order.
I would say that, overall, this is a story whose whole is better than the sum of its parts. The first two books were a bit slow, books 3 and 4 were rather good, and book 5 and its ups and downs - but since it really is one story, it's best, I think, to take it as a total and not as parts, which is why I aborted my above attempt at per book commentaries.
That said, I give it 3 1/2 stars.
There are two major downfalls to the story. 1) Secondary characters aren't really developed, and it's hard to get a real feel for them. Above I'd mentioned this mostly with the sisters, but, really, it's all of them with few exceptions. But, even those exceptions are scatter-shot. 2) The descriptions of the journies through Shadows were rather dull and hard to follow. I sort of started zoning in these places, and would perk up again once we got somewhere and something of interest started happening.
Actually, I'll add a third, which is related to the first, but also simply a by-product of it's first person narration - there's a lot of exposition. There's a lot of stuff that happens off-stage because it doesn't happen to Corwin directly, and so we find out about it in dialogue as it's being related to Corwin. This adds to the mystery and intrigue aspect, but also smacks of telling instead of showing. Of course, conversely, this added greatly to the brevity of the story, because if we 'saw' all of the events, the book would probably be at least twice as long. So that's sort of a pro and a con.
There were parts, such as with Corwin and Random, and Corwin and Hugi, where I truly felt for Corwin - where I felt for his plight, empathized with is pain, or was amused by conversations. There were other parts where I felt distanced from the story, such as when a major character died who he loved, but whom you never really see much of in the story, and so are left able to sympathize, but not empathize. It's hard to care about the fate of a character you hardly see, even if the narrator has some ununderstood affection for them.
The parts that worked, as I said, were mostly the intrigue. I was often as confused as Corwin, and as equally desirous of learning what, exactly, was going on and who, precisely, was betraying whom. Also some of the action sequences were quite good. Some of the best parts, though, were being inside Corwin when we truly felt his pain or pleasure, his triumphs or despair. It didn't always work, but, when it did, it worked well.
3.5 - 4 stars
I am now putting this book aside, and will return to Merlin's arc after I've finished off some other stuff I want to get to.
So, I finished the Merlin arc last night. Overall, I didn't think it was as good as the Corwin arc. I think the biggest drawback, for me, was that there wasn't as much as an empathic connection with Merlin as there was with Corwin.
While we're following Corwin's story, we get a lot of insight into him as a person and how things are affecting him. With Merlin, while there's a little bit of this, it's mostly just one thing after another thing after another. So much happens, with so many different people and things wanting a piece of him, that we don't get a lot of time for real in-depth character stuff.
I mean, I liked Merlin, but I only felt I knew him superficially. And what we do know of him we learn mostly through his actions.
At times I really felt for Corwin. I only remember one time where my heart went out to Merlin.
Going back to so much happening, at times the story was confusing and hard to follow. There was an odd jerkiness to it in places, again, and I would flip back a page to see if I skipped something. It was hard keeping people and motives straight, and some of it didn't really make a lot of sense (like most of the Julia thing.)
Other parts were slogging. I think most of book three and about 1/2 of book 4 were just painfully slow. I had to sort of force my way through.
It picked up a lot at the end, which was good, and things were moving along at a good pace - and then things just ended. It's a very open-ended ending, and there are a lot of loose threads which could be picked up, which could be fine, except this is all there is. (Well, there were sohrt stories written, but I don't think they're collected anywhere, and Zelazny died before it was all completed.)
Overall, I liked the Merlin arc well enough, just not as much as the first cycle.
This is in the top three of my favorite books (well the whole thing is how I read it) of all time! I LOVE LOVE LOVE these books, LOVE the world of Amber, LOVE everything about it. We are on copy number three in the house because we read it all the time, it is right next to my classics! The BEST epic fantasy novel(s) OUT THERE!Zelazny is one of my heros!~
Some books just take you on a journey. A journey through a world of Magic and Sorcery, a world of Intrigue and Deception, a world of Knights and Monsters, a world of Gods and Demons, a world of Order and Chaos. This is such a book and so much more. This is a book filled with contrasts and a sense of duality.
There are so many high and low points in the series that it is very difficult to give one review to this epic. As the norm, let's break the story down in the two 'cycles'. But be warned. I cannot give a review for this epic without SPOILERS. Proceed with caution.
There are but two worlds, two real worlds. Amber and Chaos. But these worlds are antithesis of each other, constantly in a war of sorts. They are such powerful worlds that they casts shadows.These shadows in themselves are entire worlds. The entire spectrum, with Amber and Chaos at each end, is filled with worlds. There are an infinite amount of such worlds.
Book #1-#5 takes us on a roller-coaster ride with Corwin, a prince of Amber. We follow his adventure from craving power, from wanting to be the king, from being selfish, to being selfless, to giving away the throne, to relinquishing power. Book #6-#10 takes us on another journey. Merlin, Corwin's son is a prince of Chaos as well as a prince of Amber. He has roots in both the worlds but he doesn't belong anywhere. This is his journey from being a loner, not letting anyone near him, and not wanting power to taking control, of accepting that he needs to let people come close, of making friends.
The world is as much about Change and Feelings as it is about Magic and Power. Zelazny was a real master and he created a really unique world.
Now, let's talk why there is so much backlash towards Merlin. Yes, Corwin cycle, in my opinion, is better than Merlin cycle in more than one ways. But as far as I can see, the only reason anyone wouldn't like Merlin cycle is because there is a profound sense of incompletion. There are so many mysteries that remain unanswered that it is nigh frustrating that there isn't going to be a next book.
Corwin Cycle: 5 stars Merlin Cycle: 4 stars I'd recommend you read both and after you finish the last chapter, just let your imagination go wild and try to think what might be the answers to the mysteries.
This massive tome collects all of Zelazny's Amber novels in one phone-book sized volume, yet with print large enough to actually read and paper thicker than Kleenex.
The First Chronicle of Amber is a groundbreaking series from the early 1970s when Zelazny was at the height of his creativity. We follow the exploits of Corwin, who awakens in a hospital with no memory of who he is. The cliche is forgivable due to the sheer glee with which Zelazny introduces us to his Amberverse.
Zelazny's fantasy classic! The worn-out cliche of waking up with no memory can be forgiven since the book was written and published about 50 years ago. In fact, the story holds up surprisingly well for its age, although the frequently used phrase "dig?" feels awkward and women's roles are confined to playthings. But despite the mileage, all roads still lead to Amber.
Corwin romances and fights his way through Shadow, meeting some relatives and finding out just how far his curse has carried. After meeting up with a former associate, he begins to plan another attack on Amber. And of course, Corwin is never the kind of guy to bring a knife to a gunfight.
The middle book in the original Amber quintet is mostly info dumps designed to firm up the remaining storyline as Corwin's siblings bring him up to date on what they've been doing while apart from him. New friends, foes and settings are introduced throughout. There are a few noteworthy events though in addition to all the catch-up, especially the murder that opens the book as well as the ending which presumably sets the stage for the final two installments.
Book four of the Amber series, like book three, suffers at times from too much re-explaining what happened in the prior books (somewhat necessary as the latest plot revelations - not to mention family intrigue - create new interpretations of prior events) and most of the plot is oriented towards setting up the sequel. HoO has more surprises than the prior book however, right down to the final paragraph of the last chapter .
The final chapter in the original Amber series ties together all the story threads but leaves plenty of room for sequels. This book is probably the second best in the series (after the first one and perhaps tied with the second one) but won't be enjoyed as a stand-alone.
The Second Chronicle of Amber follows the exploits of Corwin's son Merlin, whose half-Amber half-Chaos heritage makes him a perfect vessel for Zelazny to explore the duality of his Amberverse. Unfortunately, after the first two books the rest are a bit of a chore. Fans may enjoy but others can safely avoid.
“It is a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to try to kill you.”
With that memorable opening sentence, so begins the Second Chronicles of Amber, starring Merlin (or "Merle") the son of the First Chronicles' Corwin, who is trying to survive an annual assassination attempt while trying to learn who is behind it and why they want to kill him. Answers are revealed by the end of the book but, as in the First Chronicles, it's merely an opportunity to open a larger story involving the often-deadly politics of the First Family of Amber.
Book two of the Second Chronicles of Amber expands the family tree and introduces some new settings. The plot continues to revolve around the various intrigues involving the First Family of Amber as well as the duality between Amber and the Courts of Chaos that plays out across infinite shadow worlds. But there is a strong feeling of "been there done that" which pervades the story, a lack of distinction that makes it all feel like just another episode along the way to the eventual conclusion.
This middle book in the 5-part Second Chronicles of Amber drags a little with Middle Book Syndrome: no real resolutions, just plot complications, a few new characters and some unexpected reversals of fortune. Fans might neglect the Second Chronicles for not being quite as fresh as the First, and perhaps rightfully so, but there's still a lot of fun here for fantasy fans as Zelazny continues to flesh out and expand his Amberverse.
The fourth volume in the Second Chronicles of Amber has the job of setting up the final volume of the series. It therefore suffers from some of the "middle book syndrome" that plagues various fantasy books throughout history, including many of the Amber books. The story attempts to answer some of the questions raised by prior books in the series and takes the story in a new, unexpected direction but unfortunately the pacing is sluggish for most of the first half especially.
So ends the almighty Amber series, not with a bang but a whimper. One wonders if Zelazny, while battling the cancer that would ultimately claim his life, rushed the final three books in the second Amber series, which might account for the whiplash-like pacing issues in which some sections drag horribly and others seem to fly by too quickly. As many have previously noted, the first Amber series is a must-read for Fantasy aficionados, while the second series is for fans only.
When I bought this book, I had no idea who Roger Zelazny was or a clue about Amber. I only picked it up because I couldn't find any new releases by Tad Williams, Michelle West, or Janny Wurts. The book was huge and the synopsis piqued my interest. I devoured the book in a handful of days and fell in love with Zelazny. I've read this series so often that I'm on my third copy of the book.
The story is about a powerful family who have the skills to travel between alternate realities. Of all worlds, Amber is the true world and in all things, Amber is the standard of beauty, honor and power. Begin the adventure with a man who has no memory of who he is or where he's from and dive into a web of mysteries that will spawn more questions than answers. Normally, that would leave me angry but this series only leaves wanting for more.
4 stars is a misleading rating for this collection of 10 books. The first 5 (Corwin Books) deserve a full 5 stars. The Corwin books (1-5) are among my favorite fantasy books of all time. Thanks to fellow GoodReads member "I. Curmudgeon" for recommending them.
Books 6-10 (Merlin Books) deserve 4 stars each...not as good as their predecessors but still good books in their own right. Merlin, son of Corwin, is a much more sympathetic protagonist than his old man...and less interesting by consequence.
Taken as a whole, this series deserves 4.5 stars. Since I only give 5 stars to what I consider to be "perfect" books, I had to round down to 4.
Я вже не пам’ятаю скільки раз перечитував Хроніки Амберу, в різних перекладах (часто жахливих), в різних виданнях, а вперше взагалі роздрукованими на матричному принтері. Нарешті прочитав в оригіналі, англійською мовою і полюбив їх ще більше. Велична сага, безліч шарів алюзій та відсилок, захоплюючий сюжет, лсд тріпи, детектив пошуку вбивці в закритій кімнаті, мітологія, Шекспір - та все що завгодно і ще трошки є в ній. Звісно дуже сильно відчувається різниця між Хроніками Корвіна та Хроніками Мерліна. 5 романів про Корвіна ніколи не викликали в мене жодних заперечень, завжди я їх ковтав, і до читавши до останньої фрази - Good-bye and hello, as always, одразу розумів, що це прощання не остаточне і я обов’язково знову перечитаю їх. А от з другим п’ятикнижжям в мене завжди були проблеми, переклади чомусь були набагато гірші (свого часу), та і всю цю тему з його дівчиною, яка стала чародійкою, я ніколи не сприймав. Але оригінал таки поправив моє сприйняття - текст читався в рази легше і краще. Я навіть можу тепер впевнено сказати, що Хроніки Мерліна круті по свому - р��зширенням ЛОРу, крутими новими концепціями та психоделічними сценами. Але все одно відчувається нерівність тексту, оця дурацька лінія з Юлією так і залишається неправдоподібною. Мало того, таке враження, що потім вона і Роджера задовбала, бо в кінці вона якось тупо злита практично в нікуди, зрештою так само як і лінія Юрта, дуже так умовно в пару слів показують примирення Мерліна з ними, та й по всьому. Відчувається що і самому автору набагато цікавіше стало писати про події космічного порядку, оці всі розбірки поміж Логрусом та Паттерном. Зрештою і мені це читати набагато цікавіше, аніж оту мелодраму з квітами та навозом :) Коли дочитував, аж шкодував що залишилось пару сторінок, і пофіг що вже прочитав більше ніж 1250 :) Але, все закінчується, так що Good-bye and hello, as always :)
I’ll readily confess that I’ve dipped in and out of Roger Zelazny’s Great Book of Amber for many months, partly because other books intruded, partly because of the natural break half way through the tome, and partly because no work since George RR Martin’s ongoing Song of Fire and Ice has generated such conflicting emotion within me. Zelazny’s most famous work is a ten book series, which is divided into two five book story arcs. The first was released in the Seventies, and follows a Prince of Amber, Corwin, as he enters the machinations of his extensive family in a quest for the crown. The second, released through the late Eighties and Nineties, is the tale of Merlin (or ‘Merle’) who is Corwin’s son, and caught between Amber and the Courts of Chaos. They are quite different works and it is tricky to review the whole book without considering the two separately. The Corwin arc (1970-1978) comprises of the first five books which can be thought of as one continuous tale as they run, via occasionally irritating cliff hangers, into one another. The hero, Corwin, awakes in a psychiatric hospital in the US from where he escapes and begins to piece together his past which he has forgotten. This simple literary tool works well, as we gradually learn of the extensive milieu Zelazny has created in manageable chunks. Corwin learns he is one of nine Princes of Amber, the royal family of a magical realm of order, in the shadow of which all other worlds exist. Our own earth exists in such a ‘shadow’ and true Amberites, once they have walked a mystical Pattern in Amber, can traverse the shadows. There are various rules to this passage, and time travels at different rates in the various shadows. Corwin learns that some of his brothers and sisters have conspired to try and bump him off, and he sets about returning to Amber with some who remain loyal to him, to try and claim the crown. This forms a good chunk of the first five books, as Corwin meets a number of his siblings, many of whom plot and connive in a suitably Borgias manner. The characters are well drawn, the dialogue good and the plot interesting. I struggled at times with Zelazny’s rather lazy style, with stretches of monologue explaining what we knew already again and again, and the book was a bugger for ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’ which irked somewhat. The shadow travel was fun at first, but at times we have three or four pages of broken text describing passage through a myriad collection of shadows which I tended to skip. The fifth book finishes well, and I was happy to pause there and reflect: great world-building, good plot, intriguing characters, plenty of twists, style a little clunky and wearing, but overall I really enjoyed it. The Merlin arc impressed me less. It picks up the story a number of years later with Corwin’s son on a shadow earth. Merlin has half Amberite blood, his other parentage being Amber’s diametric opposite realm, The Courts of Chaos. As part of his upbringing he has trained as a sorcerer, but has chosen to complete his schooling in the universities of shadow earth. For most of this time there has been an annual attempt on his life, and it is this which draws him back to Amber and into a bizarre and convoluted plot involving both Amber and the Courts. Unlike the well paced plot of books 1-5, it is all over the place. Characters from the first books pop in, and out, with the feel of a soap opera. The twists are confusing, and the characters’ personalities alter inexplicably (picture, ‘I’ve tried to kill you for the last three books, but now Mom says to back off a bit, so, umm, sorry, lets be buddies.’). Merlin is a likeable character, but as his power increases we never feel he is in any real danger—and the tension dissipates. It is still a fascinating work, but the themes from books 1-5 are screwed around with a little too much—the Pattern turns out to be sentient, as does its opposite number, the Logrus, and these entities, presumably on the cosmic level of Galactus, chat to Merlin and his comrades like irritated schoolteachers. Then when we hit a scene in Wonderland it goes truly bonkers, almost out of control with the sub-plots. By the final pages you are left with a feeling that there should be something else, that the threads are resolved lazily, and that it should have been better. Zelazny sadly died without revisiting the series in full, and there are aspects of the books that would have been clarified in future works. There were several short stories, unfinished upon his death, which begin to tie up some loose ends, but as I’m reviewing the book and not the Amber multiverse, I’ve restricted my review to the sizeable ten book collection. So is it worth a read? Yes. Undoubtedly it’s a superb exercise in world-building, and there are excellent characters and touches (the Trumps, shadows, the Pattern). Admittedly it got like a soap opera in the end, but it was still fun and always interesting even if it did fizzle out somewhat.
I'd read the first series many years ago, that is to say the first five novels comprising the exploits of Corwin of Amber, and adored it. Much later I found out that he'd written a second set of five novels about Amber and Chaos, so I went ahead and bought The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10. The first time around, in re-reading the first five and reading the second five for the first time, I felt somewhat disappointed in the latter half. I'm guessing part of it is because the beginning to Corwin's story is very much a "Jason Bourne" type deal. The main character wakes from a long sleep with almost no recollection of anything that has gone on before that moment. It's a great hook to the story, made all the better by the fact that the story begins in a perfectly normal hospital on a perfectly normal Earth. The revelations that hit him over the next few chapters draw the reader further and further in, until we realize that everything we understood at the start is false, and that Corwin is anything but a perfectly normal person, and Earth itself is merely a shadow world; a dim reflection of Amber.
The second time around, however, I found I could get past the "where's Corwin?" problem, and found Merlin's story a lot of fun as well. There are some odd points and unresolved issues in the second set of books, but overall I find the entirety of the series quite fun to read--more than once.
It's a great story from an author who should receive far more attention than he does.