Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Chronicle of Amber #1: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

Published: June 1972 by Avon (first published June 1970
Goodreads Summary: Amber, the one real world, wherein all others, including our own Earth, are but Shadows. Amber burns in Corwin's blood. Exiled on Shadow Earth for centuries, the prince is about to return to Amber to make a mad and desperate rush upon the throne. From Arden to the blood-slippery Stairway into the Sea, the air is electrified with the powers of Eric, Random, Bleys, Caine, and all the princes of Amber whom Corwin must overcome. Yet, his savage 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 superhuman fury.' to 'Awakening in an Earth hospital unable to remember who he is or where he came from, Corwin is amazed to learn that he is one of the sons of Oberon, King of Amber, and is the rightful successor to the crown in a parallel world


I’m a fantasy junkie and Roger Zelazny is one of these authors that are unavoidable in my favourite genre. Yet, Nine princes in Amber was the first book that I read from him. Carl Corey awakes in a medical clinic with no knowledge of where he comes from, who he is nor how he ended up there. I

n any case he quickly realizes that someone is purposely trying to keep him in the dark by drugging him. Always the resourceful one, Corey manages to escape from the clinic and learns that Evelyn Flaumel, his sister checked him in and was paying for his “medicine.

Despite having no recollection of her, Corey decides to meet that sister.  From this event onward, the mystery surrounding Corey or should I say Corwin’s—it’s his real name slowly unravel. Corwin is in reality a prince from a place called Amber. 

Amber is the only true world that exists. Earth and any other world are simply reflection, or shadow as they are called in the book. Corwin and his siblings are able to walk among these shadows, they can choose which world they want to live in and alternate the possibilities of this world according to their will. 

The way I saw it, Corwin and his siblings can be compared to gods or half gods (depend on how you look at it). They are quasi immortal, have incredible strength, prodigious healing ability and can control shadows.

Anyway, the driving force of this first book is that Oberon, the king of Amber has disappeared for a long time. Now his sons are fighting for the throne. At some point far in the past Corwin challenged his elder brother Eric in a sword fight which he lost. Instead of killing him, Eric dumped him to Earth thinking that he would eventually meet his end, nevertheless. He also took all the measures possible to make it happen. 

Corwin survived the plague, witch hunts, the French revolution, bloody wars, a car accident and much more; it is during one of these attacks that he lost his memory. I almost feel silly to say it, but Corwin hates Eric and his brother share the same feelings. So far Eric has the best claim for the throne, but Corwin is willing to snatch it away from him at any cost.

There are some books where you need to gobble half of it before getting a feel of the characters. It wasn’t the case in Nine princes in Amber. Corwin is shrewd, charismatic, slightly amoral and isn’t afraid of gambling and I realized that after having read about two pages. I really enjoyed following his story. 

Corwin was different from the characters I usually read about. He wanted to become king and have the power without any selfless reasons. Call me crazy, but I found it refreshing. The whole if I-get-to-rule-I-will-make-the-world-better-place-for-everybody or I-didn’t-want-to-be the-leader-but-I-had-to-if-I-wanted-people-to-be-safe bore me a little. I can’t help loving a character who wants to be the in limelight simply because he wants to be in the limelight. 

However, I didn’t really care about the secondary characters, not that they were uninteresting, but there isn’t yet enough material to truly form an opinion about any of them.

Nine princes in Amber is a short book packed with action and for me definitely a page turner. But, yes there is a but, to me it wasn't the kind of book that gave me a lasting impression. It was dare I say, kind of forgettable. When I finished it, I was like "oh that was a nice book" and then, I moved on. I wasn't compulsed into reading the next book in The Chronicle of Amber, the way I was for the Kate Daniels series or A Song of Fire and Ice.

The world building was intriguing and I genuinely wanted to know who would become king in the end.  But I must admit that I couldn’t completely understand their motivation. I mean if they wanted, Corwin and his siblings could create their own world and establish themselves as king or even god as they please. So why go through all this trouble?

Anyway,  I’m still looking forward to The Guns of Avalon, the second book in the series.

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