Backlist Burndown Review: Nine Princes of Amber by Robert Zelazny
Series: The Chronicles of Amber #1
Published by Avon on January 1st 1970
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.
So I am participating in the Reddit Fantasy 2016 Book Bingo, and they forced me to read a book from the 1970s to fill the Decade You Were Born Square (yeah, I’m old, anyway…). Considering I rarely read anything more than a couple years old, this was definitely out of my typical set of books.
Based on recommendations, I chose Nine Princes in Amber by Robert Zelazny and was incredibly impressed by how well it aged. It is a portal fantasy, so parts of it are set in the “modern” day we know, but with the exception of the absence of current technology and a few references to hippies, I could not have told you when it was written. It still feels very modern even though its 40+ years old.
The story begins with Corwin, who has woken in a hospital and seems to be suffering from amnesia. Now, I have read a number of books that start with amnesia, that have decidedly not worked well for me. I am happy to say this one actually did.
As Corwin learns and remembers more, we discover alternate worlds and in particular, we learn about Amber, the ultimate world. The world that seems hardest to reach, but also the most critical to return to. In this book, I felt the relaying of information and world building worked extremely well. We got relevant information as Corwin would come across it in one way or another, and it just felt natural. It was also interesting learning along with the protagonist.
As with many fantasy novels that feature a number of potential heirs, there is a power struggle amongst the princes of Amber. Corwin, who has been placed at a disadvantage due to his memory loss and being stuck in our world, is actually the rightful heir. Coincidence? I would guess not! Following his journey, meeting his companions, and learning about this world, discovering how Corwin came to wake up in that hospital all made this an enjoyable reading experience.
For me, perhaps the most telling aspect of this book that hints at its age is the length (or lack there of). I feel like I have read recent novellas that were longer than this novel. And for this reason, there is still much to know and learn. But since this is the first in a series, I can’t fault the book for that. The fact that I am interested to know more is always a testament to enjoying the book.
If you are ever in the mood to read an old school fantasy book, I definitely recommend this one.
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.