Review of 'Chronicles of Amber'

Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelany

chronicles_of_amber.jpg The land of Amber is one step removed from the reality we see around us. Their king, Oberon, is missing and his children squabble amongst themselves to attempt to control the kingdom. The royal family all possess magical powers such as the ability to walk between the shadow world that separate Amber from other realities. They also are able to make use of a set of cards, “trumps”, that allow communication with other family members and even transport them across large distances.

Crown Prince Corwin is living in our world having lost all memory of his inheritance and now seeks to get it back. When he eventually returns to Amber and regains his memory he is imprisoned by his brother Eric, now king, after Corwin unsuccessfully tries to seize control of Amber. Blinded he spends many years in prison before being released and seeking his revenge.

Filled with intrigue and drama as well as sweeping scenes of fantasy Amber draws us into the story with believable characters and a reality not too different from our own (indeed, our reality plays a literal part in the events of the story). I cannot say I really was attracted too much to any of the characters including Corwin who serves as narrator - They all seemed to live their “Game of Throne” lives with little regard to “normal” people and their struggles elite, to say the least. None of them seem to have any significant redeeming qualities though, perhaps, that is part of the appeal of the story to some. I can't say it appealed particularly to me.

This book is a compilation of the Amber series of books: “Nine Princes in Amber”, “The Guns of Avalon”, “Sing of the Unicorn”, “The Hand of Oberon”, and “The Courts of Chaos” which means this hefty tome ways in at almost 800 pages. It is quite a lot to take in one go but take it I did…and was reasonably happy to do so. Sure, I did find the bickering between the princes and princesses a bit tiresome (and often hard to follow) but the story has a way of drawing you in: I wanted to find out what would happen. The finale does not disappoint and yet is not entirely surprising to the reader though it does verge on being whimsical with shades of “The Once and Future King” series by T.H. White or the “Gormenghast” books, both of which descend in later books into existential ponderings and pure imaginary imagery - I find it a tad pretentious in any case.

Interesting: Certainly. Would I recommend it? If you like fantasy along the lines of “Game of Thrones”, certainly. If you are looking for a quick read? No. Epic fantasy? No, not really. The scope of this story is definitely not “Lord of the Rings” but if you like human drama, for sure, have a look.

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2015-04-18

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Gollancz

Publication Date: 1988

ISBN: 9780575082694