‘Nine Princes in Amber’ Book Review

Mount Readmore Book Review, 2017 74/100


Nine Princes in Amber By Roger Zelazny

Audiobook edition

Finished on 8/3/2017


Description: 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.

Genres: Fantasy, Alternative World Fantasy, Ye Olde Schoole, Epic Fantasy, Portal Fantasy

One amnesiatic man must regain his memories- before one of his eight brothers kills him for the throne of the mythic kingdom of Amber

Spoiler-tastic review

I read this book because it was the choice for Retro-Reading Bookclub for the Reddit Fantasy group for the month of August.

Originally published in 1970, this is a delightful yet brief taste of an epic setting. I think that this is for the best, for the book’s eccentricities would have overstayed their welcome otherwise.  At only 175 pages (or ~6hours audiobook time) this was a quick read.

Corwin is a Prince of Amber, the city which is the foundation for all other cities in all dimensions. Our earth is in another, lesser dimension, and is the location for this book’s beginning. Corwin must regain his memories even as he travels through layers of reality/dimensions. He wants to return to his hometown after his father died and claim the throne. This dimensional shuffling is the source of the book’s eccentricities: it’s cool in concept, but in a long book it wouldn’t really hold up under closer inspection.

Short story made shorter, Corwin’s unsuccessful. He forms alliances with several of his other brothers, but their attacks fail and Corwin is imprisoned. The book ends with Corwin fleeing for his life after years of imprisonment.

What I liked: the amnesia trope was used well, as was the portal magic. They enabled a very abstract setting with minimal lead-in time and made them very understandable. Also I liked the authorial voice. The mixture of formal and casual voice really struck me as fun and innovative.

Constructive criticism: the plot and the characters. I’ve got to admit that this was not in the top 10 best books I’ve read this year, by a long shot. This was a good first book in a series, in that it raised many questions about the setting that I want answered, but not strong enough to tempt me to read more books.

The plot was a prince trying to overthrow his brother. Why was he trying to do that? Why not use portal magic to conquer thousands of Shadow realms instead? Honestly I didn’t give 2 cents for Amber, so I don’t see why Corwin wanted the place enough to risk death for it.

The characters are fairly bland on top of this. After listening to this audiobook I don’t really know much about any of the characters personalities. Personality wise they’re all blank slates, as far as I’m concerned. Part of the problem is that the book is so short and we had 9 Princes and 4 Princesses and a few other random characters too, so there wasn’t enough time for any of them to have any character development.

To sum up, if you’re interested in a fantasy story about a clever setting but that isn’t too meaty otherwise, give this book a shot.

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