Floyd Hyatt In Amber

The Amber Chronicles is one of my favorite series. Series’. Serieses. Bunch of books about the same people. I’m delighted and excited and, as Terry Pratchett would say, other things ending in “ited”, to have F. A. Hyatt weigh in on the subject.

Take it away, Mr. Hyatt!

The Series:
The Amber Chronicles
review by F. A. Hyatt

Dinosaur feathers in amber - NYTimes.com

The series follows the The lead character, Corwin of Amber in his quest to first, discover his own identity as a Prince of one of two empires that form the basis of the cosmic all. His alignment is with the ultimate, dimension spanning Empire of Amber, representing the principle of order, of which our work-a-day universe is just a small, and neglected shadow, a imperfect platonic replica. One of many. The opposing empire is Chaos, the seat of inverse principle. Both are real places, philosophies, avatars, and concepts all at once. The story follows Corwin’s attempt to claim the apparently vacated throne of Amber. In this quest, which spans the first six books of the set, we are introduced , slowly, to the politically active family of nine siblings whose juggling for position and political power plays out on a vast, multiple shadow (dimension/world) spanning stage, and his dealings with his rival siblings. The last four editions follow the life of Corwin’s son, who is left to deal with the debris of the titanic struggle, and find his own balance and place in the opposed empire of Chaos. Raised in Chaos, Corwin’s son shows us the other side of the duality, or empire pair, as he is manipulated, chased, and hounded to take the throne of the Empire of Chaos, a unwitting pawn in a political power play of great families.

This epic set, written in First person, constitutes one cohesive tale in the first six, and needs to be read in order. The last four, amount to a satellite story, that can be read independently, although they do tie back into the main set of six, extending the original story. Reading one set WILL send you to read the other, however.

Review:

Certainly one of the best First person epics, written by a well practiced master of the style, the story is engaging from the first page of the first book to the last sentence in the final volume. There are no weak volumes, no repetitive prose, and strong, engaging characterizations with very few exceptions.

Surprisingly for such a long work, the reader is carried forward through the story at a dead run. You develop a sense of the scope of the story right along with, and at the same pace as, the main character, which invites a deep involvement with the lead persona, that leads through the course of the first book, to a solid feel for the world Zelazny has built. The gradual introduction of the main characters keeps the interactions fresh and the action varied. The inventiveness of the devices used, and the colorful worlds developed, are well used to carry forward the plot and action presented. An almost perfect meld of adventure, action, political drama, sibling rivalry, growth, and magic, it is hard to fault this series on any front. To read this series is to dream of Amber….

The final four book set carries forward the first person prose style of R.Z, but applies it to his son, Merlin. One of the wonderful things about the whole set is that it assiduously avoids placing its lead characters in the position of hero of good or evil, rather, they struggle within the framework, a polarized environment which tries to reach out and control these independent lives. The interplay of human foibles in control of vast power and conflicting values form the driving core of this adventure.

The last four books bring this home very strongly, introduce a second set of equally powerful characterizations and show us the political and personal struggle from the opposite side of things. The lead characters Corwin and, later, Merle, or Merlin, are very similar, but as father and son somewhat forgivable, and the human and engaging personalities they are given is irresistible and believable. Recommended.

Much as it pains me to contradict Mr. Hyatt, I have to disagree with that last sentence. It should be: WAY recommended. Well, okay, the Merle books do bring negative numbers to the equation, so maybe a simple Recommended is appropriate, if you factor those in. “To read this series is to dream of Amber….” Well said, Mr. Hyatt, well said.

If you want to know more about the world of Amber, here is the Wiki on it.

WRITING PROMPT: Write a character who is fascinating, charming, and compelling, who has a child who looks and acts the same way but is boring and irritating.

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Comments

Floyd Hyatt In Amber — 13 Comments

  1. Errata:
    I wrongly divided the series into six and four, instead of five and five, for some reason. Unconscionable, as I own every edition from first hardbound through paperback to anthology for the sets, but there you are. If you follow Marian’s link, it will run down a brief on each book, if a little starkly, and indicate, by it’s length, and other attributive works noted, ( mostly by sundry and various others) the interest it has garnered over time. If you do fantasy, and have not yet pursued AMBER, well, perhaps best you just smile and nod if asked about it, hem.

  2. @Marian Allen – Hi. I agree, Marian. To me, the series petered out with the brat. I adore that first book, Nine Princes in Amber. And what a last line: “And it’ll be Good night sweet prince to anyone who gets in my way.”

    The first few books were inspired. The last were produced. My opinion.

    • I enjoyed the Merlin novels on their own, but they had their own fascination. A lot of people who wished to see the original series continue under Corwin’s character were disappointed, as the original cast was relegated to a few walk-ons in Merle’s more magically oriented Chaos based Portion. However, the cadence, style pace and POV remained the same, and it carried forth its own action sequences very successfully and punctually. and with an inventive cast, so I cannot fault it. I particularly liked his pet snake, the wheel, his brother, the personification of the forces of order and chaos, the various uncles ans such, the philosophical elements, so forth. I was upset that Corwin’s Shadow Kingdom was not explored, and that threads uncompleted in the Corwin series were not tied off, but I understand that a third series had been planned to do that, and that this was on purpose. Of course with the author’s death, that did not happen. However I wouldn’t warn off readers from the second set, which perhaps due to its loose dependence of the first group, can be read alone. It is however, a little less Burroughs-ish, and more a magical fantasy, Merle being a magician himself.

  3. Mr. Hyatt,
    A wonderful review. I just can’t quarrel with anyone who urges readers to go out and read Zelazny. He was one of the first SF writers to create alternate realities that really altered your head. (Phil K. Dick wrote while HIS head was altered. Not the same.)

  4. @Jane – This was the first of a set of light fantasy reviews submitted. The purpose was to cross-section the more popular forms on he classic light fantasy market, yet stay away from materials that ended dotting supermarket racks. That’s a lot of picking and choosing and a whole lot of leaving off mentioning…but I didn’t want to make series review a lifetime avocation, and there are too many that deserve mention. – A good conversation starter, though, that perhaps will encourage a few to mention or review there own faves.

  5. What a fantastic review Marian. This is my first time to see and witness this kind of story (good to know its one of your favorite). The flow of the story is well defined that would give you strong imagination like you’re in the reality.
    Cheers for this great post!

  6. Pingback: MARIAN ALLEN · F. A. Hyatt On The Belgariad

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