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 Amber Chronicles
review by F. A. Hyatt
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.
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.