Review: Nine Princes of Amber
Author: Roger Zelazny Title: Nine Princes in Amber Published: 1970 Pages: 175
This is the first book in the Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny. I first had an encounter with Zelazny a couple of years ago when I tried reading his supposed masterpiece, Lord of Light. I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Yet, I had heard that his fantasy series was in a different style from Lord of Light so, I thought, why not read it!
Nine Princes of Amber tells the story of Corwin who is one of nine Princes of Amber. He must battle armies and his brothers to win the throne.
This book is a tale of two halves; the first is a fairly interesting and readable mystery. It starts off with the protagonist: Corwin, in a hospital bed with no recollection of who he is or what he’s doing there. This is all fine. Usually, when a story starts out with a mystery like the one in Nine Princes of Amber, the momentum of wanting to know what is happening propels the story forward. Of course, the downside is if the actual explanation and denouement doesn’t live up to the mysterious premise the story can be seen as a failure. In the case of this novel, it’s not that the reason behind the mystery is weak but the execution of the story that lets it down. The fantastical element, as an idea is pretty decent however, but it just doesn’t have much going for it.
The problem is that none of the characters are fleshed out. I don’t care who takes over the throne of Amber because I don’t know anyone. Corwin is such a blank slate that sometimes I wonder if he was even there. Plus, Corwin’s journey and battles with his brothers are far too abstract rendering it pointless. The problem with them is two-fold: Corwin and his brothers’ are underdeveloped and secondly, the magical soldiers (or whatever) die in such large quantities that you honestly find it difficult to care. Then, at the end, you have a lot of waffling that ends up in a cliffhanger. Although, that’s not a criticism per se, as it is meant to be part of a series. There’s not much you can write about this, far too slight — in story and characters — to warrant anything more than a few paragraphs.
In the end, I would avoid reading this as it is ultimately pointless. On the plus side, it is only hundred and seventy-five pages.