I’m finally getting around to reviewing the first fantasy novel
I ever read. I remember how hard it was to find a book in
this series on the shelves back in junior high. Eight of us
were trying to read them all, so there was always a race to
grab one of the books when it became available.

General Information

Title: Nine Princes in Amber

Author: Roger Zelazny

Original Publication Date: 1970

ISBN: 0380809060 (single volume of ten books)

Cover Price: $22.95 US for the complete series

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Premise

A man with amnesia realizes his siblings are trying to kill
him, and
that he’s not a normal person.

Note that this premise refers only to the first book in the
ten book
series, while the Amazon link above is to a collection of all
ten
books. The first five alone are easily worth that price. The
next
five, written later, aren’t quite as good, but Amazon’s
$16.07 (as
this is being written) is easily a great price for those five
too.
(The Amber Chronicles are, essentially, two different five
book
series.) If you’re Christmas shopping for a fantasy fan, you
could do
a lot worse.

High Point

Driving to Amber.

Low Point

Man, these characters smoke a lot. Is anyone surprised
that Zelazny
died due to complications from cancer?

The Scores

This is an original take on parallel worlds. The
mechanics
of the worlds, and their ties to our Earth, have been
explored in
numerous ways since this was published, but I haven’t run
into any
that predate it. (That doesn’t mean they’re not out there, of
course. Suggestions for further reading are always
welcome.) I give
it 5 out of 6.


The imagery, both in terms of describing
locations and in
figurative language, is excellent. When things turn to
potentially
boring conversation, Corwin’s internal dialogue kicks up
with some
great wit to keep things moving, and it’s usually in
metaphors and
similes involving his immediate family. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is a decent kick-off to the series, but
there are
long chunks of world-building that, while necessary, don’t
advance the
plot. I give it 4 out of 6.



The characterization includes some nice work
with Corwin, and
a pile of pretty one-dimensional characters. I give it 4 out
of 6.

The emotional response is fairly good. There
are slow bits
to it, certainly, but it definitely holds my attention through
the
rest of the series. I give it 4 out of 6.



The editing is very well done. The “slow bits” I
referred to
above are the world-building bits that won’t seem as slow
to
first-time readers. The rest is a tight and rapidly moving
story. I
give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a solid start to my favourite fantasy
series.
(Yes, I’d rather read these than Lord of the
Rings
.) The
first five books are excellent, especially if you have time to
read
them in a marathon. I give this volume 5 out of 6.

In total, Nine Princes in Amber receives 33
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

I plan to review all ten books in the series soon, but I also
plan to
review a big stack of movies and a decent stack of
comics. If you
have any preferences or suggestions about the order I use
to attack this
list of
options
let me know in the comments or via e-mail.