'The Amber Chronicles' by Roger Zelazny, a classic fantasy series

I've re-read Roger Zelazny's 'The Amber Chronicles' series more times than I can recall. I've worn out two copies of this complete collection, and lost countless individual copies of the component books. This fantasy series begins with Nine Princes in Amber, and is one of my favorite fantasy series.

When the story opens neither we nor our hero, Corwin, know what's going on. He is lost in a coma and awakens with amnesia, which we are led to understand is the result of a recent car accident that should have left him dead. Corwin goes on to discover who he is by threatening pretty much everyone he meets. It works.

We are introduced to a magical universe in which Chaos and Order are polar extremes physically represented by their ruling families, neither of which truly represent the dictionary definitions of either term. The Great Pattern of Amber appears chaotic in its order, while the ever changing Logrus of Chaos somewhat more predictable. Both are manifestations of the power and state of their influence.

Corwin is a scion of Order. That kingdom is under siege, perhaps due to his own powerful curse. The adventure follows his path through the various realities that exist between Chaos and Order, known as Shadow, and we later follow the path of his son Merlin, as both attempt to find the balance between the two realms.

Zelazny's Amber Chronicles are somewhat dated but still wonderful. The characters are colorful and fun. I love that Zelazny builds empathy, trust and maybe even love, for Corwin, a lead character who seems to have very few redeeming qualities. The universe he imagined is one I enjoy returning to.

Roger Zelazny's The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 (Chronicles of Amber)

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  1. edgore says:

    This is still my number one longed for HBO adaptation. An updated to modern times Amber TV show would kill in today's TV environment. Or hell, I would even settle for the CW - I like looking at pretty teenagers as much as the next guy.

  2. I really enjoyed the first five books of this series. The last five (focused on Merlin)... not as much. I'd really like to get this as an ebook, but Zelazny's works seem to be not allowing ebook versions. frowning

  3. joe_b says:

    I agree with tntjarks. The first books were amazing, the later ones less so. The problem with Merlin was that he was too powerful, creating the same problems for the writer as Superman presented. How can you create any suspense when, no matter what happens, Merlin can magically pull something out of the air to defeat any foe?

  4. snig says:

    Often when I'm in a unfamiliar city that looks just a little bit like somewhere I've been before, I'll think about walking in shadows and making it where I want to go.

  5. Jorpho says:

    The complete collection is the way to go; trying to track down all ten of the books individually is an exercise in frustration and can also end up being a little costly.

    And indeed, the series goes careening off the rails at the end. I rather like how David Langford put it into context here (warning, spoilers ahoy). If you're interested, you should definitely check out the short stories in Manna from Heaven, which suggest that Zelazny might have been able to get out of the corner he'd written himself in.

    I think in the end Lord of Light is much better reading. Also, "Ghostwheel" is tragically underrepresented when it comes to naming servers and software daemons and such forth.

    By the way, has anyone here read Betancourt's "Dawn of Amber" prequel series?

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