The story opens with an amnesia victim, Corwin, a man on the run. To escape, he must figure out who he is. Not a terribly original set-up, even in 1970 when Nine Princes in Amber was written, but it’s a formula that works. I was hooked from page one, or maybe page three.
Not too far into the novel, Corwin finds out that he is not from this world, but from the real world, where he is the Crown Prince, pushed from his rightful inheritance by a rival brother, one of nine. Corwin was on the losing side in a struggle for the throne of Amber, when he esaped to Shadow, our world.
This is a very fun idea with lots of potential. Since Corwin has been hiding out in Shadow, our world, for centuries, he can reference our history, our culture, whenever he encounters something in the world of Amber. This lets Mr. Zelazny use the world of 1970 to describe his fantasy world which makes for some very entertaining world building.
Corwin, along with his brothers and sisters, is engaged in a Game of Thrones like struggle for power, one that will probably last the entire ten book cycle. But Zelazny is no George R.R. Martin, thank God. I tried one of Martin’s books, made it about 150 pages in before I gave up, frankly bored out of my skull. People who die of boredom while reading George R.R. Martin should die horrible graphic deaths. Imagine an illustration by Edward Gorey.
Zelazny stays so closely focused on the plot, on moving things along as quickly as possible, that some readers will find fault with him for it. Battles, attacks, retreats, counter-attacks can all take place in three or four pages in Nine Princes in Amber. I prefer this; move quickly through as much of the battle stuff as you can to get to the more interesting personal scenes. Two characters engaged in a struggle are all you really need to provide enough drama to keep me hooked.
My omnibus edition features the first five novels in The Chronicles of Amber so I’ll be back for more. The first book wasn’t exactly a cliff-hanger, but I do want to know what happens next.
Plus, I’m just having so much fun.