Amber Chronicles opener is uneven but worthwhile. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
The first book of Roger Zelazny's well-loved Amber Chronicles, Nine Princes in Amber, shines when its main character takes center stage. Despite some concept-heavy middle chapters, this novel has much to recommend it.

At the opening of this story, protagonist Corwin awakes in a hospital bed after recovering from a car accident. He does not remember who he is or why he's there, but his instincts tell him to be wary of those who seek to keep him incapacitated. By his wits, he manages to discern his name and a few details of his past from the leading hospital administrator—enough to get the address of the sister who had him checked in to the hospital. He arrives at her house in Westchester, New York and continues the charade. He fools her well enough to get a number of unsettling details about his life, added to it are remnants of memory, instincts over whom to trust and what his goals are. He learns he has many siblings, some trustworthy, some enemies, all ambitious. When his brother, Random, also shows up at the house, Corwin and he leave on a journey to the realm of Amber, the truest kingdom and city which exists on a different plane from our Earth, which is called the Shadow Earth by the residents of Amber. Once in Amber, Corwin finds one of his sisters, and this one he feels he can trust as much as Random, and so he reveals his memory predicament to them both.

Book Cover

On Audio
The opening of this story gave me high hopes for the rest of the novel and series, hopes that were somewhat dashed halfway through this novel. Fast-paced character-driven conflicts are rare, and I had hoped this one would turn into a story about the amnesia-stricken Corwin and his struggle to navigate the persona and ambitions of his former self with the motivations of the current man missing the memories. Alas, when he gets his memory back several chapters in, I was disappointed with this book—obviously the memory loss was only an excuse for exposition in the beginning and a reason for Corwin's previous inaction against his brother Eric. Corwin becomes his former self completely, losing the ambiguity of the ingenious but lost amnesiac. Accordingly this story hit a rough patch for me in the middle where Corwin sets to building alliances and forces against Eric in the hopes of regaining the throne of Amber. Luckily, the story picks up again once Corwin storms the castle. During his internment at Amber, Corwin is once again a character with interesting conflicts and not the stock character of the ambitious prince. Despite this turnaround, I can only mourn for the fascinating character conflicts this story could have had. But all in all, this book has a lot to recommend it. A fully adult protagonist, for one, is a rare and welcome treat. The length is also refreshing, written as it was during a time where a ten-book fantasy series came in 200 page increments and not 1000 page tomes.

Fans of fantasy who have not discovered this classic will be glad to find it. Among classic fantasy stories, it is a rare gem, even if it boasts unfulfilled potential.

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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