Roger Zelazny

Books: Fantasy

The Great Book of Amber (1999): Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, The Courts of Chaos and the second Amber series: Trumps of Doom, Blood of Amber, Sign of Chaos, Knight of Shadows, Prince of Chaos


Black Thorn, White Rose: A Modern Book of Adult Fairytales (1994)

The Great Book of Amber (1999)

The Great Book of Amber

If you're wondering why I haven't written any reviews recently, The Great Book of Amber is why. A compilation of all ten of Roger Zelazny's Amber books, The Great Book of Amber comes in at 1258 (small print!) pages.

This omnibus edition contains the first Amber series:

and the second Amber series

The first five books tell the story of Corwin. Corwin awakes in the hospital, with no idea of who he is or how he ended up in the hospital, but he senses that they are over-sedating him to keep him unconscious. He escapes the hospital and then struggles to discover who he is, and why he was in the hospital.

The advantage of a character with amnesia is that we learn about the world as he does, which makes the world building a little easier, and a little less boring for the reader. However you can only get away with that everyone once in a long while. It works, but I think I like other ways of world building just as well.

I really liked the story in the first five books. I liked Corwin, and I like the fact that his family was so difficult and mostly unpleasant. And I was fascinated by the world and the characters, and how different things were. And as I said, the storytelling was good as well. The ending was okay, but I would have appreciated a slightly stronger ending. And if you are attempting to read these books individually, beware. Each book pretty much has a cliff hanger ending. For example, the first book ends (don't panic, this doesn't give away anything you couldn't figure out from the fact that there are five books in the series)

(The note) said "___--I'll be back," and it was signed: "Corwin, Lord of Amber."

A demon wind propelled me east of the sun.

Essentially I didn't even take a breather between stories, but read at least the first couple of chapters of the following book before putting the book down.

The second series tells the story of Merlin, Prince of Chaos and son of Amber, as he discovers who has been trying to kill him, and why.

I didn't enjoy the second series as much. Merlin had tremendous powers--much stronger than the powers Corwin seems to have in the first series, which leads you to wonder how the Amberites managed to keep the forces of Chaos at bay for so long, since those who lived in Chaos seemed to be stronger sorcerers. So I found that somewhat inconsistent and thus annoying. Plus, I preferred watching Corwin struggle to Merlin kicking butt.

I also felt the ending to the second series was weak--even weaker than the first series. I just didn't feel satisfied at the end.

That aside, however, the endings didn't matter that much, because the getting there was so much fun. The worlds he created are wonderful, as are the characters. So the book(s) is worth it just for that.

As far the the book itself, first, there were a lot of typographical errors, which was mildly annoying, especially when it made the context of the sentence confusing. Secondly, the book was WAY too big. I'm a big fan of paperbacks, because they're easy to carry around and comfortable to read. I just couldn't get comfortable with this book, unless it was sitting on a pillow, flat in my lap, and I can only sit that way for so long. At 1258 pages the book is large and heavy and unwieldy. Just wasn't a book I could curl up with, which was frustrating, since it was a curl up to read kind of story. So if I were to read the story again, I'd much rather read it as individual books.

Also, I can see the relationship between Steven Brust and these books. The Vlad series does remind me in some ways of this series. Except that I think Steven Brust is a better storyteller.

I definitely recommend this book. It's fun, it's interesting, it's got some great characters, and it's got good storytelling.

Rating: 7/10

(Points were lost due to the unwieldy size of this volume, and the fact that I did not like the second series as well as the first.)


Black Thorn, White Rose: A Modern Book of Adult Fairytales (1994) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

There were several of these collections in the 90s–and I had the first two if I remember correctly.

These are fairy tales retold–some with a change in the point of view, some retold in a modern setting, and some hewing only rather loosely the tales upon which they were based.

I think my favorite story in the collection may be Roger Zelazny's “Godson" which retells a tale that's not particularly common, but one of my favorites. A boy has Death for his Godfather, and his godfather gives him gifts to use–with some stipulations. I very much like the twists that were put upon this story–especially the bicycle.

Please note that these are adult fairy tales. They are in the most part true to the original tales, but most adults would find those inappropriate for children.

Published by Wildside Press

Rating: 7/10