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This book has always felt a little rushed to me, since there was a lot of work to do answering the questions and resolving the story lines. I suspect Zelazny had a lot more that he wanted to say but was constrained by the length of the books. There are four or five fragments, written for fanzines (back before the Internet, remember? Actual paper?) by Zelazny that add fascinating details to the story beyond what is resolved here. Whatever, it is Zelazny, and therefore it is masterfully done. Wheaton gives a performance to be proud of in a very busy and complicated narrative.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Don't start reading with this book! Go back and start with the Trumps of Doom (the first in this second series) or ALL THE WAY back to the beginning of the first Chronicles of Amber, Nine Princes in Amber. (Though if you do the latter, I'll have to recommend reading it in print. The audiobook narrator is ... in a word ... awful!)
So many things to say at this point, I'm just going to bullet point them.
* All the Amber books are like solid Bs for me. The writing is flawed at times. Hand-waiving and loose ends. But ultimately fun and with a very cool world and pretty good characters.
* The last two books of the second series are a pretty good pay off. So you just have to get through the bad parts to get to the good. It's sad that the main character is so "dumb" in the first two books, but you kinda-sorta get an explanation for that in the end. (He was raised to be a political pawn.)
* I love the Chaos end of things, the details in this book especially. Zelazny creates stuff that is somehow powerful, exotic, cruel, and logical all at the same time.
* Despite enjoying this series I am really frustrated by the last 10 minutes of reading. Soooo many loose ends. So many dominos set up that didn't get knocked over. Most of them aren't that meaningful, but it's unsatisfying to have them poised to fall after the end of the last chapter.
* Zelazny clearly loved writing the surreal bits of the novels - the chaos stuff, the hell rides through shadow, Luke's powered up acid trip. I mostly liked these too, but they felt really self-indulgent and were sometimes annoying.
* These novels are essentially fantasy gumshoe novels. The plots are about investigating mysteries. Sustaining a plot like this over five books at a time, albeit short ones, means a lot of recaps, summaries, hindsight, forecasting, etc. That's problematic at best.
* Zelazny probably didn't plot these out ahead of time. Some of the changing rules of magic and cheap device-oriented fixes makes me think that. Details would be spoilery, but I think you will catch them yourself when reading. The stories are like Star Wars or Indiana Jones, though. You just live with the vague/dumb stuff so you can enjoy the ride.
* Despite evolving a little too "conveniently," the magical concepts in these books are cool! Let's list them. 1. Immortality via bloodline (old hat stuff, but it still makes the list). 2. Gaining power by walking a pattern/maze of power. 3. The ability to walk through shadows/alternate realities. 4. The Trumps and how they grant telekinesis, psionic attacks/spying, teleportation. 5. Logrus-based spellcasting. 6. Magical sentience - major artifacts as AIs. 7. Chaos lords who can shape-shift into demonic forms. There are probably more, but those will do.
This series is definitely worth it. But you can't take them too seriously. They are great fun and they inspired a lot of fantasy that followed in the 80's, 90's, and beyond. (The first series was published from '70 to '78, the second from '85 to '91.)
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Roger Zelazny never got to finish the chronicles of Amber. There are so many loose ends in this books and characters not used to their full potential because he was holding out for the next series that you'll be disappointed after finishing this book in a way you weren't with "the courts of chaos". Not the best in the merl in cycle either, but still just as gripping as you would want it to be. If only it were finished...