The Guns of Avalon is the second book of The Chronicles of Amber; an epic fantasy series written by six- time Hugo Award winning and three-time Nebula Award winning author, Roger Zelazny. The ten books that make up the series are told in two story arcs: The Corwin Cycle and the Merlin Cycle. The Audible audio rendition of this classic sci-fi/fantasy series is started off by 2012 Audie Award nominee, Alessandro Juliani, who reads the first five books that make up the Corwin Cycle and whose narration vividly brings the world of Amber to life. Across the worlds of Shadow, Corwin, Prince of blood royal, heir to the throne of Amber, gathers his forces for an assault that will yield up to him the crown that is rightfully his. But, a growing darkness of his own doing threatens Corwin's plans, an evil that stretches to the heart of the perfect kingdom itself where the demonic forces of Chaos mass to annihilate Amber and all who would rule there.
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We can be brief in part, because if you are considering this book, you likely already picked up “Nine Princes in Amber” and if you haven’t I strongly recommend that you do. I am not sure the story will be an easy one to pick up at this point. This story is just as fine as the last, and the journey is as wonderful as I remember. Corwin’s plan to reclaim what he views as his right and revenge himself upon Eric while at the same time struggling with the harm he has done and trying to fit all of this within his new (within the life of an immortal anyway) found morality and empathy drives the story and prepares him for what comes next.
As for the performance, it’s still better than many I have heard. However, some of the voices are still troubling me. I’m not sure why Texan and Southern accents are slipping into the voices of nobles from Amber and the Courts, but it might be a bit silly to find that troubling. After all, why not? These are people who can travel to any reality and live there for centuries. Still, I found a few of the voice choices at odds with how the character is presented in the story. However, Corwin’s voice is just fine, and that’s the one we hear for most of the tale.
And remember to be on the lookout for the famous quote that is the title of this review!
Warning, from me: If you haven’t read Nine Princes in Amber yet, don’t read this review.
Another warning, from Corwin: “Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers.”
Corwin has escaped from his brother’s prison and he’s ready for revenge. He doesn’t have the manpower that Eric has, so he needs a technological advantage. Traditional firearms don’t work in Amber, but Corwin once noticed that a jewelers’ rouge from the shadow world of Avalon, where he used to rule, is combustible in Amber. So here’s his plan: get some money (pretty easy to do when you can create your own worlds), purchase a huge amount of jeweler’s rouge, and commission some custom-made firearms that use the rouge to shoot silver bullets (he’s not sure other metals will work). Oh, and raise an army. No problem!
The problem is that Eric may no longer be the biggest threat in Amber. Because of Corwin’s curse, Amber is being assailed by the forces of Chaos. The evil is also manifest in the shadow worlds that Corwin is trying to exploit and he must frequently stop and deal with the nasty creatures it serves up. Along the way Corwin meets old friends and enemies, makes new friends and enemies, and does at least one more impetuous thing that will come back to bite him later.
In The Guns of Avalon (1972), Corwin, who had gained our sympathies in Nine Princes in Amber because of how he was treated by Eric, becomes something of an anti-hero. Because of his rash actions, beautiful Amber has been invaded by horror. Corwin realizes that he has caused much destruction, he knows he has wrought evil, and he tells himself that he hopes to destroy more evil than he creates. The reader begins to wonder, however, if Corwin is blinded by hate for his brother. Is Corwin’s claim to the throne legitimate enough to justify all the death and terror that he’s caused? We’re certainly not convinced that Corwin would be a better King than Eric is. Corwin is a rather ambiguous hero.
Still, it’s hard not to root for Amber, if not for Corwin himself. Roger Zelazny has created a magical world that we’re eager to explore, preferably in a time of peace. We haven’t had much chance to do so yet since we’ve only seen it from Corwin’s perspective, and that means that for most of the time we’ve been in Amber, we’ve been in the dungeon. At the end The Guns of Avalon Zelazny leaves us with many questions unanswered and two major twists. You’ll want to have the next book, Sign of the Unicorn, ready to go.
I’m listening to Alessandro Juliani narrate Audible Frontiers’ version of The Guns of Avalon. He’s doing a great job, though I did not like the Southern drawl that he chose for two of the major characters (they call it “Ambuh”). It didn’t seem appropriate. With so many characters, I think he feels that he must give each a distinctive voice, so to do that he’s using unlikely accents or vocal properties (e.g., hoarseness or high pitch) to make them unique. I think that’s a mistake, but other than that, his reading is very good. Originally posted at FanLit.