When I read the first of the Amber Chronicles last year, I didn’t enjoy it all that much. It was all right, I suppose, and the notion of travelling through shadow to the one kingdom that is… what? Real? Genuine? Anyway, it’s the top level of whatever reality-hierarchy Zelazny cooked up for the story and it was a very cool concept. Also, there’s a hard edge to Zelazny’s prose in the book that really worked for me. There is just one problem.
Who the hell am I supposed to root for?
What we have is a bunch of spoiled children of a king. Some of them are trying to stay out of it, some of them are supporting a unified kingdom, but the rest are just idiots. They fight each other, including the POV character who I thought I was supposed to start liking, even when their own annihilation is staring them in the face.
I won’t pretend like they know it’s their doom. After all, they don’t know that they are in a fantasy series. But come on! Corwin, the main character has spent centuries on what we call Earth. At least, I have to suppose it’s the genuine Earth. He has to have read a book or two in his time there, right?
Maybe it’s a parable. Maybe Zelazny is trying to show us how foolish we are in our fruitless attempt to climb a mountain of status even as the world is crumbling around us. But it just feels like his centuries-old characters are acting like babies instead.
Now, I’m not saying, Corwin, that you shouldn’t consider getting revenge on the brother who burned your eyes out with a stick. I’m just saying that maybe opening Hell-in-a-can and unleashing it for petty power plays was a bad move and maybe you should concentrate on fixing that before you try and take over.
In all seriousness, the writing feels old and covered in nicotine stains, but for some reason, it works in this instance. I’ll definitely be reading the next in the series, but I hope I can find one of the princes or princesses of Amber to cheer for, because it’s starting to look like the “bad guy” is my favourite.