Review: Trumps of Doom

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Trumps of DoomTrumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prior to starting Trumps of Doom, I was a little concerned that it may not live up to the grandeur of the preceding five novels which followed Corwin, a prince of Amber. Starting with Trumps of Doom, the rest of the series follow’s Corwin’s son Merlin, who is half of Amber blood and half of Chaos.

Despite my trepidation, I was immediately appeased by the opening sentence:

“It was a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to try to kill you.”

That line pretty much sold me.

It is also a wonderful little caricature of Zelazny’s writing style in general. I love the way Zelazny writes. He gets to the point and doesn’t waste words. He’s also a great world builder. Amber is such a fantastic setting, but I also really enjoy when the story moves to other shadows like our own version of Earth.

Perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to write imaginative and compelling stories with rich, believable characters that you can somehow relate to despite their totally fantastic lifestyles. The man truly amazes me and he’s definitely working his way into my list of favorite authors.

So anyways, Trumps of Doom was really good. I really liked Merlin as a character. He reminded me of Corwin (which I think is good), but he was also he own unique person.

I also loved the setup. The fact that the story starts off with Merlin trying to avoid a murder attempt means that, right out of the gates, we’ve got action, suspense, and mystery. And it really sets the stage for the rest of the novel, because it never really slows down. For every answer Merlin uncovers, a new question emerges.

I kind of want to rank Trumps of Doom against the previous novels in the series, but I really can’t. It was really good, but so were the other novels.

If you haven’t read the first five novels, I think there’s a possibility that you could start here without too much confusion, but, personally, I would go back and read the other novels first. Either way, I highly recommend Trumps of Doom.

Review: The Hand of Oberon

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The Hand of OberonBy Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me, The Amber Chronicles started getting really good with the third novel, Sign of the Unicorn. The Hand of Oberon was easily just as good.

The story to this point has been full of deception and misdirection, but that didn’t become apparent until the previous book. Now, with more (but definitely not all) of the cards on the table, it’s interesting to see how Corwin handles an ever degrading situation in Amber, especially when he doesn’t know who he can trust.

I think one of the things that really makes this series special is Corwin. He’s a great character. Unlike many fantasy protagonists, he’s not inherently good. Instead, he’s more pragmatic. He thinks things through and tries to be logical about his decisions. He has unique personality and intangible qualities that make him likable character.

This novel also had one hell of a surprise ending. I won’t reveal the details, but I was completely shocked and it compelled me to immediately move onto the next in the series.

My only real complaint are the hellrides. After the first couple of times, the novelty wore off and they simply became tedious. I ended up just skimming them, because the details didn’t really matter, just the outcome.

Overall, I really liked this novel and The Amber Chronicles are quickly becoming one of my favorite fantasy series. If you haven’t read this one, I recommend it, but make sure you start at the beginning of the series.

Review: Sign of the Unicorn

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Sign of the UnicornSign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed the first two novels of the Amber Chronicles. They were imaginatively written and entertaining. They had rich characters of noble birth if not entirely honorable dispositions. Perhaps best of all was the setting. Despite all that, I considered them to be 4 star novels.

As good as those novel were, Sign of the Unicorn was that much better. This is the novel were things get really good. This is the novel that hooked me in and didn’t let go. This is the novel that made me understand why Amber is considered a classic series.

Going into the third novel, I thought I had a pretty good handle for what was going on, but, damn, was I wrong. In Sign of the Unicorn, Zelazy reveals what really happened in the first two books. You find out what all of Corwin’s siblings were up to and it turns out that the story you thought you knew is actually way more complicated and interesting.

The members of Amber’s ruling family are a scheming and conniving bunch and they were were not idle while Corwin had his adventures in the first two novels. Zelazny really flushes out the background and mythology of Amber and its noble family and it gives the story a lot more depth.

Highly recommended!

Book Review: The Guns of Avalon

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The Guns of AvalonThe Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gave this novel 4 stars, but, if I was able to, I think I would have given it 4.5 stars as I really enjoyed Roger Zelazny’s second novel in the Amber Chronicles. I actually thought it was a little stronger than the first novel, which I thought was excellent.

Like the first novel, The Guns of Avalon follows Corwin, one of the lords of Amber, as he attempts to dethrone his brother, Eric. It picks up right where the first novel leaves off, which I was happy to see, because I thought Nine Princes ended pretty abruptly, my only real complaint about the novel. But Corwin’s path is not straightforward as he is unable to avoid the blight that he brought into the world with the curse that he cast in the first novel.

In this novel, we also get a deeper look at some of the lords that we only glimpsed previously. The lords of Amber are varied, but all interesting in their own ways. They have such a strange relationship with each other. They are often in competition and, yet, are still brothers with intimate memories of days long past.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I really liked how the novel ended. It was a nice bit of writing and definitely makes me eager to pick up the next in the series.

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Book Review: Nine Princes in Amber

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Nine Princes in AmberNine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t know anything about Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles when I started in on the first book. Strangely enough, I was recommend the series by a woman that I interviewed awhile back. She said that Nine Princes in Amber was her favorite book so I added it to my “to-read” list a. Now I’ve finally read it and it was pretty darn good.

The story follows Corwin, one of several princes vying for the rule of Amber, a majestic city in an alternate reality. Corwin is no saint, but he’s a likable guy all the same and I quickly started rooting for him wholeheartedly.

Beyond that, I found the magic system to be very interesting. However, in Amber magic doesn’t seem like magic, it seems more like a fundamental part of reality, a reality that can be bent and manipulated. I thought the deck of cards was a particularly interesting part of that system. Each of the princes and princesses are able to communicate and travel to each other with these cards (more like tarot cards than playing cards), which is not only is that a cool concept, but also has a lot of potential as a plot device.

Zelazny’s writing has an interesting feel to it, a little rough around the edges, but to the point. My only gripe would be the abrupt ending. It felt like the story was just about to gear up to the climax, but it ended instead. I read this as part of an anthology (which weighs like 5lbs.) so I had no idea it was coming–I didn’t have the luxury of running out of pages.

Overall, I really liked the novel. It doesn’t have the same feel as a modern fantasy novel–if nothing else, it’s a lot shorter–but it has a lot of its own qualities that allows it to stand on its own against the test of time. This novel is pretty much a classic when it comes to fantasy so I would recommend it to anyone that considers themselves a fan of the genre.

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