Nine Princes in Amber is the first of the 10 books that are 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 kicked 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.
Amber is the one real world, of which all others including our own Earth are but Shadows. Amber burns in Corwin's blood. Exiled on Shadow Earth for centuries, the prince is about to return to Amber to make a mad and desperate rush upon the throne.
From Arden to the Pattern deep in Castle Amber which defines the very structure of Reality, Corwin must contend with the powers of his eight immortal brothers, all Princes of Amber. His savage path is blocked and guarded by eerie structures beyond imagining impossible realities forged by demonic assassins and staggering Forces that challenge the might of Corwin's superhuman fury.
©1970 Roger Zelazny (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
I have heard this book read by Roger Zelazny himself. Whereas he wrote an excellent story in this series, he himself is NOT a great dramatic actor. The reading by Allessandro Juliani really added to the series- When Zelazny himself read this book, I didn't notice any differences between characters when he read. Juliani's reading is superior and adds a lot of enjoyment to the series. I am not sorry I got this book again even after having heard the author's version of it. I am looking forward to seeing how the entire series feels now with Juliani's reading.
If you are like me and are looking for great new series, you might like this one. Fair warning: from what I recall, the series' quality did degrade towards the end, but the beginning parts was excellent; it climaxed, then left some questions unanswered. Through it all, though, it provides an enjoyable experience.
Everything isn't for everyone. This series has been around for a while so I'm sure a lot of people have opinions about it. Before you commit to it, please find out what other reviewers think. If there's a series you've enjoyed, please share it. Thank you.
Gave this series a try and was very surprised at the excellent narration and story line. I like the mix of the modern age with the Avalon mythology. For a book that was written in the 70's the story still seems current and not antiquated. I would like to finish the whole series but do not like that these short 5 hour books are sold separately instead of being grouped together. It will definitely be expensive to get to the end and I'm sure Audible is counting on that. Great book, lame deal!
I feel downright presumptuous to be writing a review for this novel. It is a classic, a keystone, the start of a series that has inspired and shaped the realm of fantasy literature. It is from an era when quality took precedence over quantity. If you enjoy fantasy literature you should give this a try, and even if you don’t enjoy this work, you will at least be able to talk about it when your fellow fantasy nerds start waxing philosophical. Zelazny has been praised by current giants like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. He is an author’s author.
Allessandro Juliani gives a solid performance but not outstanding. I’ve heard better but I’ve also heard far worst. Part of the problem may well be that I have lived with these characters in my head for a decade and a half, and so I brought my own view of how their voices sound. I will have no problem continuing the series with Juliani as the narrator, and I have a feeling he will grow on me.
Now, as had been mentioned, not everyone who liked the first books has the same view on the second set of books (6-10). I enjoyed them just as much as the first. They had a different main character, expanded the abilities of the characters and the nature of the setting, and focused a little more on exploring that growth and so focused a little less on the characters at times. I enjoyed the differences, but I understand not everyone did.
I am enjoying my own return to Amber, I hope the same for each of you.
Kat at FanLit
“I’d get what I needed and take what I wanted and I’d remember those who helped me and step on the rest. For this, I knew, was the law by which our family lived, and I was a true son of my father.”
When Corwin wakes up in a private hospital after driving his car over a cliff, he has no idea who he is. When he realizes that he has healed too fast and that he’s being drugged so he’ll stay unconscious, he decides that he better find out what’s going on.
The truth is strange: Corwin is one of the nine princes of Amber, the one true world, but for centuries he’s been exiled in the Shadowland we call Earth. The accident has actually dislodged the spell that his brother Eric was using to keep him out of Amber because Corwin is the biggest threat to Eric’s sovereignty there.
Nine Princes in Amber is the first (rather short) installment in a long epic that describes, from Corwin’s perspective and later his son’s, the struggle of his family to deal with both their internal treacheries and the evil forces that assail them from the forces of Chaos. In Nine Princes in Amber, Corwin must figure out who he is, assess his resources, gather some allies, wonder whether his father is dead or alive, and make a move on the throne of Amber. Here we learn what Corwin has been doing for centuries on Earth, meet several of his siblings, discover the way in and out of Amber, meet a race of people who live under the sea, and discover some of the special powers of Corwin’s family.
Ah… Corwin’s family… if you can call them a “family.” Corwin’s own description for them is “Machiavellian,” and that about covers it. Corwin and his brothers and sisters are clever, sophisticated, sarcastic, and extremely ambitious. They constantly scheme and plot to outmaneuver each other as they vie for political power. If you knew these people in real life, you’d probably hate them, but in Zelazny’s hands they’re kind of charming. These are people who plan to live forever, have the ability to design their own worlds to plunder, are incapable of trust, and have no reason to think about anyone other than themselves. In the end, Corwin rages against his brother and makes a rash decision that will negatively affect Amber’s future.
THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER was highly imaginative when it was published in the 1970s and it remains fresh and original today. The magic system is creative, Zelazny’s writing style is solid, the story is fast-paced, exciting, and mature. Plot twists and cliffhangers make it hard to stop reading. You’ll definitely want to have The Guns of Avalon, the second book in the series, ready to go as soon as you finish Nine Princes in Amber.
Nine Princes in Amber is a re-read for me because Audible Frontiers has recently produced THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER on audio — something I have been waiting years for. They’ve chosen one of their best narrators for Zelazny’s most famous work: Alessandro Juliani. He’s got the perfect voice and style to play Corwin, so I’m really pleased with this production. If you’re an audio reader, you’ll definitely want to download this classic!
Originally Posted at FanLit.
The story is compelling and fascinating. I love the transitions between the different worlds and the way Zelazny worded them.
I cannot think of a comparison that equals these first five books. They are of themselves a very good body of work.
Corwin of course. He rocks
I named my youngest daughter Amber and would have named a boy Corwin. How's that for extreme? My wife and I both enjoyed the Amber series maybe a bit too much, but what a great escape from this world.
A must listen. And I listen to a lot of books.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The first person narrator of Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber (1970) wakes up in a hospital without knowing who he is or how he came to be there. He does know that he's been being kept in a drugged sleep, so he feigns unconsciousness, takes out a thuggish orderly, threatens the doctor in charge, and, finally learning from him that his "sister" checked him into the hospital, heads off in a taxi for her home in NY. Thus begins his quest for identity and memory, which occupies the first half of the novel. By concealing his amnesia, acting as if he's considering his next move in some game of power, and examining every clue, he soon learns that his name is Corwin, that he is a prince of a place called Amber ("the key to everything"), and that his Machiavellian kin (eight brothers and at least four sisters) feel little kinship for each other: "I'd get what I needed and take what I wanted, and I'd remember those who helped me and step on the rest. For this, I knew, was the law by which our family lived." But how can he return to Amber, and what is the family game that stranded him memoryless on earth?
I remembering loving the first Amber cycle when I was in high school, painfully waiting for the fifth book to be published in 1978 so I could find out how Corwin's saga ends. Revisiting Nine Princes of Amber thirty-five years later, I still find good things in it. Zelazny's conception of Amber as the only real place, the one true substance from which all other cities and worlds, including earth, are "but a reflection of a shadow," is intriguing, as is his depiction of traveling through the Shadow worlds by mentally adding and subtracting features till you arrive at Amber. He tells a page-turning story. His strategy of having Corwin reveal early on that he's telling his tale as he is about to die somehow somewhere in the future is neat. There are some nice lines, like "As I sailed into Shadow, a white bird of my desire came and sat upon my right shoulder." And as he exploits the internecine machinations of a dysfunctional super-powered family, Zelazny explores the ways in which hatred shapes the world, partly through the filter of the Vietnam War: "I walked among Shadows, and found a race of furry creatures, dark and clawed and fanged, reasonably man-like, and about as intelligent as a freshman in the high school of your choice--sorry, kids, but what I mean is they were loyal, devoted, honest, and too easily screwed by bastards like me and my brother."
Alas, today I can also see many warts on the novel. For example, despite loving the soldiers fighting and dying for him, despite invoking the horror of napalm and mushroom clouds, despite having participated in appalling campaigns like Napoleon's march on Moscow, and despite having come to care for other lives during his centuries of exile on earth, Corwin (and Zelazny) really do treat the quarter of a million plus casualties of the Amber game as anonymous, "custom-made cannon fodder," when a truly caring prince might try first to mentally dominate his nemesis so as to avoid war via one of the nifty tarot-like cards that serve the royalty of Amber as combination telephones and teleporters. Corwin's "guilt" feels crocodilian.
Another: Despite Amber being the only real realm, Corwin's allusions to people, events, and works from our "Shadow earth" (like "I suddenly realized that I had known the mad, sad, bad Vincent Van Gogh") so outnumber those from Amber's history that Zelazny evokes our own world more than he develops Amber. This is especially so when Corwin uses American slang and sexism from 1970. He refers to a nurse as "a hippy broad," says that he can or can't "dig" certain things, decides to "play it cool," invites a friend to "make the scene," and so on. Zelazny is grounding his fantasy with an "authentic" language and manner, but it causes some cringes.
As for gender, early on Corwin devotes a paragraph each to describe his brothers and himself, but only a single paragraph for his sisters, and he often wonders what happened to his father but not to his mother. Only men are fit to rule Amber, and the royal sisters are basically concubines of the fittest. Corwin even gets to indulge in a Captain Kirk-like interlude with a suitably bare-breasted and green-nippled undersea queen.
Finally, Zelazny's depiction of Corwin as a macho, sensitive warrior-bard, expert at martial and liberal arts, fluent in hip slang and Shakespearean English, possessed of superhuman strength and regenerative powers (no wonder he can chain smoke without getting cancer!), starts feeling like a nerdy adolescent's ultimate cool guy power fantasy (no wonder I loved these books in high school!). With the possible exception of Random, Corwin's siblings appear flat next to him.
The reader Allesandro Juliani, excellent with Solaris, is good here, but his light and casual voice make Corwin seem less substantial and charismatic than he could be, and his attempts to vocally distinguish the other eight brothers from each other begin to sound strained. He also tends to make female voices too high and weak.
Later entries in the Amber cycle may correct my kvetches, but to find out I'll dust off my high school days' Avon paperbacks rather than pay Audible for each of the four remaining five-hour novels (when a single 25-hour omnibus audiobook would have been nice).
I was looking for a good series of books to listen to on car trips that are about 5-6 hours long and this series seemed perfect. Since it is a long series of books in a genre I love with pretty good reviews I picked up the first 2 books during one of Audible's promotions.
Now after having listened to the first book I regret owning the second. Unlike many of the positive reviews I read on this site I did not read the book long ago so my impression is not warped by nostalgia.
The characters have little depth, large events are rushed through, and the narration by Alessandro Juliani is mediocre at best. I found myself with no attachment to the main character Corwin and his other family members are equally uninteresting. Not enough information was ever given about Amber itself for me to care about who rules it so the story arc of Corwin trying to retake it held no suspense for me. Battles were rushed through with little detail and in the end I found myself just wanting the book to be over so I could spend my time listening to something better.
Alessandro Juliani wasn't horrible and he does do a variety of voices, but his narration as the main character Corwin is stiff and boring. It made it seem like Corwin cared as little about the outcome of the story as I did. I wouldn't shy away from other Juliani narrations though because I could tell that he has the talent to do a better job with different material.
So my advice would be to steer clear unless you have fond memories from having already read the book as those reviewers seem to be very satisfied with this offering.
Audiobook Junkie... Love all types of Science Fiction
This is my among my top favorite science fiction series. This is Roger Zelazny's best work and he is a well known inspiration amount other top selling authors. I have heard Zelazny's reading of this book and bought this version primarily to see how Alessandro Juliani would pull it off. I still think Zelazny made a better Corwin, but Juliani's version of Random was more mousy and fitting. There was also a better distinction and animation of the other characters as well.
Only for Zelazny would I buy a book twice. So, if you haven't read/listened to this yet you are missing out.
Everyone I have ever met has the feeling that there is something more going on than they can concieve. This book begins a journey in the explaination of what that feeling may be about.
This ten book series is an old friend and the new narrator does it justice.
I've been a fan of Roger Zelazny's Amber series since I discovered it decades ago, and was delighted to discover this new, unabridged adaptation of his masterwork. Alessandro Juliani does a great job as narrator, capturing Corwin's voice and personality well, and while some of his vocal choices for the rest of the family take a moment's getting used to, he manages to imbue each character with a distinctive voice and manner that draws you into the tale. Listening to the opening volume once more, I remember again why I was so drawn to this world, and can't wait to work my way through all ten books in the series. This one's definitely a must-have if you're an Amber fan, and if you're unfamiliar with the tales of the immortal city at the heart of all things, you're in for a treat.
I read this book and also the subsequent four books years ago and was totally enthralled by them. I've been waiting a long time to get them on audio. The story is still brilliant but feel the performance could be improved upon. Alessandro Juliani does a good job but I feel audio books would really benefit from having a narrator and a different actors for the different characters. There is a limit to what one person can do by way of changing voices and it is sometimes difficult for a male to replicate a female voice and vice versa. However, having said the above, I really enjoyed the experience of Nine Princes in Amber and the subsequent four books of the quintology in audio.
Beautiful, magical!, visual, exciting, intriguing - I could go on and on with superlatives for his well crafted story which carries the listener breathtakingly fast forward through unknowingness and recovering memory, different world's and battles in quest of the throne of Amber, the one true reality. I'm not often a fan of fantasy but this is sublime, Zelazny supreme. And all read to perfection by Alessandro Juliani.
A wonderful book.
Now, please excuse me as I start listening to book two - can't wait.
Big fan of Zelazny, great to be able to listen now my eyesight has begun to decay. Read in a great manner keeping the story alive
"Not What I Expected"
Story - 5/5
Having had recommendations for this series for some time now, it sounded like it was going to be quite hard going and complex. After finally taking the plunge, I was surprised about how smooth and easy to follow it was. It starts with Corwin waking up with amnesia, so we learn gradually as he remembers things. I loved this style personally and it made for a very humorous story.
Roger Zelazny's prose is very concise and to-the-point, so although this is quite a short audiobook, you do still get a complete story out of it. The story is a halfway house between Sci-fi and fantasy, and is nothing like I have ever come across before. A very obscure concept, but I found it very intriguing.
The characterisation is very strong. It allows the reader to get a very quick grasp of what everyone is about, and their part in the world of Amber. All characters are likeable, and the exchanges they have are very witty.
A very strong first book, and I will definitely be purchasing the rest in the series
Performance - 4.5/5
Alessandro Juliani was superb in my opinion. I thought his narration and voice acting added to the humour and excitement of the story very nicely. I thought he was the perfect fit for Corwin's personality, and all character's voices were distinctly recognisable and well portrayed. I was shocked to see a review that didn't like him actually
He reads the story very quickly, which I personally quite liked, but others may not. Another narrator may have added 1-1.5 hours onto the length of this audiobook. Listen to the sample if you are unsure, but you can always slow it down on the audible app if necessary.
Overall - 5/5
"Had to give up."
The narrator could have made the characters more believable.
I didn't get to the end as the narrator and story was so irritating.
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