The Hand of Oberon is the fourth 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.
Returning to Shadow Earth to investigate a threat against his life, Corwin discovers that the Jewel of Judgment has been stolen by his traitorous brother, Brand, who plans to use the enigmatic gem to reshape the universe.
©1976 Roger Zelazny (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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The Hand of Oberon, the fourth book in Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER, continues exactly where the previous book, Sign of the Unicorn, left off. The story was originally serialized in Galaxy Science Fiction and later printed in approximately 180-page installments. Each, therefore, is short and ends at some dramatic moment. These days, we’d probably be annoyed with an author who did this (why buy 10 books when you could just buy two?). For those of you who feel this way, there is an omnibus edition of THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER — I read it years ago — but it’s a bit unwieldy. If you want to listen to the excellent audio versions narrated by Alessandro Juliani, as I’m doing, you’ll need to buy them separately. The ten-book series is divided into two five-book arcs, THE CORWIN CYCLE and THE MERLIN CYCLE, so you’re really only committing to five books if you start the series. You can just read THE CORWIN CYCLE (which I think is better) and decide later if you want to move on to the second arc.
In The Hand of Oberon, Corwin has just discovered that the pattern in Amber is not the first pattern. There is a primal pattern, which means that Amber is actually just the first shadow world. The primal pattern has been damaged because someone has spilled royal blood on it. This is allowing the forces of Chaos to enter Amber. Who has done this? Why? And who was the sacrifice? Most importantly, how can the pattern be fixed and is Corwin willing to do what it takes to save Amber from the forces of Chaos? And can he do it before one of his siblings ruins everything?
As with the previous book, there’s a lot of revelation here about Corwin’s family, Dworkin the mage, the Jewel of Judgment, and the metaphysics of Amber, Chaos, and Shadow. Corwin also discovers that he has another disgruntled relative that he didn’t know about before. I’m still disappointed that we’re told how much Corwin loves Amber, but we, as readers, can’t empathize because all we know of Amber is Corwin’s horrible family. I want to love Amber, too, but Zelazny doesn’t really give me a reason to love it.
The Hand of Oberon moves very fast and ends with another big twist. This twist completely astonishes Corwin, but the reader may see it coming. Corwin does seem just a little dense occasionally, but he’s so harried in this installment that I’m willing to cut him some slack and assume he had no time to sit and think. Most readers will want to have the next book, The Courts of Chaos, on hand.
Pay attention to the dungeon scene. Roger Zelazny makes a cameo appearance as a novel-writing guard named Roger.
The Amber Chronicles are fast-moving and much of the character development happens through what characters do and say, not with interior monologs. This makes it fast-paced and engaging.
After this book I switched over to reading a paper 10-book volume of the whole thing because I just couldn't rationalize continuing to spend so much on each individual section. The paper ten-volume tome was the about same price as a single audio book. Too bad, because I liked the narrator. There should be a bundle discount or something.
This guy makes the books completely immersive with solid voice acting. I hope you're paying him well, because he seriously raises the bar on what to expect or desire from a book reading.
The vocal artist captured the (reformed?) hero Corwin exactly. The storyline is what anyone who has already read previous volumes 1-3 will recognize. Brand is exactly as crazed and evil as you would expect.
Volume 3 - The Courts of Chaos
Neither. Just recognized that even the princes of Amber could be decent at times.
"Back to its original Brilliance"
Story – 5/5
After a not-quite-as-enjoyable 3rd book, this 4th book is back to the brilliance of the first 2. Lots of complex and intriguing world building and character developments – but told in a simple, concise manner which makes it really easy to follow. It is clever and witty, which had me laughing out loud on a few occasions.
The ending was brilliant as well – and made me want to delve straight into book 5 to find out the rest of the Corwin story of Amber. I cannot recommend this series enough for Sci-fi/fantasy fans. Zelazny has created something original and imaginative, which has no doubt influenced a lot of modern novelists today.
Performance – 5/5
No long stories told by Random this time, therefore no annoying parts. Back to a 5 star performance from Alessandro Juliani. His style enhances the humour and fast paced story very well. I will definitely be looking out for him going forward.
Overall – 5/5
I can only reiterate my review of Nine Princes in Amber. This is part of a quintology and, I feel, needs to be read or heard as one book as the story arc starts with Book 1 and finishes with Book 5. 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.
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