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 ..Show More »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!
Sign of the Unicorn is the third novel in Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER. At the end of the previous novel,..Show More » The Guns of Avalon, Corwin finally got what he wanted: Eric off the throne. Corwin is now the regent of Amber by legitimate claim and he holds the Jewel of Judgment which has powers over the weather and, as Corwin learns, other powers that may be dangerous to its owner.
You’d think that things might now be easy for Corwin, but not so. The forces of Chaos are crossing into Amber from the shadow worlds, and they must be stopped. But Corwin’s most immediate concern is treachery from his scheming siblings. One of them has just been murdered and someone is trying to frame Corwin. During the fallout, other murder attempts occur. It’s clear that Corwin is not safe as long as his siblings are alive, but he doesn’t know which of them he can trust. During his interactions with them he learns a lot of the history that he has been unaware of while spending centuries on Earth without his memory of Amber. These stories slow the action but serve to enlighten us further about Amber, the Shadow worlds, how the trumps and the pattern work, the alliances between the siblings, how Corwin lost his memories, and what may have happened to their father Oberon. Of course, Corwin knows that some of his siblings may not be telling him the truth… Looking for guidance, Corwin visits Tir-na Nog’th, the city of moonlight. Instead of the answers he wants, he receives ominous visions which suggest that the real truth is even more frightening than the petty sibling rivalries Corwin has been dealing with. Sign of the Unicorn continues Corwin’s swiftly moving adventure. Things slow down a bit during this installment while the siblings tell their stories, but there are lots of revelations and plot twists to make up for that. One thing that’s lacking in these stories, so far, is a sense of what Amber is like beyond of the realm of the royal family. We see very few people who aren’t related to Corwin — not even household servants. The story is so focused on the family intrigue that we really don’t get to know Amber outside that context, which is somewhat disappointing.
Sign of the Unicorn definitely doesn’t stand alone — you need to read the previous books, Nine Princes in Amber and The Guns of Avalon, first — and after the final revelation in Sign of the Unicorn, you won’t be able to stop there either, so plan to have the fourth book, The Hand of Oberon, ready. In fact, go ahead and get the fifth book, The Courts of Chaos, because the end of The Hand of Oberon is a doozy, too.
I read the entire CHRONICLES OF AMBER twenty years ago and am re-reading them now that they’ve been produced by Audible Frontiers. Each installment is rather short (only 5 or 6 hours on audio) which was usual for fantasy novels published back in 1970. Some of them had been previously serialized before being released in book form. The AMBER CHRONICLES are short and entertaining, but the length of each volume is something I’d consider when deciding whether or not to spend an Audible credit on them, especially since there are 10 books in the series (divided into two ARC). They are relatively inexpensive, though, and they’re certain to show up in Audible’s frequent sales. Alessandro Juliani does a great job with the narration — I really like him.
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. ..Show More »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 Courts of Chaos is the very short last installment of the CORWIN CYCLE of THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER and the fi..Show More »fth volume of the entire series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ve got no business here — go away. I don’t want to ruin it for you. Go read the first book, Nine Princes in Amber, and continue on from there.
OK. So Oberon is back and we learn that he’s been manipulating events all along. Now he’s on the throne, which is fine with Corwin because after Eric’s death he’s decided he doesn’t want to sit there anyway. Corwin’s concern is with repairing the pattern that Brand destroyed when he let the forces of Chaos into Amber. To heal the land, someone must sacrifice himself and Corwin is willing, but Oberon insists on making the decisions. He wants Corwin to take the Jewel of Judgment through Shadow so it will be ready to help them during the battle with Chaos. Meanwhile, Oberon intends to fix the pattern himself.
Corwin’s psychedelic hellride through Shadow is long and sometimes tedious as Corwin vividly describes the surreal landscape, reminisces about the past, and becomes introspective as he ponders how he, and his relationship with his family members, has changed. After the constant plot twists in the last few books, some readers may be glad for the leisurely pace, but I eventually became bored with metallic trees and zebra-stripe skies. Short but welcome action segments occur when Corwin encounters murderous leprechauns, a gallant knight, a seductive woman, a talking tree, a philosophical raven, and a treacherous jackal. When he finally reaches the Courts of Chaos, the last battle with a nebulous enemy ensues. Compared to all that’s gone on before, these final scenes are a bit anticlimactic and even start to feel like a bad soap opera when the unicorn shows up to crown the next ruler and a sibling who’s supposed to be dead reappears.
I didn’t enjoy The Courts of Chaos as much as I enjoyed the earlier AMBER novels, mainly because of the long surreal hellride, but it’s a short book that concludes Corwin’s story, so it’s kind of a must-read for anyone who’s read this far in this immensely popular old SFF series. As with previous AMBER novels, Roger Zelazny throws several literary and mythological allusions into this installment. The next five AMBER books make up the MERLIN CYCLE which is narrated by Corwin’s son Merlin. I read them many years ago and only recall that they weren’t as good as the CORWIN CYCLE. I’m not sure if I’ll read them again, though I probably will if I see them on sale at Audible. These have been very nice productions.
Trumps of Doom kicks off the second five-book cycle of the Chronicles of Amber, following the exploits of Corwin's son Merlin. The choice of Wil Wheat..Show More »on to pick up the narration was a fantastic one, because he endows Merlin's voice with just the right mix of youth and experience to suit this unique character. Unlike Allesandro Juliani's performance in the first five books, Wheaton doesn't spend much effort in creating distinct voices for each character, making this seem less like an audio play and more like a storyteller relating his adventures. His narration works very well, though, and it helps reinforce the idea that these are two different tales told by two different men. The story's as great as ever, and I can't wait to finish the rest up. (And if Audible decided to go after the audio rights for the short stories Zelazny left behind in preparation for the third cycle he never got to embark upon, well, that would make a perfect addition to these ten great audios.)
I first met Zelazny's Princes in Amber books a long time ago. By the 7th or 8th book they became a little too formulaic, but still enjoyable. Much, ..Show More »much better than the recent spate of twinkling vampires and ethical werewolves. I'd love to see these books rewritten in the depth of "Tales of Ice and Fire", or "Harry Potter'. Zelazny has the mythology charted, but his palette, however entertaining, is a bit narrow.
This book has always felt a little rushed to me, since there was a lot of work to do answering the questions and resolving the story lines. I suspect ..Show More »Zelazny had a lot more that he wanted to say but was constrained by the length of the books. There are four or five fragments, written for fanzines (back before the Internet, remember? Actual paper?) by Zelazny that add fascinating details to the story beyond what is resolved here. Whatever, it is Zelazny, and therefore it is masterfully done. Wheaton gives a performance to be proud of in a very busy and complicated narrative.