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Sign of the Unicorn is the third 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.
Accepting the responsibilities as ruler to the world of Amber, Corwin finds himself the target of sibling treachery, and must seek guidance in a land of visions, where a sinister prediction foretells his doom.
Originally posted at FanLit.
Sign of the Unicorn is the third novel in Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER. At the end of the previous novel, 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.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
There are a lot of positive reviews popping up in support of this rendition of the Chronicles Of Amber. They are well deserved. Very original and at times very funny. The narration is excellent.
Roger Zelazny also wrote an excellent novel called the Lord Of Light and it was available through Audible in the not too distant past. Right now it is unavailable. As much as I am loving Amber, I think the Lord Of Light might be better and I encourage you all to request it as it is definitely in my top 5 and it should not be lost in the shuffle of publishing rights mumbojumbo. Request on, faithful readers/listeners.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
"...inside stories seldom live up to one’s expectations. Usually they are grubby little things, reducing down to the basest of motives when all is known. Conjectures and illusions are often the better possessions.”
― Roger Zelazny, Sign of the Unicorn
Another solid Zalzny fanasy novel (they are practically novellas). It is 3/10 in the Chronicles of Amber decalog, or 3/5 in the Corwin pentalogy. The family drama of finding the King/Father and understanding the Pattern, the darkness that is invading Amber. A bulk of the novel centers on a family meeting (a meeting of siblings) in Amber. It allows for stories to get told, and more of the background of what is going on to gradually unfold.
Again, like the previous novel in the series, I'm still kinda luke warm towads it. It is good enough for a diversion, but I'm not seeing anything here that is either hyper-literary or revolutionary. It is B+ escapist fare (so far). Good enough that I have no issue coming back to it between other reads, but I'll have to decide if I want to just read the pentalogy or if I'll actually read the entire decalog. We will see.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Sign of the Unicorn the most enjoyable?
The book is made to be listened to. Zelazny's books are narratives, told by the main character. It's like sitting with Corwyn as he is telling his story.
What other book might you compare Sign of the Unicorn to and why?
Off the top of my head, I would say Tolkien's Ring saga. Those books also set an atmosphere where magic is natural and characters are larger than life.
Which character – as performed by Alessandro Juliani – was your favorite?
As in all of the first five books, the voice of the book is Corwyn's. He is my favorite, although I am kind of partial to Fiona, as well.She is one of the strongest female characters in the books.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes, the plot is intricate, full of twists and surprises. It is hard to break off the story.th
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Sign of the Unicorn to be better than the print version?
A great performance to one of my favorite series from one of the best fantasy writers. Any of the young listeners to get to know one of the best writers in America.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Corwin is just the glue that pushes this story along.
Which scene was your favorite?
Tough to pin down just one but I love the interaction between Corwin and Random. Great banter.
Any additional comments?
As a young man I spent a great deal of my time reading the Chronicles of Amber. I became Corwin in his Adventures to Amber and into shadow. Sign of the Unicorn points us towards the climax of the chronicles. This reading, sorry, performance is just how it played out in my mind. Great job.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I have enjoyed the book and the story. well written and entertaining. very well done
I Loved it and I couldn't put the novel away. I can't wait to get to the next book.
This narrator's normal voice for Corwin is just fine to listen to. Not great, but nothing wrong with it. His voices for every other character are utterly intolerable Looney Tunes voices. Worst of all is Random. Unfortunately, Random has a fairly big speaking part in book three. It's a cross between Spongbob and Urkel. The only way I could get through it was at 1.5x speed. But, if you like Zelazny, hang in there until book 6 on. The narration gets a much needed change for the better.
He who read this story made the tale come alive for me. Thank you.
I shall continue to listen so long as he continues to read the story to me.
First of all, DON'T START READING WITH THIS BOOK. Go back and read Nine Princes in Amber first! Then pick up Guns of Avalon. This book is #3 and it is not a stand-alone.
I still enjoy this series despite a long-standing familiarity that threatens to "breed discontent" as I recognize some of the messiness in the writing. It's just too easy to forgive the flaws in this series, partially because the writing is energetic and the plot is fast-paced. There no "throw-away" parts of this five-book story.
Sign of the Unicorn is a bridge plot that pays off some of the mysteries seeded in books 1 and 2 and sets the stage for the final push of 4 and 5. (If this were Star Wars, Sign of the Unicorn would be The Empire Strikes Back.) A lot happens in this one but it is not a coherent story on its own.
Having established himself on the throne of Amber, Corwin uncovers a plot against his homeland in the form of strange forces from Chaos that, perhaps, had inside help.
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
forget anything else this is a real masterpiece of fantasy and scifi literature. and beyond.
Story – 4/5
I didn’t enjoy this 3rd book quite as much as the other two. Mainly because it seemed to be trying tie up all the loose historical ends with the princes/princesses of Amber ready for what is to come. Random’s story at the start was really long, and probably could have been shorter, but this is already a small story. Saying that, there are some interesting things happening in the story, which are very intriguing, so if this was a middle section of a larger book, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all.
I am glad I got the first 3 novels in a 3 for 2 sale, as it probably isn’t good value for money for 1 credit – where the first 2 probably were….just about.
Performance – 4.5/5
I have given Alessandro Juliani 5/5 up until now, but the large Random story at the start made me realise how annoying that character’s voice is. Don’t get me wrong, it is very fitting to the character’s personality, but it would have been better if toned down a little for what seemed like 1 hour of the audiobook. Other than that – flawless; great voice acting and narration.
Overall – 4/5
Zelazny continues this epic tale with unexpected directions. The protagonist is still discovering his way in a universe that is complex and which Zelazny has not yet introduced completely to his reader (listener), keeping the reader's interest high.
Juliani is a great choire as a narrator, and it has inspired a search into his other works.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful