Book Review: Nine Princes in Amber

I sought out this book when I heard it might be turned into a tv-series – and from page one, I could see very clearly why someone would consider this material for a tv-series. This first book in The Chronicles of Amber is written very cinematically. It starts in medias res with a main character waking up in a hospital with amnesia, and progresses from there at full speed through the action. And there’s action aplenty!

Within a few chapters, the basic outline has been sketched out: the main character, Corwin, is a prince of the royal family of Amber, the one “true” city on the “real Earth”, of which all others are shadows. The throne of Amber is up for grabs, and all of his family considers Corwin a prime contender. So of course he contends.

The book is fast paced, and very cinematic. It’s full of scenes that would be easy to transfer onto the screen. At the same time, the plot is pretty straightforward, and quite episodic, going from one location to the next, making chunking it into episodes quite easy.

On the other hand, I also found the chunking to be the books major flaw. The only location that is revisited is Amber, and most of Corwin’s many siblings are encountered once, and then left behind. I would have liked to see more characters return and develop, maybe leaving some to be encountered in future books.

The cinematics also affects the prose. It’s written in a very chatty first person style, with Corwin often addressing a fictional reader directly. This is definitely part of the charm of the book – Corwin is at once charming, witty, and sometimes quite infuriating.

But at the same time, the prose is very sparse. There are few descriptions, and very few circumstances in which the text lingers on a particular part of the world, or of the events. This is certainly a conscious decision on Zelazny’s part, but I would have liked a little more of it.

All in all, I quite enjoyed the book, and I am fully intending to read the second of the series. But in many ways, it is a book that feels unresolved, and the plot and characters a little too simple. I’m hoping the next instalment fixes that.

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