Audiobook Review: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
Series: Book #1 of The Chronicles of Amber
Publisher: Avon Books (April 1970)
Author Information: Goodreads
Tiara’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Narrator: Alessandro Juliani | Length: 5 hrs and 31 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios (July 31, 2013) | Whispersync Ready: No
That cover. The 70s and 80s must’ve been a time to be alive if you were SFF author. Despite how I may feel about the books that came from that era, a unique crop of stories emerged from that time. Thanks to a recent Audible sale I was able to snag the first book in Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber series, which came recommended, from some people. I figured this could serve as my cautious first step into the series without committing to the omnibus.
A man, Corwin, wakes in a hospital with no recollection of his memories. He knows that he’s been in a car accident that should’ve been lethal. However, he doesn’t know why or how the accident occurred. He knows that the medical staff in the facility he’d been confined to had been using too much sedative to keep him under for some reason. He learns that his sister has been paying for his stay, so it’s with this knowledge his adventure begins as he tries to remember who he is and complete the path to power that he’s begun. Corwin is an exiled prince vying for control over his homeland Amber, a version of earth from which all other earthly realities are imperfectly copied. Their father has been missing for years and thought dead. Only a few brothers are believed to have a reasonable chance of claiming the throne, including Corwin. The other siblings act as pawns in the game, changing alliances as needed, giving support to one brother over another as it suits them.
When I started reading this, I wasn’t sure if I subscribed to the reasoning behind all this infighting between the siblings. On one hand, having the king’s children fighting over his throne is to be expected, but on the other hand, after a few revelations, I started asking, “To what end?” After about midway through the book, it started to feel like the real reason they’re fighting over the throne is because of the status symbol it’ll give them. I’m not sure if I even believe it’s worth all the effort they’re expending on it and each other. It’s petty and immature, and maybe that’s what Zelzany was going for–to show the fickle nature of these characters more than trying to get me invested in this story about a king’s abdicated throne and his warring children. People have fought for much less than a throne.
I don’t think I ever became too attached to any character, least of all Corwin. Okay, maybe that’s not completely true. I do think the ending did wonders in making me feel like I could like Corwin more if I kept reading. Most of Corwin’s siblings, aside from a few, aren’t in the story long enough for them to matter to me. I found elements of the story more interesting than the struggle between the characters such as the explanation of the Pattern, learning more about the trumps (playing cards), the shadows, etc. Zelazny really excelled there with his take on the magic of this world. Most of my rating comes from the fact that I liked the ideas he used in the story, and I can actually see why writers are inspired by his work in that sense.
The narration. Let’s see how I can condense this without falling into giggles. I’d read that these audiobooks are an improvement over Zelazny’s own self-narration of the story that existed for years. While I certainly have no quarrel with Alessandro Juliani, I can’t say that I cared for his narration of this book. It wasn’t terrible exactly. It just seemed strange, and it didn’t do the story any favors either. Some of the dated language sounded so stilted and silly coming from Juliani. His narration made it hard for me to take this story seriously, and that peppered my overall view of this book.
I’m still on the fence about this one. Admittedly, I probably should’ve gotten the omnibus and just read the whole thing rather than taking it bit by bit like this. While I spent much of this book with one skeptical eyebrow raised, I did like the ending considerably. It felt like the book had finally reached a comfortable stride and I was just beginning to really get lost in the story when this first book ended, which means I’ll probably be reading the next book soon.