333 of 344 people found the following review helpful
Roger Zelazny wrote many popular and award-winning books during his long and distinguished writing career (e.g., "Lord of Light" and "Madwand.") Truth be told, though, I didn't care for most of them. They seem too esoteric and not particularly interesting to me. Ah, but then there's the Amber series. Now that's a different story!
If I told you that this is the best series of books that I've ever read (and I've read thousands of books), would you believe me? Probably not. But it's true. Zelazny captured lightning in a bottle when he wrote these 10 books--I only wish there were a hundred!
The 10 books of the Chronicles of Amber (collected here at last in a single volume!) are divided into two separate, interlocked series. The first tells the adventures of Corwin, Prince of Amber; the second, those of his son Merlin. If you twisted my arm, I'd say that the first series is better than the second. But read them yourself and you can decide.
Amber is one of the most intricate, original, and fascinating fantasy worlds you will ever find outside of Tolkien. It is a world of magic, science, illusions, and reality. The basic principle is that the universe consists of an infinite number of parallel worlds, all of which are echoes and reflections (called Shadows) of the one true city of Amber. The people, cultures, traditions, histories, even the physics of those Shadows exist in a multitude of varying degrees. Whatever kind of world or time or place you're looking for, it exists somewhere in Shadow. (Earth as we know it, for example, is merely one Shadow.)
The only people who can move freely throughout those Shadows are the Princes and Princesses of Amber, the Royal blood of the ruling family; a large collection of siblings of various ages and dispositions who find it very hard to get along. That is where the brilliance of the Amber series comes in: the endless struggles, alliances, betrayals, and machinations of this very driven and political family who all want to gain control of Amber. Clausewitz would be proud of the ruthless cunning displayed by this clan. Their battles and adventures make for incredible reading.
I'm not going to try to describe the plots of the books to you. Part of the joy of this series is the fascination of discovery. I return to these books every few years and read them again with joy and awe. I can think of no other group of books that I would recommend so highly to you. They are to be read and cherished, again and again. Buy a copy today!
175 of 181 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2000
These ten books compiled into one are simply some of the greatest, most imaginative, and mind-blowing fantasy ever written. (What was the late great Roger Zelazny smoking when he began this series back in 1970?) "Nine Princes in Amber" is the first in a series of ten books chronicling the ever-feuding bloodlines of the House of Amber -- the true kingdom of Order in the Universe -- and the struggle with its eternal nemesis: the Courts of Chaos. The protagonist of the first five books, Prince Corwin, is all at once fallible, noble & just and wise-cracking, street smart. His son, Merlin, continues the saga in the closing five. Zelazny has created a universe so original, and dozens of characters so rich that it truly boggles the mind. And instead of whisking us off to some remote fairyland, he combines modern day Earth (a mere shadow world) with his infinitely rich universe. For starters, where else are you going to find MIB's (Men in Black), a fast food chain called "Kentucky Fried Lizzard Partes", teleporting Tarot cards and swordfights all in the same book! I agree with many others that only Tolkien and perhaps Frank Herbert have managed to create such intricate, compelling worlds. Roger, we will sorely miss you.
117 of 127 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have loved Zelazny's Amber series for many years now, and recently tried to find all of the novels again, only to learn that many are out of print. But with the "Great Book of Amber" all of the Amber books are in one volume.
This volume includes the original Amber series, in which Prince Corwin is the central character relearning his place in the monarchy and dissecting the politics and palace intrigues. The royal family draws its power from the Pattern in Amber, Amber being the original world from which all other universes are mere shadows and combinations.
The second Amber series is included as well, in which Corwin's son is the central character. He is a prince of both Amber and Chaos, and is a master of both Amber's powers (the Pattern) and the magical/wizardly powers of Chaos.
I love the magic and the epic nature of the adventures, and each individual novel within the series is a wonderful read. The volume as a whole builds a world and a saga that will stick with you for ages after you've read it.
If you like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, you'll probably enjoy this volume as well.
58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2000
It's great that the Amber series is finally all in one volume. The only better fantasy series is the Lord of the Rings, and the Amber books are an easier and more involving read. The books are about the royal families of the universes which underlie all other realities. Family plotting, escapades, wars, and love interests involving play out smoothly, revealing layer after layer of detail over time. Plots, counterplots are everywhere; motivations both base and lofty keep the characters complex and involving. The central characters (Corwin, a prince of Amber, and his sorcerer son, Merlin, a prince of Chaos) have powers far above human, yet they and their families' foibles are all too human and easy to sympathize with. This is an examination of power and influence far removed from the human world, although our modern (and sometimes historical) Earth figures prominently in the tales. As is typical with Zelazny, deep, intelligent characters, smart dialog, brilliant and innovative use of language, and unmatched flights of imagination abound. Amber is a true original, quite different from any of its predecessors, and is the perfect example of epic fantasy with a modern twist. Its enormous plot, scope, and characters simply are as good as fantasy gets.
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 1999
This book is your passport to the real world, of which all others are reality-warped Shadows. From the moment strong, handsome Corwin awakens in a hospital, amnesic and possessed of strange powers, the plot kicks into high gear. On pure instinct and bluff he bulls his way into a wild hell-ride towards the ultimate reality, regaining his name and pride along the way. In Amber, the capitol of the real world, Corwin's brother Eric reigns uneasily, wondering when Corwin will return for revenge. Corwin falls easily into his brothers' eternal and unchanging round of wars and plots, but with a difference: years on the Shadow called Earth have taught him humility and humanity, and tempered his pride with wisdom. After centuries of youth he is becoming a man at last and fit to rule, but can anyone without the lost secrets of King Oberon or his wizard Dworkin keep the throne against the dark forces of Chaos? Corwin must unite his kingdom and conquer his own internal chaos in order to survive, and possibly to save the universe. The second series follows Corwin's son Merlin, whose approach to magic is completely different from Corwin's due to his upbringing in the Courts of Chaos. Merlin must find his father and understand what lies beneath reality in order to save Amber and Chaos alike. The books are filled with strange beauty and eerie magic, as playing cards talk and prisoners escape into pictures, and with amazing ideas and places, cities in the sky and undersea. This is vintage Zelazny, and some of the best; almost impossible to describe. Anyone who's never read these books is in for a treat, and for those who have it's a great chance to get them all together and read them again. It's a long hellride to the brink of Chaos. Better get started soon.
55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
"The Great Book of Amber" combines all ten of Roger Zelazny's Princes of Amber novels into one volume, and I wish he were still alive to continue the series with number eleven. Parts of his Amber novels were serialized in the SF/Fantasy magazines of the 1970s, and it shows in his adventure-a-minute, cliff-hanging writing style. I also understand that DC Comics was going to do a series on Amber, and I think that would work, too, because Zelazny's writing is very visual, character-driven, and episodic in nature. He was one of the great fantasy writers of the last four decades, and he collected the hardware to prove it: six Hugos; two Locus Poll awards; three Nebulas; one Apollo; and two Balrog trophies. I originally read each of his Amber novels as they were published, and having all of the stories collected into one volume certainly makes it easier to keep track of the machinations and counter-plots and vendettas of Amber's homicidal First Family.
The Amber novels start out as a chronicle of a royal family feud as narrated by Corwin, son of King Oberon and presumptive heir to the throne of Amber (if his immortal father should ever die). Corwin has spent the last three hundred years on Earth (which is a mere shadow of the one real world of Amber) in a state of amnesia, courtesy of one of his eight scheming siblings. He manages to survive the Great Plague of London, numerous wars, and an addiction to chain-smoking before his would-be murderer shifts through the shadows from Amber to Earth and tries to kill him again, this time via an automobile accident. Corwin survives the car crash and starts to regain his memory of who and what he is. His return to Amber and the search for his would-be assassin drives the plot from "Nine Princes in Amber" through "The Courts of Chaos". Then, after five books, Corwin's son Merlin takes over the narrative.
Whereas Corwin was a hard-boiled, wise-cracking 40's kind of guy who was irresistible to women and possessed supernormal physical prowess, his son Merlin is a kinder, gentler 60's kind of guy who is irresistible to women and possesses supernormal physical prowess. He doesn't fight nearly as many duels or kill nearly as many folks as his father did. Zelazny's Royal Amberites are affable, interesting, and even noble at times. However, they are supermen so don't expect too much in the way of character development. The women are especially two-dimensional: beautiful and ineffectual, for the most part although they do evolve into something a bit more interesting as the series continues.
The real reason to read "The Great Book of Amber" is the journey through the parallel worlds of Shadow. The notion of shifting to a slightly different reality as you walk or drive or ride is endlessly fascinating. Zelazny is at his most lyrical as the shadow of a tree turns from black to emerald or another sun appears in the sky. When travelling through Shadow with him, it is hard for me to remember whether I'm awake and reading, or asleep and dreaming of an effortless, exotic, changing reality.
If Coleridge took opium to dream of Xanadu, what did Zelazny take to dream of Amber?
You really ought to journey through Shadow with this fine author at least once in your life.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Let me start by saying that the Amber series is truly a work of art. I have read and enjoyed the entire series (and all the short stories I could find). I recommend that everyone read these books. That said, this edition is terrible. The quality of the binding is poor (my copy had pages falling out when I first opened it). Their are also a number of errors in this edition, that are not present in other editions, from simple typographical errors, to entire paragraphs being left out. If you can get the series in no other way, then get this book. Try to get the previous editions first, however. You will be glad you did.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 1999
I nearly cried the day I learned that Roger Zelazny had passed; I knew that there could never be another Amber novel again...
This compilation is a "must-have" for any serious science fiction/fantasy enthusiast. It details the adventures of a family of god-like beings from the "One True Realm" -- Amber. Corwin, a Prince of Amber and the primary character of the first 5 novels (referred to as the "Chronicles of Amber"), is the quintessential epic hero. He fails as often as he succeeds, he often finds himself in far over his head, and ultimately comes to the realization that he must subjugate his own personal goals for the "greater good". The second 5 novels deal with the antics of Corwin's son, Merlin. And though his possesses great powers, much like his father in the first series he finds himself involved (many times as a pawn) in a struggle of epic proportions that he does not full understand.
I have introduced countless friends to the joys of Zelazny's work in the 15+ years since I first read the "Chronicles of Amber"; my copies of those novels still sit on my shelf, battered and dog-eared, ready to be loaned out to the next friend who says, "Roger Zelazny? Who's that?"
Don't be afraid of this book's monstrous size; Zelazny's writing in engaging -- it will suck you in such that you won't want to put it down. The plot is convoluted -- not that it is confusing; quite to the contrary. It keeps you thinking you know what's going on, only to find out 2 chapters later you were dead wrong. Wonderfully suprising!
If you can find it, do yourself the favor and buy "The Visual Guide to Castle Amber" as well. Don't read it until after you've read the 10 novels; after you've looked at the "Visual Guide", then go back and read them all again!
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2000
I went though an obsessive Amber phase a couple of years ago having devoured the first five books of this series. It got so bad that friends (who hadn't yet read the series) complained of harrassment - with some justification - I did everything but hold a gun to their heads. And I only refrained from doing that because guns are illegal over here. However, their reaction once initiated proves the old adage that there's no greater zealot than the converted.
The superlatives, however, relate to the first series. I was intensely disappointed with the second series - not because it was all that bad (it was actually quite a lot better than most fantasy I've read recently), but because it didn't reach up to the standards of the first (difficult, I know). The fault probably lies with the simple fact that Merlin is a much less interesting character than Corwin is - and that's an understatement. He's one of those cardboard fantasy characters who become too powerful to be interesting. A lot of the attraction of the first five books lies in Corwin's complexity - neither a complete hero nor villain - and the fact that he is far from the most powerful, or even the most devious character around (although he's pretty damn good). Also, the ending to the second series has a tacked on feel, so much so that I wasn't completely sure that it was the end, and the plot is less coherent.
That said, even the second five books are still well worth reading for a welcome return to Amber. And it would be very difficult to top Corwin - as any straight, red-blooded female would agree...
P.S. Question: This will probably reflect really badly on me as a discerning reader - but does anyone else skip the travelling through shadow bits because they're too impatient to get back to the story? Also, why is it that so many blokes have crushes on Fiona (not that I can talk, having a soft spot for Mander)?
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2000
I read the first Amber series when I was 14, thinking it would be a simple sword and sorcery tale. By the time I had finished it, I was literally in tears...I couldn't believe my adventure with Corwin was over. Now I am 31 and rereading the first series from this volume and looking forward to the second.
The most wonderful thing is how deep you become immersed over time. The potential for emotional involvement on the part of the reader is extremely high for a work of fantasy. The first book, Nine Princes in Amber, is a fun introduction, but you are soon given entry into a much more complicated situation than you were expecting. The changes and new information are always intriguing. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a involved and unique fantasy adventure.