Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up the audiobook of Nine Princes in Amber because it was an Audible daily deal, and I've been meaning to read the Amber books for years. I thought it would give me a nice start.
It is, indeed, a start. It actually reads like a prequel novel: all setup, very little payoff.
The story starts with our hero waking in a hospital bed, and taking out the orderly who's come to medicate him. Using just his wits and a kind of supernatural strength, he soon confronts a doctor, steals enough money to go visit the person who's paid for his hospital stay, gets some real clothes, and goes to meet his sister.
Gradually, his memories start to return, and we finally get a name. He's called Corwin, and he's part of a magical family destined to rule Amber, the greatest city in the world. To do that, he has to depose his brother Eric, who may be the most powerful of them. He recovers his memory, finds some of his brothers, drums up an army, and makes his way toward Amber.
The method of travel to Amber is explained in excruciating detail, yet I never fully understood it. Nor did I understand what was so hard about walking the maze he uses to recover his memories. It's supposed to be so difficult that only a Prince of Amber can walk it, but its difficulty eluded me.
In the end, Corwin winds up set back even farther than where we started. The point, apparently, was to introduce the reader to Amber and its magic systems. By the end, we don't even know what magical quest Corwin will have to complete in order to go up against his brother with better odds.
The oddest thing about this book was the language. It's a curious mix of archaic language mixed with modern (for the 1970s) slang. It led to some truly excruciating exchanges among the characters.
I'll probably read the next book, mostly because these are such quick reads, and to see if it gets any better. The narrator, who read in a noir, rapid-fire patter, may have detracted from my enjoyment of this book, though I have no other complaints about his delivery. It seemed true to what was written.
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