Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
Exiled to the Shadows for centuries, a man more than mortal awakens in an Earth hospital with no memory of his past and is surrounded by enemies who hunger for his destruction. For Corwin is the rightful successor to the throne of the real world. But to rule, he must conquer impossible realities and demonic assassins . . . and survive the most insidious malevolence imaginable wrought by his own family.
This is a fun, quick fantasy. It also features one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve ever met.
Having Corwin wake up with amnesia is an interesting technique. It allows us to learn about his world and family at the same time he does. As he figures out how walking in the Shadows works, so do we. As he tries to figure out who he can trust and who he can’t, so do we. Of course, he can’t trust anyone. When your siblings can be your worst enemies or, at best, your helpers only for the time being, you know that it’ll be an uphill rode to claiming the throne.
This is the first of the Amber Chronicles. It’s quick-paced, with lots of action and intrigue. Corwin is a definitely a flawed hero, but what can you expect, given his family. All the males are either vying for the throne or positions of power. The women don’t seem as interested in the throne itself, although I’m sure they have their own agendas. Eric is the current holder of the throne and not a very nice guy.
The magic of Amber is interesting. Amber is the “immortal city from which every other city has taken its shape.” All other worlds, including Earth, are shadows of reality. The royal family has the ability to walk in and alter these Shadows. In addition, Corwin has the ability to heal incredibly quickly, which definitely helps in this story.
I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Zelazny and this is no exception. It was originally published in 1970, I believe. It is short, though, and doesn’t resolve anything at the end. Luckily, I read it in The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 that I bought not too long ago, so I’ll be able to read the next, Guns of Avalon, soon. From sneaking a peek at the first page of it, it seems to pick up pretty much where Nine Princes leaves off.