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The Amber Series by Roger Zelazny

Content last modified January 1994


Enthusiasts of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (see minibibliography no. NSS 86-1, March 11, 1986), with its interwoven plots and characters, complicated intrigues, and blend of magic and fantasy, may be similarly entertained by Roger Zelazny's science fiction epic, the Amber series. Zelazny, an American writer of science fiction and short stories and winner of numerous science fiction awards for his innovative techniques, has combined his knowledge of myth and folklore with plenty of riveting action, tense conflict, and vivid characters to create a science fiction/fantasy series that is immensely popular with young adult and adult audiences. In the first five volumes, the story focuses on Prince Corwin, the narrator, as he battles his brothers and sisters for the crown of the real world, Amber, while simultaneously facing threats from invasions of demonic forces and subhuman pursuers. The rival siblings feud with swords, daggers, and sorcery, traveling between Amber and its parallel worlds, one of which is Earth. They often speak to each other by means of decks of playing cards and confound each other by manipulating the landscape and weather conditions at will.

In The Courts of Chaos, the fifth volume of the series, Prince Corwin participates in the final battle of Amber and solves many of the unanswered questions of the previous volumes. This volume was considered the epic's finale until the author published Trumps of Doom in 1985. The sixth volume made the series open-ended. Since then Blood of Amber, Sign of Chaos, and Knight of Shadows have been issued. The nine volumes are most effectively read from first to last. Beginning with a volume in the middle of the series may bewilder the reader, as some volumes start with little or no summarization of past events and plunge immediately into action that relies heavily on details from previous volumes.

Zelazny's work has been published in nine languages including Greek, Hebrew, and Japanese. The Roger Zelazny manuscript collection was established in 1966 at Syracuse University Library.

Following is a list of the books of the Amber series in the order in which they should be read according to Sequels: An Annotated Guide to Novels in Series, Second Edition, 1990. Dates indicate original dates of publication. All of the books listed are available from NLS library collections.

Nine Princes in Amber

Following an attack of amnesia, Corwin realizes that he is one of nine princes and four princesses of the kingdom of Amber. Each of the siblings wants to rule the kingdom, and war breaks out between the brothers. Corwin's brother Eric is about to crown himself king, but Corwin, long exiled to the Shadow Earth, returns to Amber to rightfully claim the throne. 1970

RC 14713

The Guns of Avalon

Corwin's campaign to regain his throne leads him to encounters with the dreaded forces of the Circle of Evil. 1972

BR 2439

RC 14712

The Sign of the Unicorn

The princes of Amber continue their plots and counterplots regarding succession to the throne, weaving in and out of multidimensional worlds that they can manipulate. They are forced to unite temporarily when one of them is held captive by evil beings threatening Amber. 1975

RC 14714

The Hand of Oberon

When King Oberon of Amber vanishes, his sons and daughters, the princes and princesses, must find the murderous traitor in their midst and discover the source of the black road that unites the one true world of Amber with the multidimensional realm of Shadow. Corwin leads his brothers in the search to set things right, while forces work against him. 1976

RC 13238

The Courts of Chaos

Prince Corwin fights the inevitable battle against the Dark Lands from which evil ventures forth. The mystery of Oberon's disappearance is unraveled, and the nature of the magical kingdom of Amber is explored. 1978

RC 15329

Trumps of Doom

This volume focuses on Corwin's son Merlin, a sorcerer who has followed the father he barely knows from their powerful realm of Amber to an Earth that is one of Amber's many shadowy alternate worlds. Attempts on Merlin's life force him to return to Amber, where he becomes embroiled once again in family quarrels and finally confronts the man who has been stalking him. Some strong language. 1985

RC 23776

Blood of Amber

Wizard Merlin Corey escapes prison, but only to return to Amber, a world of wonders and confusions. Is his old friend Luke trying to kill him? A magical female seems to be acting as Merlin's guardian angel--but she can inhabit the body of any woman at any time, so Merlin can neither tell who she is nor trust her. Some strong language. 1987

RC 25583

Sign of Chaos

Merlin Corey follows a confused trail to the Keep of Four Worlds, where he learns the secret of the involvement of the Courts of Chaos in all the intrigues and wars to which he is heir. Some strong language. 1989

RC 27177

Knight of Shadows

Merlin searches for the two people he cares for most, but who have mysteriously disappeared. His father, the first Corwin of Amber is never visible, but makes his presence felt. The other is Julia, once his lover, but now his enemy, after being murdered and reincarnated. Merlin must also choose whether he will serve Chaos or Amber. Some strong language. 1991

RC 32294

Compiled by Ellie Friedman
Revised by Joyce Y. Carter

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Posted on 2014-12-02