Like a Well Worn Amber Shoe

Spoiler Check: I have completed Chapter 5 of “Nine Princes in Amber”, book I of the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

Books The Amber books by Roger Zelazny are easy reading fantasy. Short and fast-paced, they create a visually memorable world populated with memorable (if sometimes over the top) characters. And if you think I’m overusing the word “memorable” I can only say that it is decades since I first read this series yet I retained a strong picture of Amber along with Corwin (in his trademark black and silver) and his numerous siblings. I had not though given any thought to the Amber Chronicles in years until my memory was jogged by Jo Walton in her stunning fantasy story “Among Others” which, aside from ranking as probably the most enjoyable book I’ve read in many a year, serves as a vehicle for the author’s reminiscences about her favourite sci-fi and fantasy books from her youth. Roger Zelazny gets a mention for “Creatures of Light and Darkness” which made something of an impression on me although I gather Jo Walton (speaking through the voice of Mor Phelps, the protagonist of Among Others) thought it was rather daft. But the Chronicles of Amber also made it into Mor’s diary, and the series was presented rather more favourably.

So I can say that Jo Walton has done me at least two favours. Not only did I enjoy Among Others immensely, I was reminded of how much I had enjoyed the Amber books and have embarked on a long delayed re-read, starting with Nine Princes in Amber. It is like finding an old, forgotten but much loved pair of shoes. Looking a bit dated but oh, so cosy and comfortable.  And just plain fun.

The writing style is very relaxed.  It is written in unpretentious and slightly creaky 1970s American and belongs to an era when authors weren’t under so much pressure to write 1,000+ page tomes that oozed a sophisticated writing style. The book never drags because it moves the plot forward breezily and there is always something going on to grab the reader’s interest. Zelazny has a very economical style which evokes powerful visual imagery with a minimum of descriptive text. He doesn’t take much time out from the main action to describe people and places – he finds imaginative ways to incorporate descriptions into the narrative.  The result is that you can see Amber, Rebma, the Pattern, the shifting Shadows all bright and clear in your mind as you follow the story, without ever being conscious of how those images got into your head.  And that is the way it should be.


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