The usual spoiler warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous novels.
This penultimate novel in Roger Zelazny’s famous AMBER CHRONICLES is a mercifully short continuation of the lackluster drama that this series has become since the POV changed from Corwin to his son Merlin.
The story opens after Merlin is fighting a sorcerer named Mask and realizes that Mask is actually his dead girlfriend, Julia. I have to admit that I was surprised at this, though I shouldn’t have been. I fully expected we’d be seeing Julia again, since nobody ever seems to stay dead in this series, but I guess I figured she’d be female when we saw her again. But, Zelazny seems to break all the rules in this story, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that Julia was impersonating a male wizard. (By the way, when I say that Zelazny breaks all the rules, I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean that he breaks all the rules for good storytelling in the last few AMBER books, and that’s really disappointing because some of his other work is brilliant. It could have been so much better than this.)
After this revelation comes a very long talky dinner with Jasra and Mandor in which events of the previous books are re-capped and Merlin gets some new information about Julia and other stuff. Merlin also, unbelievably, figures that he knew Julia was a sorceress all along but that his subconscious mind repressed this as it tried to test her. Yeah, right. Zelazny gave us absolutely no clues about this, nor any foreshadowing. I think he just changed his plan halfway through.
Then Merlin tries to rescue Coral, who was revealed as an Amberite in the last book (big surprise, right?) but she is unconscious somewhere. Then Merlin goes on a quest, realizes that the Pattern and the Logrus are sentient and want him to choose between them, learns about the broken Pattern, has another one of those long boring psychedelic road trips (Zelazny loves these), notices that Ghostwheel, his computer program, is becoming sneaky and manipulative, finds the Jewel of Judgment, discovers where the protective demon came from, etc., etc. Oh, and, as usual, finds out that other people he didn’t expect (but we did) are related to him and runs into a bunch of people who are supposed to be dead. Some other stuff happens, too, involving Luke and his family, which I won’t say because it’s more spoilery.
I don’t watch soap operas, but I suspect that these later AMBER books are what they’re like, which is why I don’t watch them. I thought Knight of Shadows was boring. At this point, I don’t really care about Merlin and his dysfunctional family anymore. If I knew them in real life, I would stay far away for fear of being dragged into their stupid little schemes or finding out I was related to them. I do hope Merlin finds his father, though. I suppose we’ll find out in the last book, Prince of Chaos.
Wil Wheaton continues to be such a sport, giving an animated performance of this boring story. Knight of Shadows is 6 hours long and Wheaton never flagged.
The Chronicles of Amber — (1970-1991) Publisher: Awakening in an Earth hospital unable to remember who he is or where he came from, Corwin is amazed to learn that he is one of the sons of Oberon, King of Amber, and is the rightful successor to the crown in a parallel world.
THE CORWIN CYCLE
THE MERLIN CYCLE