Monday, June 27, 2011

The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny

The Guns of Avalon is the second book in the Amber Chronicles. My review of the first book, Nine Princes in Amber, can be found by clicking here.


Part two of the original Chronicles of Amber is a good continuation of the classic “Nine Princes in Amber”.  Corwin’s story follows his journey to Avalon, a shadow realm that he once ruled.  Many years have passed since he left and now he is remembered as a demon prince.  People do not named their children after this ruler from the past.  He pretends to be someone else.  He meets up with and befriends a soldier from his old army.  Another one of the main characters is Dara (the granddaughter of one of Corwin’s brothers).  Dara is a kindred spirit to Corwin.  He sees many of his traits in her.  All she wants to do is go to Amber, walk the Pattern, and gain the abilities that her family possesses.  

Guns cannot fire in Amber.  What Corwin’s family does not know is that a substance in Avalon can be used as gunpowder in Amber.  Corwin plans to build and arm a group of soldiers who will help him take out his brother Eric.  Corwin can then take the throne.

The problems this time around are presented by the Black Road.  It is a gateway that allows demons to enter Avalon.  

The Guns of Avalon was very good but it was a step down from the first story.  Part of that is due to the first book introducing many new ideas.  The second book in a series always suffers in comparison.  

Zelazny does plant some clues to the true identity of some of the characters.  I missed them the first time I read the series but, in retrospect, one of the clues is definitely in the book.  He draws on his love of Raymond Chandler’s mysteries with the clue about his missing father.  Zelazny continues to write this as a pulp noir type of story.  Corwin narrates “The Guns of Avalon” in a style that is reminiscent of Chandler.  He also uses similar pulp tools to keep the action moving to drive the story to it’s conclusion.

Another author who wrote a similar type fantasy series is Michael Moorcock with his Eternal Champion series.  It also features parallel worlds and a battle between order and chaos.  I am considering re-reading and reviewing at least some of the arcs in his series when I am done with the Amber books.  In the seventies, the Elric books were second only to the Amber books in my opinion.

Is this the end of Corwin’s tale?  No.  Three more books continue the quest to answer many of the questions left at the end of this book.  What happened to Oberon(Corwin’s father)?  Will Corwin be able to stop the demon creatures’ invasion?  What really happened to Brand?  Will Corwin be able to unite Amber and find a way to stop the forces of Chaos?  Books three through five address these questions.  Corwin’s son, Merlin, is the focus of books six through ten.  I also plan on reviewing the short stories that Zelazny wrote in this universe.

Next up on my Amber reading list will be “Sign of the Unicorn”.  This was my introduction to the writing of Roger Zelazny.  I originally read it as a serial in the Jim Baen edited Galaxy Magazine. 




3 comments:

adamosf said...

I reread Nine Princes in Amber a few months ago, intending to read the entire extended series. Now you've reminded me to read the second book. Hopefully you'll keep reading the Amber books, so it'll remind me to keep reading them too, lol.

Jugular Josh said...

Excellent review (though a minor correction, the character's name is Dara and not Daria). Guns of Avalon is far and away my favorite of the Amber books.

I feel it's a superior sequel in the vein of the Empire Strikes back, where the creator has laid the groundwork in the first book and really has the chance to explore the world he's created.

It has so many of my favorite scenes. I think the part where he's talking with the demon Strygalldwir is when Corwin is at his most iconic, but I think that last time he meets with Benedict may be the best writing in the Chronicles, period.

Jim Black said...

Thank you for correcting me on Dara's name. The misspelling was due to writing when I was tired.
It is corrected now.