The Courts of Chaos: Corwin’s psychedelic hellride

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Courts of Chaos by Roger ZelaznyThe Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

The Courts of Chaos is the very short last installment of the CORWIN CYCLE of THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER and the fifth volume of the entire series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ve got no business here — go away. I don’t want to ruin it for you. Go read the first book, Nine Princes in Amber, and continue on from there.

OK. So Oberon is back and we learn that he’s been manipulating events all along. Now he’s on the throne, which is fine with Corwin because after Eric’s death he’s decided he doesn’t want to sit there anyway. Corwin’s concern is with repairing the pattern that Brand destroyed when he let the forces of Chaos into Amber. To heal the land, someone must sacrifice himself and Corwin is willing, but Oberon insists on making the decisions. He wants Corwin to take the Jewel of Judgment through Shadow so it will be ready to help them during the battle with Chaos. Meanwhile, Oberon intends to fix the pattern himself.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCorwin’s psychedelic hellride through Shadow is long and sometimes tedious as Corwin vividly describes the surreal landscape, reminisces about the past, and becomes introspective as he ponders how he, and his relationship with his family members, has changed. After the constant plot twists in the last few books, some readers may be glad for the leisurely pace, but I eventually became bored with metallic trees and zebra-stripe skies. Short but welcome action segments occur when Corwin encounters murderous leprechauns, a gallant knight, a seductive woman, a talking tree, a philosophical raven, and a treacherous jackal. When he finally reaches the Courts of Chaos, the last battle with a nebulous enemy ensues. Compared to all that’s gone on before, these final scenes are a bit anticlimactic and even start to feel like a bad soap opera when the unicorn shows up to crown the next ruler and a sibling who’s supposed to be dead reappears.

I didn’t enjoy The Courts of Chaos as much as I enjoyed the earlier AMBER novels, mainly because of the long surreal hellride, but it’s a short book that concludes Corwin’s story, so it’s kind of a must-read for anyone who’s read this far in this immensely popular old SFF series. As with previous AMBER novels, Roger Zelazny throws several literary and mythological allusions into this installment. The next five AMBER books make up the MERLIN CYCLE which is narrated by Corwin’s son Merlin. I read them many years ago and only recall that they weren’t as good as the CORWIN CYCLE. I’m not sure if I’ll read them again, though I probably will if I see them on sale at Audible. These have been very nice productions.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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