Warning, from me: If you haven’t read Nine Princes in Amber yet, don’t read this review.
Another warning, from Corwin: “Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers.”
Corwin has escaped from his brother’s prison and he’s ready for revenge. He doesn’t have the manpower that Eric has, so he needs a technological advantage. Traditional firearms don’t work in Amber, but Corwin once noticed that a jewelers’ rouge from the shadow world of Avalon, where he used to rule, is combustible in Amber. So here’s his plan: get some money (pretty easy to do when you can create your own worlds), purchase a huge amount of jeweler’s rouge, and commission some custom-made firearms that use the rouge to shoot silver bullets (he’s not sure other metals will work). Oh, and raise an army. No problem!
The problem is that Eric may no longer be the biggest threat in Amber. Because of Corwin’s curse, Amber is being assailed by the forces of Chaos. The evil is also manifest in the shadow worlds that Corwin is trying to exploit and he must frequently stop and deal with the nasty creatures it serves up. Along the way Corwin meets old friends and enemies, makes new friends and enemies, and does at least one more impetuous thing that will come back to bite him later.
In The Guns of Avalon (1972), Corwin, who had gained our sympathies in Nine Princes in Amber because of how he was treated by Eric, becomes something of an anti-hero. Because of his rash actions, beautiful Amber has been invaded by horror. Corwin realizes that he has caused much destruction, he knows he has wrought evil, and he tells himself that he hopes to destroy more evil than he creates. The reader begins to wonder, however, if Corwin is blinded by hate for his brother. Is Corwin’s claim to the throne legitimate enough to justify all the death and terror that he’s caused? We’re certainly not convinced that Corwin would be a better King than Eric is. Corwin is a rather ambiguous hero.
Still, it’s hard not to root for Amber, if not for Corwin himself. Roger Zelazny has created a magical world that we’re eager to explore, preferably in a time of peace. We haven’t had much chance to do so yet since we’ve only seen it from Corwin’s perspective, and that means that for most of the time we’ve been in Amber, we’ve been in the dungeon. At the end The Guns of Avalon Zelazny leaves us with many questions unanswered and two major twists. You’ll want to have the next book, Sign of the Unicorn, ready to go.
I’m listening to Alessandro Juliani narrate Audible Frontiers’ version of The Guns of Avalon. He’s doing a great job, though I did not like the Southern drawl that he chose for two of the major characters (they call it “Ambuh”). It didn’t seem appropriate. With so many characters, I think he feels that he must give each a distinctive voice, so to do that he’s using unlikely accents or vocal properties (e.g., hoarseness or high pitch) to make them unique. I think that’s a mistake, but other than that, his reading is very good.