The Hand of Oberon: A lot of revelation

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Hand of Oberon by Roger ZelaznyThe Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny

The Hand of Oberon, the fourth book in Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER, continues exactly where the previous book, Sign of the Unicorn, left off. The story was originally serialized in Galaxy Science Fiction and later printed in approximately 180-page installments. Each, therefore, is short and ends at some dramatic moment. These days, we’d probably be annoyed with an author who did this (why buy 10 books when you could just buy two?). For those of you who feel this way, there is an omnibus edition of THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER — I read it years ago — but it’s a bit unwieldy. If you want to listen to the excellent audio versions narrated by Alessandro Juliani, as I’m doing, you’ll need to buy them separately. The ten-book series is divided into two five-book arcs, THE CORWIN CYCLE and THE MERLIN CYCLE, so you’re really only committing to five books if you start the series. You can just read THE CORWIN CYCLE (which I think is better) and decide later if you want to move on to the second arc.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsIn The Hand of Oberon, Corwin has just discovered that the pattern in Amber is not the first pattern. There is a primal pattern, which means that Amber is actually just the first shadow world. The primal pattern has been damaged because someone has spilled royal blood on it. This is allowing the forces of Chaos to enter Amber. Who has done this? Why? And who was the sacrifice? Most importantly, how can the pattern be fixed and is Corwin willing to do what it takes to save Amber from the forces of Chaos? And can he do it before one of his siblings ruins everything?

As with the previous book, there’s a lot of revelation here about Corwin’s family, Dworkin the mage, the Jewel of Judgment, and the metaphysics of Amber, Chaos, and Shadow. Corwin also discovers that he has another disgruntled relative that he didn’t know about before. I’m still disappointed that we’re told how much Corwin loves Amber, but we, as readers, can’t empathize because all we know of Amber is Corwin’s horrible family. I want to love Amber, too, but Zelazny doesn’t really give me a reason to love it.

The Hand of Oberon moves very fast and ends with another big twist. This twist completely astonishes Corwin, but the reader may see it coming. Corwin does seem just a little dense occasionally, but he’s so harried in this installment that I’m willing to cut him some slack and assume he had no time to sit and think. Most readers will want to have the next book, The Courts of Chaos, on hand.

Pay attention to the dungeon scene. Roger Zelazny makes a cameo appearance as a novel-writing guard named Roger.

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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 and conducts brain research 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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