This is the first in a classic fantasy series. To me, the Amber is even more special because when I read it for the first time over a decade ago, I realized for the first time that fantasy doesn’t have to be medieval but, you know, fantastic.  And so it was quite an honor to start translating it into Finnish.

The first person narrator wakes up in a hospital without any memory of who he is or how he got there. However, soon enough he notices that the staff is trying to keep him sedated. He manages to avoid getting another shot and makes his way to an office where he manages to threaten a doctor to tell him the name and address of his “benefactor” who turns out to be his sister. His own name turns out to be Corey. However, he has not recollection of having a sister. He escapes and makes his way to his sister’s house. There he does recognize her as his sister although not with the name she gives him. There they engage in a weird chess-like discussion when he tries to find out who he is and who his increasingly weird sounding family are. Practically the only thing he remembers is that he knows a lot about anatomy and medicine but he isn’t a doctor and that he remember the name “Amber” even though he doesn’t know who or what that is.

Eventually, he receives a phone call from his brother Random who is being chased by some tough-sounding guys. Random arrives but soon his followers arrive, too. Corey and Random fight quite surreally the non-human guys in her living room. Corey is quite puzzled but still doesn’t want to reveal that to his family. After they win the battle, Corey and Random try to make their way to Amber. Corey drives and Random does something to chance their scenery to weirder and weirder versions of Earth. Corey remembers bits and pieces but now much. Such as that his family is Not Nice and that he should know what is going on. 

Eventually, they rescue their other sister Deirdre and find out that their brother Eric wants to keep them all out of the city of Amber. Random suggests a way to restore Corey’s memory but it’s, of course, dangerous. And the people who chase them are also dangerous.

The Nine Princes of Amber is fast-paces and a real feast of imagination. I wouldn’t have minded if they had explored the alternative Earths some more. I was also a bit surprised by how easily Corey trusts the lead of Random even though he thinks all the time that he shouldn’t. The characters are quite memorable and distinct especially for such a short book. I was a bit disappointed by the treatment of the female characters, though. The sisters weren’t even considered as possible rulers even though they had the same knowledge and skills as their brothers. Instead they were just assigned roles as either helpers or eye candy.

But Amber remains still one of my personal favorite series just because of Zelazny’s imagination.

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