Thursday, January 28, 2010

Amber 03: Sign of the Unicorn--full review (Zelazny)

Rating: 5/5
Year: 1975
Genre: Fantasy
Read again? Yes

It's been a week since the battle at the end of "The Guns of Avalon." Corwin is nominally in charge, but he refuses to take the throne of Amber. His hated brother Eric died--and with him went Corwin's ambitions for ruling Amber. Besides, there are more important matters.

Caine--one of the remaining princes--is dead, his throat cut; Corwin returns to the palace with the body of his own prime suspect, a shadowy man like those who were chasing Random at the beginning of the series.

He gets the story from Random: he had been off losing himself in a Shadow that catered to his own interests. Gambling, women, smoky Jazz clubs to play drums in, great thermals for flying a night during a card game, one of the cards seemed to speak. It was Brand, chained in a tower a great distance away from Amber, and he begged Random for deliverance from his prison.

Random set out to try a rescue only to be thwarted, so he did the prudent thing and bailed out of there, chased by a bunch of shady men who did the impossible: they followed him through Shadow. He managed to reduce their numbers in several fights, but the six who survived followed him right to Flora's house in upstate New York, where the amnesiac Corwin was staying.

Corwin gathers the remaining family members and announces his plan to rescue Brand from that tower. It works, but someone stabs Brand--and then Corwin himself is knifed in his own bedroom.

Things only get more complicated from there; Corwin learns that Brand, Bleys and Fiona had formed a cabal with the intent of taking the throne of Amber away from their father, King Oberon. Eric, Julian and Caine formed their own cabal in opposition. Corwin is told that Bleys shot out his tire, causing the wreck that put him in the hospital where he awoke in the first book.

The chess game of Amber politics continues! Now there's a murder mystery, two attempted murders, a conspiracy against King Oberon (who's still missing), and Corwin's own back-story, all puzzles to be solved. He gets some new pieces to work with, but every time he seems to get some of them in their proper places, something happens to shift the entire thing again.

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