Thursday, January 28, 2010

Amber 04: The Hand of Oberon (Zelazny)

Rating: 5/5
Year: 1976
Genre: Fantasy
Read again? Yes

At the end of "Sign of the Unicorn," Corwin, Random and Ganelon found themselves looking upon the Primal Pattern. Now, a new puzzle piece has been added to the mystery: there's a dark blot running from the center of the Pattern outward, like a cloudy spoke on a wheel. The blot runs to the south, in the same direction as the black road Corwin found cutting through Shadow.

Another piece: They find a Trump in the Pattern's center, pierced by a dagger. Who is the man in the picture? Random realizes that it's his own son, Martin. But who drew his picture on the card? Was he killed by the stabbing? It's apparent that his blood caused the damage to the pattern and gave the enemies of Amber the black road upon which to travel.

They return to Amber; Random sets out to find his son. Corwin finds his way to the study of Dworkin, who created the Pattern--and Amber--and drew the Trumps. Dworkin recognizes Brand's style in the Trump drawing.

Why did Brand damage the Pattern? Doing so threatens not only Amber itself but all of Shadow--every other world (including ours) could come to an end. The only way to repair the damage is to use the Jewel of Judgement to re-draw the damaged parts of the Pattern--and Brand is after it as well, for it can also be used to destroy the Pattern.

Can Corwin find the Jewel before Brand does?

Corwin adds a few final pieces to the mystery of the car wreck that laid him up in the hospital. At first, he'd thought that his brother Eric was responsible. Then Brand told him that their brother Bleys had shot out his tire and caused the crash. Now Corwin learns that Brand was the shooter, and all the "rescue" stuff was just Brand trying to find out what Corwin knew, to determine his danger to his plans. Efter centuries of hating Eric enough to try killing him...Corwin realizes that his brother had acted for Corwin's good despite his own hatred.

Very complicated family. Zelazny was a master of making his characters complicated and coflicted, strong and wounded, and believeable.

I just thought of something: Out of all the books (single or series) I've read, Zelazny's "Amber" books are some of the only ones that haven't developed problems after repeated reading. Back in 1995, when I first started reading Lackey's ever-expanding "Valdemar" series, I devoured them, going through the entire set of what I had several times a year. Then apparently the "honeymoon" ended and I went to Valdemar less and less, finding more reading pleasure in greater variety. I even stopped reading the "Amber" books nearly as often. But where "Amber" remains a pleasure to read, the last several times through "Valdemar" grew more and more tedious. I've yet to finish the most-recent read-through (six books left), and I'm not inclined to do so just now.

Besides, I've got another quintet of "Amber" books and some short stories to enjoy before I bother thinking about that's next.

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