Chapter 4: Disheveled, Random stumbles into Flora's mansion, followed by a gang from the shadows. After a moment for preparation, Flora calls her dogs and a melee begins. Random and Corwin dispatch their foes, humanlike creatures not from Earth. While Flora attends to the staff, Random probes Corwin over the matter of Eric. He agrees to help Corwin against Eric.
Corwin and Random leave New York. When Corwin decides to start his play for Eric's throne, Random takes them on the road to Amber. As the skies and fields change around them, they encounter a series of obstacles. Routing around the roadblock sends the brothers through more strange places, including other planets. Finally, after a bucket of Kentucki Fried Lizzard Partes, Random chances the direct path to Amber.
Along the way, they run into Julian on horseback. After exchanging veiled unpleasantries, Julian allows them to depart, only to ambush Corwin and Random soon after. Corwin captures Julian, releasing him after an interrogation.
Once past the Lighthouse of Cabra, Corwin and Random emerge in the real Earth of Amber. As Corwin dresses for the occasion, he finds a sword and scabbard once thought to be long lost. Fearing ambush as they grow closer to the city, the brothers come across a camp. Another sister, Deirdre, is held captive inside. Corwin rescues her and confesses his amnesia for the first time.
After an attack by werewolves, Random tells Corwin that he must walk the pattern in Rebma to restore his memory. Random would accompany him, if not for the fact that he has upset the occupants of Rebma.
This one chapter serves as the majority of the rising action of Nine Princes in Amber, continuing Corwin's quest to discover more about himself and Amber. It's also one-fifth of the entire length of the novel. In fact, a quick perusal of the page count gives the impression that the story structurally was written in fifths of equal length, with chapters 1-3 as the first, 4 the second, 5, 6 and 7, and finally 8-10. Key events happen at the end of each section: Corwin's announcement of his opposition to Eric, Random's plan to restore Corwin's memory, Corwin and Bleys's declaration of war against Eric, and Corwin's defeat. Additionally, Corwin regained his memories at the exact center of the book. Lining up key parts of the book at the 20%, 40%, 50%, 60%, and 80% points shows deliberate craftmanship by Zelazney and a textbook application of the five act structure. I will discuss the concept in depth in our Chapter 7 review, closer to the actual climax of the book.
In this chapter, Random and Corwin are revealed to be true
brothers as opposed to half-brothers. Kindly chalk this up to Corwin's
memory problems as later books will retcon this
fact. Corwin's actual brother and sister are Eric and Deidre, his
mortal enemy and his favorite sister. The 70s fascination with incest
rears its ugly head here.
Corwin's game of blind-man's bluff with his relatives continued. But while his attempts with Flora were confident and off-the-cuff, we see deliberate move and countermove against Random. His facade is requiring more effort, until he finally abandoned it when he had no more moves.
Pre-amnesia Corwin appears for a moment after Random kills a Shadow man
who challenged him. He grows upset with Random, not for the death, but
because "he was mine to kill." Corwin's return to Amber is feared by
his siblings for good reason.
I thought Julian's "I enjoy slaughtering beasts and I think of my relative constantly" to be a clever and chilling bit of wordplay.
Random moves through Shadow by adding and subtracting elements until he gets where he wants. This explains the increasing yet familiar strangeness on the road to Amber, complete with atmosphere and gravity shifts. As a consequence, this means that fighting in Shadow favors confortation instead of hiding behind a fixed defense. As Random declared at Flora's mansion, "There exists a possibility that they will enter, so they will."
Rebma is the reflection of Amber, not just in setting but in name. Cute naming tricks like this will become an enduring fad in SFF. At least it wasn't the contemporary wanton apostrophe abuse.
On the road to Amber, Random and Corwin shift from speaking English to speaking Thari. Some readers consider this a reference to Shelta Thari, the language of the Irish Travellers, a gypsy-like people also known as Tinkers, as it fits the English and French naming in Amber. (Tinkers will also appear in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.) However, Thari is also the name of a dialect of the Sindh language, which is spoken in a land that some believed to be where the Indo-European languages originated. Zelazny's Lord of Light showed that he was familiar with Indian myth and culture, so it is not impossible that he chose an Indian Thari from the land that is the sun-source of language for the royalty from the sun-source of reality to speak.