Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nine Princes in Amber, Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Three days of travel later, Deidre, Random, and Corwin reach the beach where the Stairway to Rebma begins.  A horn sounds, and horsemen drive them into the water.  They descend the underwater stairway, chased by the horsemen.  At the gates of Rebma, Corwin and Random make a stand.  Relieved by footmen from the city, the princes run to the gate.

Inside Rebma, the Court of Amber is brought before Moire, the queen of the realm.  She agrees to let Corwin walk the Pattern, but Random must stay in Rebma for a year in penance for the death of Moire's daughter, Random's one-time fling.  Random agrees, and will also marry a blind girl named Vialle.

After receiving the queen's blessing and affections, Corwin is escorted to the Pattern, a maze of swirls the size of three football fields.  He steps off, and the Pattern comes alive in a spray of sparks.  He pushes first the First Veil, first in a series of obstacles, and memories of WWII, the French Revolution, Shakespeare, and China flood back.  He recalls a special memory of walking through England during the Black Plague, and realizes that he has been without his memory for just as long.  The Second Veil restores memory of his family, including the ten dead siblings, and then memories of the city of Amber itself.  The way through the Pattern grows more difficult until he passes through the Final Veil.  His memories and powers restored, Corwin uses the pattern to transport himself to Amber.

In Amber's library, Corwin steals a pack of Trumps.  After declaring his intent for the throne of Amber to an old retainer, Dik, Corwin runs across Eric.  Their meeting devolves into a duel.  The two princes bloody each other, but Corwin escapes before Eric's retinue can overwhelm him.  In hiding, Corwin uses the Trumps to contact Bleys, who reaches out and pulls Corwin from Amber into Shadow.  The two brothers set aside their own competition for the throne to depose Eric.


Random has a son, Martin, from a fling with Morganthe, Moire's daughter.  In the greater story of the Chronicles of Amber, You Will See This Again.  The seeds for the greater conflict that will fill the five books of the Corwin cycle are starting to be planted where the reader can see them.


Rebma is on the same Earth of Amber, so Moire and her followers are of the same Substance as the Court of Amber.  Corwin's compassion for Vialle, expressed in his use of incentives to keep Random from running out on her, is different from that later expressed for his Shadowmen warriors in that Vialle, to Amberites, is Real in ways that that Shadowmen are not.  However, this compassion exhibited prior to Walking the Pattern contrasts with Corwin's callous abandonment of his family, who are as Real as Vialle, after he gets his memory back.  Prior to regaining his memories, glimpses of the ruthless Corwin of Amber shone through the amnesiac Carl Corey.  Soon, though, readers will find that the more compassionate Corey leavens the ruthless pragmatism of Corwin.

Heightening the weirdness of the underwater city of Rebma is Corwin's description of the underwater fight.  Blood poured from wounds like red smoke at a depth of over fifty feet.  However, as any diver can attest, blood is green at depth since red light gets absorbed quickly by the dense water.  It is to Zelazny's credit that this description is wondrous and weird, instead of reading as  ignorance.  After all, Corwin is fighting mounted cavaliers on an underwater staircase that allows people to breath water while they tread upon it.  It's just further proof that the Earth of Amber has different rules than our Shadowed home.


Walking the Pattern is the turning point for the plot of Nine Princes in Amber.  Without Corwin's memories and powers, he does not have the means to challenge Eric's claim to the throne.  Afterward, he gains the solution to the problem of how to foil Eric, as he gains access to Amber, powerful allies, and the ability to raise armies from the Shadows.  This sets Corwin on the path towards the plot's resolution, conflict with Eric's forces, which will decide if Corwin gains the throne or not.


  1. I read Guns of Avalon first, then back tracked and got hold of Nine Princes in Amber. Naturally, the first book explained a great deal of what the heck was going on in the 2nd book; it was when Corwin walked the Pattern in Rebma that everything started to click together.

    Zelazny's striking imagery of the Pattern has always been my most vivid memory of these books.

  2. Absolutely. Thought I had a handle on the pattern, but then Zelazny's writing revealed more intricacies to it than first appeared. That happened three times in quick succession, which I thought was a nice touch. Z guided the reader through the same sort of confusing, shifting, coruscating landscape that Corwin walked.