It is the second book in the Cycle of Merlin, and in typical Amber fashion, the intrigue is stacking up. Merle begins the story trapped in a crystal cave by his friend Luke (relationships being complicated in Amber, and who is one day your friend may the next have a vendetta against you).
Throughout the book, other curiosities are revealed, including a strange entity that seems intent to protect Merle from harm, yet is unable to speak on the matter or explain its motives; odd blue crystals that seem to work as both a dampening field and a tracking device; Luke’s mounting motivations to destroy Amber; a wolf-like fiend tracking Merle throughout the novel, and last, but not least, Mask, a mask-wearing sorcerer who enjoys attacking Merlin with flowers, among other things (no, really).
This was another book that was hard for me to get into. At 139 pages, it’s a fairly short read, yet I found it dragging, especially in the first half. Large chunks of space are taken up with shadow walks, and extraneous information that at times made me forget what I should actually be focusing my attentions on. However, I did greatly enjoy the sort of guardian angel character that, for the want of no spoilers, has no name I can mention here. Once this character was introduced into the story, I found it quite engaging.
Unfortunately, this was another book that lacked any significant conflict. Wikipedia summarized the book as follows:
Merlin escapes from the crystal cave, and decides to gain leverage over Luke by rescuing his mother from the Keep of the Four Worlds. He spars with the sorcerer who now controls the keep, and who seems to know him. He escapes with the petrified Jasra, and returns to Amber where an unusual Trump summoning imprisons him in the Mad Hatter‘s tea party.
While this is an accurate summation of the story contained, it is important to note that basically all of what is summed up there happens in the last twenty pages of the book. The rest is basically a ramble, and typical of Zelazny for this series, setting up the breadcrumbs for the next book (which may or may not be remembered by the time you read the next one).
Finally, while I found the “climax” of the book entertaining, it couldn’t exactly be taken seriously, even given the decade in which it was written. And the final moment (the Mad Hatter’s tea party) came up so quickly that I had a hard time accepting that it really was the end of the book. All in all, this installment on the Cycle of Merlin feels more like a weekly episode in a drama, complete with teasers at the end.
Blood of Amber, interestingly, was first printed in a limited batch of 400 signed and numbered copies in 1986. It has had 33 other editions since then, including the omnibus I am reading.