Prince of Chaos by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Prince of Chaos is the tenth and final book in The Great Book of Amber, and man, what a closer.
I’ve had a lot of gripes with this series, ranging from stunted character growth to mediocre motivations and waffling plots, but I knew by Chapter Two of this book that they would all be forgiven. In fact, events in that chapter would have resolved me to a five-star rating, even if the rest of the book turned out to be more of the same. The rest of the book just kept getting better and better, however. Prince of Chaos is a great book. I would almost call it a perfect book for its genre. Almost. With the exception of the following paragraph:
Feeling, feeling my way now, down through the strata, single toe soft as a flashlight’s beam running along rocky surfaces, testing the pressures of one upon another, isostatic kisses of mountains beneath the earth, orogenic erogenies of slow movement, flesh caressing mineral in the darkest secret places––
That was just a little too much purple prose, even for me! But, with the exception of that, the book really is perfect. Perfect pacing, perfect character development, perfect, subtle resolutions and hints at a life beyond the book’s end. I haven’t been this pleased with the ending of a series since Six Feet Under on HBO. But enough gushing, let’s get to the story.
Prince of Chaos picks up directly after end of the last book. Luke is installed as the new king of Kashfa and takes Coral as a wife. However, Coral, disturbed by becoming the holder of the Jewel of Judgment and the powers that now flow constantly through her, seeks out Merlin for comfort. Merlin, feeling the many favors and duties he owes to his friends and even enemies from the last few books, resolves to “get things resolved and live happily ever after”.
There are many powers at play in this book, including the issues surrounding Coral, Nayda the ty’iga being trapped in her human form, the succession to the throne of Courts of Chaos, Jurt and Merlin’s rivalry, Corwin’s disappearance, Ghostwheel’s autonomy, Dara’s final motives and the reasons behind Merlin’s birth, a strange ring (no, not THAT ring), and an ongoing battle between the Logrus (Chaos) and the Pattern (Order). For 130 pages, that is a lot going on, yet Zelazny somehow manages to squeeze in emotional exchanges, Corwin-like analytics in the form of a much more mature and relatable Merlin, and several fast-paced duels.
There’s not much more I can say on that end without major spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone.
In the end, this book is perfect because Zelazny understood the sheer amount that needed to happen for this last book, and gave masterful treatment to the conclusion of each piece. He spent just the right amount of time on every arc, adding a few new ones that added a certain, nostalgic element to the whole work that really just left me reading the last page, and feeling that it really was the end of the story, but not the character’s lives, or the adventures they would have going forward.
There were also a lot of fourth wall jokes that I got a kick out of, including:
Before we could depart, however, I heard voiced from that hallway. So we waited in the room […] as the speakers approached. One of them I recognized immediately as my brother, Mandor; the other I could not identify […]. In a badly plotted story they’d have paused outside the doorway, and I’d have overheard a conversation telling me everything I needed to know about anything.
In short, this final book makes the entire series worth reading. It will stick with me for some time.
A few final words about the edition I used to read this book:
I am reading the omnibus printed by EOS Books (an imprint of HarperCollins). It is a massive book, 1,258 pages and using every single one, with very little white space. It was well formatted, but a bit unwieldy for reading or toting around. The binding is also pretty flimsy. A basic cardstock cover made it hard to balance.
However, the individual books are now out of print, and an official ebook version has not been produced yet. In an attempt to be able to read on the bus and at work, I did download a facsimile scan of the book, but I do not recommend this file. There are entire pages and paragraphs missing, and with a book of this nature, missing any of those elements is enough to confuse and even change the story. So, there isn’t much of a choice except to buy this behemoth. If you’re set on buying the books individually, I suggest looking for them on Abe Books.
And that’s it! I’m done with Zelazny! I was given a review copy of the Complete Works of Mark Twain recently, so I may take him on next. Pretty exciting, since I haven’t read anything of his since 7th grade.