Fantasy, as a genre, over recent years has become tired and dull. So much so that is becoming little more that a pastiche of itself. So much entrenched in the world of Tolkien and his many imitators that originality is becoming a thing of the past. When a genre starts solely borrowing from itself, rather than stealing from other sources it is time to start worrying. So, delving back into a novel written in the '70's by Roger Zelazny was a breath of fresh air. A novel that isn't afraid to try something different, something fresh even decades later when compared to the fantasy filling the shelves. One more concerned with telling a story in an interesting way than spending chapters defining it's fantasy world and inhabitants in the style of a role-playing rule book. Somewhere along the way fantasy has become lost, and it takes Zelazny's approach to remind you what potential has been lost along the way.
The structure reminds me very much of Patrick McGrath, but whereas McGrath's narrators tells you a story by slowly drip feeding you the details, in these books the narrator uncovers the story at the same you do. At first waking with amnesia, and then gradually remembering his heritage, as a powerful, almost god-like Lord of Amber, one capable of shaping worlds in shadow as he moves through layers of reality to Amber. The central hub from which reality echoes. At times you feel as lost as the narrator, and as he regains his memory through his actions, becomes more and more himself, you as a reader are left more and more at a disadvantage, fed with nuggets of information from a past that hasn't yet been told. A story that is gradually revealed from bits and pieces.
The book ends with the narrator taking up arms in a battle like no other against his god-like brothers, one where people drawn from other realms are used as pawns in a battle between equals. An impressive opening to a saga that touches repeatedly on surrealism, yet never loses touch of the story it is trying to tell. Definitely a series I intend to see through to the end.