Monday, November 7, 2011

Blood of Amber by Roger Zelazny

In Blood of Amber, Merlin begins to acquire bits and pieces of the puzzle he's been assembling regarding who has been responsible for the attempts on his life on April 30 of each year, and probably more importantly, who is trying to kill him now. Flora is able to fill in a few details for him regarding Jasra and the kingdome of Kashfa.

Merlin returns to Julia's apartment to investigate more thoroughly and discovers a hidden portal that leads...somewhere. When he takes that path, he's challenged by a guardian who claims to be "torn from the pure primal Chaos", and both he and we are somewhat surprised when Merlin reveals that he is, himself, a Lord of Chaos. Once past the guardian, he finds his way to the Keep of Four Worlds, where the elemental realms of earth, air, fire and ice meet, and where sorcerors have battled for control of a fountain which contains the power of these four forces for centuries.

The current ruler of the keep is likely to be Merlin's nemesis. Merlin observes an attempted invasion of the keep, in the company of a hermit named Dave (cue all manner of limericks here, and yes he lives in a cave). Dave is full of good gossip and Merlin finally learns about the tie between Jasra and Luke.

When Merlin returns to Amber, he gets a full debriefing from Random, who dispatches some emissaries to Kashfa and its surrounding kingdom. Merlin decides to go down into town from the castle to have a bite to eat, and when leaving the "fine dining" establishment, he is attacked by a group of thugs. He's succored by the armsment of Vinta Bayle, his uncle Caine's former paramour, and she whisks him away to her family estates to lie hidden for a while.

The tale in this tome continues twisty and entertaining. One thing that I didn't particularly like when I first read it was the section at the end of the book where Merlin gets caught up in a hallucenogenic world, complete with Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter, via a trump contact with Luke, who has been doped up with some mind-bending concoction. It just didn't seem to fit all that well with the rest of the story. Upon further reflection, I decided that Zelazny was actually exploring the ramifications of the concept of Shadow. If Amberites (and Chaos Lords) have, as mentioned by Corwin in an earlier volume, the power to create shadows of their own imagining, what happens when their minds are altered? I still think, however, he could have come up with an original imagining, rather than borrowing from Carroll, but I suppose it was a familiar fantasy that we'd all recognize.

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