The Chronicles of Amber is a series of fantasy novels by American writer Roger Zelazny. The main series consists of two story arcs, each five novels in length. Additionally, there are a number of Amber short stories and other works.
The Amber stories take place in two contrasting “true” worlds, Amber and Chaos, and in shadow worlds (Shadows) that lie between the two. These shadows, including our Earth, are parallel worlds that exist in, and were created from, the tension between opposing magical forces of Amber and Chaos. The Courts of Chaos are situated at the very edge of an Abyss. Members of the royal family of Amber, after walking a Pattern that is central to Amber, can travel freely through the Shadows. While traveling (shifting) between Shadows, one can alter reality or create a new reality by choosing which elements of which Shadows to keep or add, and which to subtract. Nobles of the Courts of Chaos who have traversed the Logrus are similarly able to travel through Shadow.
Ten Amber novels were written by Roger Zelazny. The series of books was published over the years from 1970 to 1991. Portions of the first novel, Nine Princes in Amber, had previously been published in Kallikanzaros (No. 1, June 1967, and No. 3, December 1967). The novels Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, and The Courts of Chaos first appeared in abridged, serialized versions in Galaxy Science Fiction. The Guns of Avalon and five later “Merlin Cycle” Amber novels were not serialized or excerpted.
Several Chronicles of Amber omnibus volumes have also been published, collecting the five novels of the original “Corwin Cycle” in one volume, the five novels of the “Merlin Cycle” in another volume, and later (in The Great Book of Amber) all ten novels in a single volume.
The Merlin cycle
The first five novels are narrated in first person by Corwin, a prince of Amber, as he describes his adventures and life upon re-encountering his family after a loss of memory and an absence of centuries.
The next five novels focus on Merlin, Corwin’s son. These stories are held by some fans to be less of a fantasy classic than the first five due to the difference in writing style, direction and setting. One criticism of the sequence is that it revolved around the dealing with and acquisition of ever more powerful artifacts and entities, in a kind of technological/magical arms race.
Whereas Corwin of the first series was a product of the late 1960s and 1970s and was more of a cross between a hardboiled detective in the vein of Raymond Chandler and a Highlander-like immortal with centuries of experience fighting his way through the stories, Merlin (a product of the late 1980s and early 1990s when computers had become commonplace) is a youthful hacker / magician finding himself in increasingly complex situations in the vein of modern hacker protagonists. The series is a coming of age for Merlin with his heritage as a Prince of Chaos and Amber.
Publication Order of The Merlin Cycle books
Below is the list of all The Merlin Cycle books in the order they were published. This list also matches the chronological order of the Merlin Cycle books: