What I’m Reading: The Hand of Oberon

I recently finished The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny, the fourth in the series of Amber novels (see here and here for write-ups on previous novels in the series). Last month I also read the third book in the series, Sign of the Unicorn, but did not write it up. Alas, I’ve been extremely busy lately and have neglected this blog!

In SotU and THoO Corwin has finally achieved his goal of becoming ruler of Amber, though he has not had himself crowned. At the beginning of SotU he finds his brother, Caine, murdered and realizes he was set up to find the body so it would look like he committed the murder himself. And as designed, his other siblings do suspect him of the murder, despite his protestations, with only his youngest brother Random firmly on his side. This is very bad for him as he has so recently taken control of the realm, only for court intrigue to switch into a high gear. To figure out who did it, he decides to contact long missing brother Brand, who Random believes is still alive but imprisoned in some distant shadow realm. But when they do locate Brand and bring him back to Amber, his story brings up more questions than they answer.

Like the first two books, this plays out much more like a mystery than like a typical fantasy novel, as Corwin tries to figure out how committed the murder, framed him, and what their motives are. His memories now are fully recovered, yet because he was out of commission for so long he still has too little information on the histories and intentions of his siblings. His search for clues and information provide the narrative thrust.

Yet, the setting is firmly fantasy, as his search takes him to places like the the Courts of Chaos and involves artifacts like the Jewel of Judgment. This hybrid is masterfully carried out by Zelazny, resulting in suspenseful novels that are truly unpredictable and fresh writing. I would recommend this to any fantasy fan, and mystery fans may enjoy these slim, fast-paced volumes as well.

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