The Courts of Chaos is the fifth book in Roger Zelazny’s Amber series of fantasy novels (see here, here and here for write-ups on previous novels in the series). I’ve previously described these as grown-up fantasy without the usual cliches, and that continues to hold true for this volume.
This is the final of Zelazny’s original five novels and wraps up the story of Prince Corwin, who in volume three found himself unexpectedly ruling in Amber, the one true kingdom whose throne he had been fighting his siblings for, and who, in volume four, found ruling wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In The Courts of Chaos he travels to, well, the courts of chaos, where the final battle is taking place between the heirs of Amber and the Lords of Chaos, the two primeval realms of existence of which all the other worlds (including Earth) are but shadows.
I won’t give away the ending except to say that it is wholly satisfying and yet, as usual with Zelazny, does not follow the expected fantasy path. In fact, Corwin’s role in the battle is rather small though he has many other important tasks to take care of which bring him in contact with a variety of humorous and dangerous characters. Also as in previous volumes, though there is no lack of physical conflict, opponents are really just as likely to use trickery, seduction, wit, or even philosophic argument to achieve their ends.
I highly recommend this book to any fans of fantasy, or for those who think they might like fantasy but aren’t interested in elves. I’ll probably take a break from Amber for a while, as the next five books (all contained in my giant “Great Book of Amber” tome) form a separate story, started some years after Zelazny finished the first five.