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"Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers. With a stranger there is a possibility that you might be safe."


Also known as the Chronicles of Amber. A Fantasy series of ten books plus six short stories written by Roger Zelazny, published from 1970 to 1996. Not to be confused with The City of Ember.

The volumes are:

Corwin as narrator:

  • Nine Princes in Amber
  • The Guns of Avalon
  • Sign of the Unicorn
  • The Hand of Oberon
  • The Courts of Chaos

Merlin as narrator:

  • Trumps of Doom
  • Blood of Amber
  • Sign of Chaos
  • Knight of Shadows
  • Prince of Chaos

Short stories:

  • The Salesman's Tale
  • The Shroudling and the Guisel
  • Blue Horses, Dancing Mountains
  • Coming to a Cord
  • Hall of Mirrors
  • A Secret of Amber

Amber, the one true world of which all others, including our Earth, are mere shadows.

A man wakes up in a hospital, with no idea of who he is. Among the small number of things he remembers is a great range of skills and experiences, the fact that he heals fast, and to never trust a family member. When he visits the sister who had him committed, he finds in her possession a strange deck of Tarot cards featuring familiar faces in Renaissance Fair clothes, one of which is his own. Trying to find out more about himself without revealing he has no memories, he gets carried into an knot of family intrigues, counter-plots, magic, swashbuckling, and assassination. After all, just because he doesn't know the ins and outs of whose Throne is at stake doesn't means he's not a contender.

The Book of Amber mixes happily different streaks of Fantasy and Science Fiction and all kinds of Other Dimensions. It features both epic elements and a dark-ish Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.

See also the tabletop RPG Amber Diceless Role Playing. There was supposedly a prequel series by another author but it never happened, as confirmed by George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, two friends and colleagues of the late Roger Zelazny.

Tropes used in Book of Amber include:
  • A God Am I - All the Amberites, starting with Dworkin and including Oberon and Oberon's children. The first thing that any of Oberon's children do upon gaining the ability to wander through alternate dimensions is usually to find a dimension which they consider to be a paradise, complete with an entire society of worshippers. Considering that even the Amberites do not know whether they just find worlds or actually create them through their imagination, they might just be right.
    • The Ghostwheel during its already paranoid, but still naive phase began to wonder whether it is one. And then it met the big kids.
  • A God Is You - The RPG. A personalized Shadow, for example, costs a single point during character creation, and even spending that much is a luxury, since the characters can just make their own any time they like. The developers openly encourage players to act as epically as possible: at one point, an FAQ poses the question of what to do if the characters start using the Psychic Powers offered by a high Psyche stat to effortless brush off hundreds of Shadow Mooks without a fight. The answer is, essentially, "So what if they do?"
  • The Ageless: The Amber Royalty.
  • All the Myriad Ways - With an uncomfortable twist. In The Chronicles of Amber it is Amber that is real: who cares what happens in all those tag-along parallel worlds (including our Earth)? The passage where Corwin and Bleys harvest a parallel world for soldiers really brings this attitude home, as does Random's attitude to a Shadow truck driver who runs them off the road.
  • Alternate History - In The Guns of Avalon Corwin travels to an alternate African coast that has never seen human habitation to harvest diamonds from the sand.
  • Always Someone Better: Benedict to everybody else. Eric is this to Corwin, although even Corwin speculates that it's mostly a mental block on his part and gets the better of Eric a few times in the first book, in both swordplay and a contest of wills via Trump. Luke may or may not be this to Merlin; they're extremely competitive with each other and have similar backgrounds. Or it may be that he's so damn well-adjusted, despite having two megalomaniac parents and spending half the second series on a pointless war of vengeance, as opposed to Merlin.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral - well, Visiting Your Own Memorial Tomb. Corwin quite likes it up there.
  • Audio Adaptation - A full line of books on tape as read by the author himself.
  • Author Avatar - An understated cameo as Roger, one of the guards near the Pattern room in Castle Amber.
  • Author Existence Failure - The end of the Merlin books are a good stop, but there was a lot more that could be written before his death, to the point others have hamfistedly tried to extend it.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning - Random and the Unicorn, Merlin confronting Dara. In neither case do we see the actual coronation but those are the moments that lock down who will be crowned- and who will be pulling the strings.
  • Badass - All Amberites, but specifically Benedict, and Oberon himself.
  • Bastard Bastard - Eric, bastard son of Oberon and Faiella. Locks his brother Corwin up and burns his eyes out with a red hot iron.
    • Let's be fair, that was Julian's idea. Eric's peak of bastardry was leaving him bleeding right smack in the middle of the plague.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For - Corwin ends up realizing that he only wanted the throne of Amber out of rivalry with his brother Eric. Also, Merlin's mom Dara manipulates him onto the throne, only to find that he'd already thrown off her control before he got there.
  • Big Bad Friend
  • Big Brother Instinct - Gerard and partly Benedict.
  • The Big Guy - Gerard.
  • Big Damn Heroes - Corwin bringing reinforcements in Guns of Avalon. Notably, he wasn't planning a rescue: until he got there, he'd been intending to invade himself.
  • Big Eater - Corwin.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family - Oh, you have no idea.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: More than a few but notably Dara and Mandor. At first he seems to be a Reasonable Authority Figure until we find out at the end of the series that he actively tried to magically enslave Merlin and when he found out it hadn't worked he tried to attack Merlin and forcibly put the spells back. He accepts his defeat rather gracefully, though.
  • Black Knight - The Green Knight. It's Caine.
  • Blind Seer - Queen Vialle in "The Salesman's Tale."
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead - Flora, Dierdre, and Fiona, respectively. Normally, you'd expect the fourth sister to have brown hair to complete the series, but Llewella has green hair like most Rebmans. [1]
  • Bloody Murder - As you get closer to the Chaos side of Shadow, the blood of Chaosites starts burns with magical flames when shed. Can be good or bad, depending on what you do with it. Also, the blood of Dworkin's descendants can damage the Primal Pattern.
  • Body to Jewel - The Jewel of Judgment is the eye of Serpent of Chaos.
  • Breaking Them By Talking: Brand to Benedict in Tir-na Nog'th, although in this case, he's just killing time while using the Jewel of Judgement to paralyze Benedict.
  • Brother-Sister Incest - Averted. Oberon makes a specific rule about it. Surprisingly, it's one of the few rules the family keeps, even though some siblings (e.g. Corwin in regard to Deirdre, Julian in regard to Fiona) do think about breaking it.
  • Cain and Abel - To the power of ten, given the family relationships shown, and one of the brothers is actually named Caine.
    • It's better than that: Over the entire first 5 books, only one brother succeeds in deliberately killing a brother. Guess who it is?
    • Especially between Corwin and Eric, who actually are full brothers.
  • Casanova - Oberon seems to leave kids everywhere he goes. He also seems to have trouble with the "forsaking all others" part of marriage. In the Merlin books, his ghost claims to have fathered forty-seven children (counting alternate time streams).
    • Merlin seems to be setting himself up for a Love Dodecahedron with Coral, Julia, Gilva, Rhanda, etc. as possible paramours. He generally doesn't say no to a willing woman, much like his father and grandfather.
  • Changing of the Guard - The Merlin novels. The torch is passed back to Corwin for the short stories "Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains" and "Hall of Mirrors." It's unclear who would have been the main character if Zelazny had survived to write an 11th book.
    • A Day in the Limelight - Random gets a chapter in "Sign of the Unicorn" to tell his version of his meeting with Corwin and Flora in the first book. "The Salesman's Tale" is from Luke's point of view. "Coming to a Cord" is from Frakir's.
    • Zelazny once intended his sequels to the first book to all be retellings from the perspective other characters a la The Rashomon.
  • The Chase - Julian lives for this one, though Benedict engages in it at one point due to a misunderstanding.
  • Chekhov's Gun - the Jewel of Judgement.
  • The Chessmaster - Everyone, most notably Caine, Fiona, and Dara.
  • The Chosen One - Random, made king by the Unicorn in a rare personal (animal?) appearance.
  • The Clan
  • Cloning Blues - Minor shades of this in the Corwin cycle, where the Shadow reflections of Amberites lead to (notably Corwin and Caine) form a few minor plot points. Then the full, classic version of this shows up in the Merlin cycle, when the Patterns and Logrus start creating copies of the core cast, personalities included.
  • Combat Pragmatist - Corwin IS this trope. He will fight to win and use any dirty tactic possible to do so.
  • Cool Sword - Corwin has Greyswandir, which has a silver coat on the blade (useful for killing werewolves) and Pattern-related powers. Brand has the blade's twin, Werewindle, although we don't learn its name until Merlin mentions it many books later, long after Brand is dead.
  • Cool Horse - Morgenstern, very much so. He can outrace a car, for one thing. There's also Benedict's tiger-striped horse, who is almost as cool.
  • Cosmic Horror - Certain incarnations of Chaos.
  • Cosmic Keystone - The Pattern, and the Logrus, and the Jewel of Judgment, and the Keep of Four Worlds, and pretty much everything by the end of the Merlin Cycle.
  • Cycle of Revenge/Feuding Families - And branches of the families. Vendettas are pretty much inevitable and generally legal in Amber. Even escalating ones. There are caveats, of course, starting with obvious "and then collecting your head will be equally legal, should someone want to avenge these people". The issue was raised when Rinaldo avenged his father. Then Julian (who was actually close with Caine, rather than just "not at each other's throats") made it very clear he's willing to get him in turn, as Merlin (and presumably others) expected, though was civil about it and they even chatted a little about Brand before he gone crazy.

Bill: …Oberon was particularly friendly with Karen in those days, too, and Osric offed three of them. Oberon acquitted him at a hearing, though, basing his decision on earlier cases, and he even went further by stating a kind of general rule —
Merlin: Oberon also sent him off to the front lines in a particularly nasty war, from which he did not return.

  • Demonic Possession - The ty'iga.
    • Turns into Grand Theft Me when she possesses Nayda, who was dying at the time, and gets stuck.
  • Disappeared Dad - Corwin to Merlin, Oberon to Corwin. Zelazny's own father died early.
  • Disney Acid Sequence - Sign of Chaos starts out as one. Don't drop LSD and shift Shadow, kids!
  • Doing In the Wizard - Some of the explanations in the second series for things introduced in the first; especially the Keep of Four Worlds as the source of Brand's power rather than just his personal awesomeness.
    • Which is bizarre, since most of the things he is described doing are abilities the second series ascribes to walking the Logrus.
  • Doppelganger - Pattern/Logrus Ghosts.
  • Driving Question - Who shot Corwin's tires? Who is behind the Dark Road?
  • Dumb Is Good - Gerard. Inverted with military genius Benedict, who is the only other one above suspicion, because if he wanted the throne, he could have taken it ages ago, even against all the rest of the family united.
    • "Dumb" is relative here, though. Gerard isn't "a clever man" like his conniving family, but he's still a capable physician.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma - Merlin with Coral. Subverted in that she's half-awake, "thought [he'd] never ask," and both of them are forced into it to escape.
    • Another one in "The Shroudling and the Guisel," where Rhanda reveals she's visited Merlin at night with the aid of a sleeping spells over the years. Subverted in that Merlin's reaction is to say the he just wished she'd have woken him up for it.
  • Early Installment Weirdness - Flora's hair color, and whether Random or Eric is Corwin's full brother all change after the first book. Some of this can be waived away by Corwin's amnesia at the time, though.
    • The family members are also much more openly murderous and borderline sociopathic in the first book as opposed to the later ones. Julian attempts to murder Corwin and Random about a week after exchanging pleasant hellos with Random and catching him up on the family news, and Eric has few qualms about executing Deirdre for running away.
    • Actually, Julian's attitude is extremely-well explained in the later books, especially as far as Random goes.
  • Empathic Weapon - Frakir, and the Jewel of Judgment.
  • Enemy Mine - Bleys and Corwin agree to cooperate in the first book only because they hate Eric more than they hate each other. Similar deals and alliances are made - and broken - all through the series.
    • Subverted in that, even knowing Bleys will betray him, Corwin really likes him a lot and even saves his life in a split-second decision which ultimately results in Corwin's imprisonment.
  • Epileptic Trees - Invoked in the roleplaying game, which encourages this to come up with alternative explanations for everything and everyone.
  • Establishing Character Moment
  • Evil Redheads - All the redheads take a turn at this, but only Brand stays evil.
  • Expansion Pack World - the Merlin chronicles
  • Eye Scream - Happens to Corwin in the first book.
  • Face Heel Turn - Merlin's stepbrother Mandor, and Brand, Dara, Rinaldo, and several others.
    • Face Heel Revolving Door - Dara. Could almost be a trope namer or codifier. Luke/Rinaldo to a lesser extent with one temporary dip into Heel status.
  • Fanon Discontinuity - Some readers dislike the Merlin books so much that they simply choose to pretend that they don't exist. Fans of the Merlin books rarely go so far, but they don't need to since any issues with the Corwin books can be attributed to Unreliable Narrator.
  • Fantasy Gun Control - Subverted: Everyone knows gunpowder doesn't work in Amber. Everyone wields swords. Corwin discovers a replacement powder and arms some troops with assault rifles. It's devastating. Of course, once there is powder that works, a fragmentation grenade can be made too, as Rinaldo demonstrated.
  • Fate Worse Than Death - What's intended for Corwin when he's blinded and tossed into the dungeons to be forgotten except for once a year when he's paraded around as a trophy of Eric's rule. No one expects for him to grow his eyes back. Of course, that being Amber, eventually he thinks perhaps even this had a double bottom.
  • Father of a Thousand Bastards - Oberon, brought to the fore after Dalt and Coral turn up.
    • His simulacrum claimed there was 47 illegitimates he knew of. But it's unknown at which point in time this snapshot of him was saved, so if that's true and he knew most of them, he still could go on for centuries after that.
  • Faux Death - Caine, Bleys and Oberon, as well as the protagonist Corwin, who starts the books presumed dead by most of his family. Furthermore, siblings presumed by Corwin to have died before the start of the novels may actually be alive.
  • Fisher King - Dworkin relating to the Pattern, the Pattern relating to Amber
  • Finding Judas - Lots.
  • Fridge Brilliance - The numerous clues foreshadowing Random's leadership role.
    • To think of it, he's not timid, yet managed to avoid having bad relations with anyone in that family, for centuries. That's quite a feat.
  • Fridge Logic - Dara is responsible for setting in motion Brand's plans to obliterate the Pattern. Brand is responsible for setting in motion the invasion of Avalon by Lintra, who bears a child by Benedict who becomes Dara's grandmother. May be justified in that either a.) Chaos time is non-linear, or b.) Dara is a big fat liar.
  • Friendly Enemy - Merlin to Luke, and the Amberites to each other in general.
  • Functional Magic - The Pattern, the Trumps, the Logrus, Sorcery.
  • Gambit Pileup - Let's put it this way: At the beginning, there are two opposing triumvirates, both of which have rogue members, multiple wild cards, neutral but interested factions, and a Chessmaster. And that's just in the first book. On the Amberite side.
  • Genre Shift - Carl Corey thinks he's in a hard-boiled novel, until hints start dropping that he's actually an amnesiac fantasy hero. Not that this changes his personality much once he clues in. Or anyone else's behavior. He stops using outdated Fifties slang about three books in, at least. (Well, for the most part).
  • Gentle Giant - Gerard.
  • God Guise - Justified. Corwin and Bleys look for the kind of Shadows where saviors/gods who just happen to look just like them are foretold.
  • Handicapped Badass: Benedict.
  • Happily Married: Random and Vialle. Crosses over with Love Redeems.
  • Healing Factor - Much is made of the superior healing of Amberites and their kin; Corwin grows back his lost eyes, though it takes him four years.
  • Heel Face Turn - Jurt, brother of Merlin. Also, Caine and several others, notably Julian, which seems to move Corwin.
  • Hell Hound - Julian's hunting dogs. After they chase down Corwin and Random's car, they start to tear the metal body appart.
  • Horse of a Different Color - Like blue. And tiger-striped.
  • Improbable Species Compatibility - Dworkin claims that he fathered Oberon with the Unicorn. Since he's a shapeshifter, it's possible; but he's also notably mad and nearly as big a compulsive liar as the rest of his family, so who knows. Also, Benedict (great-grand)fathered Dara with a creature of Chaos, the latter of which is a shapeshifter; and Benedict is rather less prone to lying.
    • Dara is said to be "the first of [her] line to bear all the markings of humanity," but whatever Lintra and her fellow hellmaidens were, she was probably close enough to not be this trope with Benedict.
  • I Know You Know I Know - Oberon's entire family seems to have such a good grasp on what everybody else is thinking that it borders on telepathy. Corwin (while amnesiac) uses this to bluff info out of his sister. Then again they've had centuries, or possibly millennia, to learn each other's quirks and weaknesses.
  • Incest Is Relative - Merlin sleeps with Coral, who is his half-aunt, and possibly has a child with her.
    • Coral has an arranged, childhood marriage to Rinaldo, also her half-nephew, but neither are interested in consummating it. Most likely, none of the people who set it up knew they were related.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet - Shadow Earth is just one of myriads and not all that relevant to most characters.
  • Intro Dump - Chapter 3 of Nine Princes in Amber, in which Corwin, suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia, finds Flora's Trump deck, allowing Zelazny to name each of Corwin's living siblings, physically describe them, and tell the reader what Corwin thinks of them.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality - The Amberites can pronounce a powerful world(s)-breaking curse-- but only when they're dying. Corwin is the first one to use this power and then recover from his near-death state.
  • Immortal Immaturity
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Most of the Amberites, but especially Julian, when Corwin learns that his being blinded, which Julian suggested, was actually a sideways way of protecting his life.
    • Saving Corwin's life was more for Eric's benefit than Corwin's, according to Julian himself (otherwise, had Oberon had ever returned to reclaim the throne, having Corwin executed would have been Eric's only unpardonable act). Julian still qualifies for the trope in the above example, but from a slightly different angle.
  • The Juggernaut - Do not piss off Benedict. Ever. He has spent countless lifetimes fighting wars to perfect his skill as a general and is nigh-invincible with a blade. He will not listen to your stammered excuses, and he will cut through trees to get at you quicker.
  • Julius Beethoven Da Vinci - Corwin had a slight case of this Trope, though he just knew all those people, rather than being them.
  • Last Second Chance - Brand is offered this. He declines.
  • Lampshade Hanging - Bill, over his status as a One-Scene Wonder.
  • Left Hanging - Several loose ends appear in the latter five books, which are left unresolved through Author Existence Failure.
  • Long-Lost Relative - Luke/Rinaldo, Dalt, Coral.
  • Loveable Rogue - Corwin, Random, Bleys, Rinaldo.
  • Magitek - Ghostwheel, Merlin's magic-based computer that was capable of using the Trump power and eventually acquired additional power later. Also a case of A.I. Is a Crapshoot and Instant AI, Just Add Water. While discovering his powers, he even briefly thinks he's a god until he meets some real ones.
  • Master Swordsman - also Benedict.
  • Meaningful Funeral - Oberon gets an epic send-off.
  • Memetic Badass - Benedict is of course an epic-scale in-universe example of this, as seen above. Or with all the characters saying that if he wanted Amber, they'd all just have to roll over and submit immediately.

"I fear Benedict. [...] He is the Master of Arms for Amber. Can you conceive of a millennium? A thousand years? Several of them? Can you understand a man who, for almost every day of a lifetime like that, has spent some time dwelling with weapons, tactics, strategy? [...] All that there is of military science thunders in his head. He has often journeyed from shadow to shadow, witnessing variation after variation on the same battle, with but slightly altered circumstances, in order to test his theories of warfare. He has commanded armies so vast that you could watch them march by day after day and see no end to the columns. Although he is inconvenienced by the loss of his arm, I would not wish to fight with him either with weapons or barehanded. It is fortunate that he has no designs upon the throne, or he would be occupying it right now. If he were, I believe that I would give up at this moment and pay him homage. I fear Benedict."

  • Mind Your Step - Gerard insists there is a loose step on the stairs to the Pattern Room. [2]
  • Mirror World - Rebma and Tir-na Nog'th, and to a certain extent all of the multiverse apart from Amber and the Courts of Chaos. And actually even them, although they're the very first shadow of their respective side's true world.
  • Mobile Maze - The Logrus.
  • Muggle Best Friend - Bill Roth, Rein, Droppa.
  • The Multiverse - Pretty much the fundamental trope of the series, but used to surprisingly good effect for most of it.
  • My Beloved Smother - Dara has definite plans for Merlin, having had him for just such a reason, and doesn't mind using a few dozen hundred political assassinations and mind control of her own son to have her plans come true.
    • Jasra to Luke/Rinaldo. Also to a lesser extent, Merlin's aunts are very snoopy in his life.
  • The Neutral Zone - The Courts of Chaos and Amber are the true realities. All other sub-realities (ours included) are buffer zones of varying degrees between the two primary ones.
  • No Place for Me There - Benedict points out that Brand's view of a perfect world isn't so perfect if it includes gigantic dueling armies.
  • Offered the Crown - Corwin turns it down and it later falls to Random.
  • Order Versus Chaos - Tied into the many variant universes, though the main differences between Order and Chaos seem to be political. The Anthropomorphic Personification of these forces are also sentient, hate each other, and are not very nice to anyone else either. That doesn't mean that the people within either faction get along at all; there's also plenty of Order Versus Order and Chaos Versus Chaos.
  • Out of the Inferno - Benedict at one point rides out of a forest fire.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird - Since "the Shadows" include everything up to and including a bar where Cheshire Cat hangs out with his pals, a lot of strange critters pop up now and then.
  • Our Demons Are Different - It seems to just mean "a natural inhabitant of Chaos", with whichever degrees of sentience and magical abilities. There are many traditionally horned, fanged, and bat-winged demons in the Courts of Chaos, but there are also talking cats, furry snakes, mantis-dragon things with multiple limbs, spikes and three hearts, and trickster mathematical abstractions. And non-corporeal spirits capable of possessing mortals. Most of the Lords of Chaos wear demon forms (generally on "TREMBLE, MORTALS!" end of the scale) and the line between mere demons and full Lords of Chaos is never clearly defined.
  • Our Vampires Are Different - Merlin thinks Rhanda was one, and her family in turn discouraged her teenage romance with him, thinking that he was one (and hoping she'd marry up). However, it turns out that she's a "shroudling," a people who live behind mirrors and who eat people the world would be better off without in their opinion. They can apparently do this across Shadow.
  • Papa Wolf: Random becomes this to Martin...once he realizes he has a son, that is.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage - Moire married off Vialle to Random simply because he was caught in Rebma again after abandoning her daughter Morganthe (who by that time gave birth to Martin and soon killed herself). Moire had somewhat low opinion on any Amber Prince except Benedict and Corwin (mostly because of his ballads, according to herself) either way. This worked out much better than anyone have expected.
    • And then Random is crowned and Amber gets a Queen who is a nice lady trained as a courtier, which was lucky for them, considering their existing standard was simply "the last or next-to-last woman who happened to catch Oberon's ever-wandering eye".
  • Poisonous Friend - Pretty much all of the Amberites to each other.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch - And doesn't come back for tea. In the screwier parts of Shadow the basic relationships between the elements of reality are changed.
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy - Zig Zagged. Most of the Amberites seem to think it is a toy, but Corwin has some qualms about treating Shadows as toys...sometimes. What Brand wanted to do to the multiverse was pretty bad: destroy and rebuild in his twisted image. However when Corwin draws a new pattern it has a positive influence, or at least reduced rocking the boat when the original Pattern was off (or maybe it just tilted the balance of power toward order, which may not have been a good thing after all). In any case, most everyone sees Dworkin's drawing of the orignal pattern to have been an improvement.
  • The Reveal: a number of them (this is a plotting family), but the re-appearance of Oberon is the biggest.
  • Rip Van Winkle
  • Ring of Power - The Spikards, Amplifier Artifacts for sorcerers, tied to powers possibly older than the Pattern.
  • Rite of Passage: All Amberites walk the Pattern when they reach maturity and thus gain power over Shadows. Corwin ends up going through the ultimate Rite of Passage when he creates his own Pattern.
  • Royal Blood - Metaphysically unique Royal Blood.
  • Sapient Steed - Juilian's uberhorse Morgenstern.
  • Sequel Escalation - Corwin has a magic sword and his trumps; Merlin starts with a magical AI and a Morph Weapon that also functions as Spider Sense (the enchanted rope Frakir), and he acquires a Ring of Power and a different set of Trumps that lets him reach places and people the other Amberites can't. Oh, and he's attuned to both the Pattern and Logrus, is a sorcerer and a shapeshifter, and can draw his own Trumps. The effect is enhanced by the different narrative styles used. Merlin is a technician who explains what he perceives, what he's doing, and why. "His" books casually explore the technical details of the setting, leaving human relationships as the mysteries to be uncovered. When Corwin's telling the story those aspects are mostly reversed; a more Romantic narrator, he tends to describe his less physical actions more as happenings taking place in his presence. We only really know the extent of Corwin's strength, stamina, and martial skills (which are far superior to Merlin's). His magical abilities are only hinted at in the short stories.
  • Shapeshifting - those from the Courts of Chaos have this power naturally, including Merlin. Also, the Unicorn.
  • Silver Bullet: Allegedly, the only thing that can kill Julian's horse Morgenstern. Brand is eventually killed with a silver-tipped arrow, because Caine came to suspect that nothing else will finish him.
  • Shout-Out - The beginning of book 1 is a one to Raymond Chandler's work. Corwin's personality is certainly influenced by Marlowe's.
  • Stable Time Loop - Corwin gets a mechanical arm from Ghost!Benedict in Tir-na Nog'th. The arm gets to REAL Benedict, who uses it. Later on, Benedict and Dara are talking in the throne room and Corwin and the rest of 'em are trapped outside, only able to watch. An invisible Ghost!Corwin is there (they can see his sword) and Corwin realizes that it's his past self. Then Past!Corwin gets the mechanical arm from the real Benedict...
    • But they stand in different places and say different phrases. So it's not necessary that Ghost!Corwin gave the arm to the same Ghost!Benedict from whom REAL Corwin got the arm in the first place.
  • Stalker with a Crush - In "The Shroudling and the Guisel," Rhanda tells Merlin that she's been watching him for years from the other side of mirrors and visiting him in his sleep. Merlin just wishes she had woken him.
  • Succession Crisis - The driving plot of the first five novels is the fact that there's no clear line of succession for the throne of Amber in Oberon's absence and the war between brothers vying for it. The crisis following the death of King Swayvill of Chaos in the last book prompts a rash of deadly duels and assassinations that drastically shortens the line of succession.
  • Surprise Incest: Corwin falls for a girl who turns out to be great-grand-daughter of a half-brother, sired upon an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Taking You with Me: Brand drags Deirdre into the Abyss.
  • Tarot Motifs - The Trumps are supposed to be the primal source of the concept of Tarot cards.
  • Tell Me About My Father - Dara takes this up to a new height, with a shrine to Benedict in her basement.
  • The Strategist - Benedict is less a master warrior general, more of a primal font from which all such things flow. Corwin is scared of him. Quoting Random, with reference to a mighty Shadow serpent:

"Benedict would not have missed the eye. He would have had one in each pocket by then and be playing football with the head while composing a footnote to Clausewitz."

  • There Are No Psychiatrists: Averted. Corwin has been a patient of Freud himself. Dworkin, however, was placed in solitary confinement after he turned one of his psychologists into a frog. And refused to turn him back.
  • Trickster Mentor - Dworkin.
  • Unexpected Successor - Merlin's ascension to the throne of Chaos.
  • Unreliable Narrator - Arguably Corwin, especially when his viewpoint on a few characters is contrasted with Merlin's — his sisters in particular. Almost the entire first Chronicle is told by Corwin to Merlin, giving Corwin reason to not be entirely truthful. (Corwin does mention, several times, that Amberites can never trust their relatives, thus implying...) Additionally, at the beginning of the story, Corwin is amnesiac and has imperfect recollections (e.g. thinking Random is his full-brother) until his memory is restored. The Diceless RPG makes great use of this to post different versions of the characters to be used by the Game Master.
    • Merlin is unreliable because however honest he may be, he's constantly blindsided by all sorts of things, thanks to being a bit of Genius Ditz, mediocre judge of character, and having huge sore spots any thoughts around which he habitually avoided and suppressed. Which is also shown almost from the start: he was the only one who didn't figure out that Ghostwheel among all the other things is a superweapon. Then was surprised when it gone sentient and paranoid. And then, when they both ended up caught in crossfire between Logrus and Pattern.
    • Merlin and Corwin's differing view of the Princesses of Amber is explainable in that Corwin is their respected and powerful older brother, while Merlin is a somewhat-dim nephew.
  • Unwitting Pawn - Corwin manages both to be a pawn to one scheme, a Spanner in the Works to another, and work on his own plan simultaneously. Merlin manages to stay a pawn until the second-to-last page. Mostly because by Amber/Chaos standards he's mediocre at best in politics. When Pattern and Logrus tried to play a game with him overtly and force him to choose one, he was as disagreeable as he could afford to be.
  • Up the Real Rabbit Hole - Subverted. The Amberites think of Amber as the only "real" world, but then Corwin finds a place that's even "realer."
  • The Uriah Gambit - It's mentioned that this is what happened to Osric, a long-dead son of Oberon.
  • The Vamp - Jasra, who literally has a poisonous bite. (S)mother of Luke/Rinaldo.
  • Victory Is Boring - Corwin found this out after Eric's death, and soon decided that becoming King wasn't for him after all.
  • Wham! Episode - All the freakin' time. Zelazny is a master of this.
  • Wham! Line: Almost all the books end in them.
  • World's Strongest Man - Gerard, and to a lesser extent all of the Amberites.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside - Tied in closely with the Amberites' ability to move through Shadows via the Pattern and the Chaosites' similar ability, the two groups are able to find dimensions in which time flows at a different rate than at 'home'. Several characters use this specific trick in order to fully recover from near mortal wounds by resting in a 'fast Shadow' for a month while only a day has passed in Amber. Contrariwise, Corwin goes to check out Chaos for an hour or two (albeit, on the other end of the multiverse) and gets a call from people wondering where the hell he's been all week.
  1. Flora's canonical hair colour is a matter of much debate amongst fans. In one book Zelazny implies it is red and in another he says it is blonde. See also Early Installment Weirdness.
  2. This one, damn it!