Bewildering Stories

Change the text color to: White | Purple | Dark Red | Red | Green | Cyan | Blue | Navy | Black
Change the background color to: White | Beige | Light Yellow | Light Grey | Aqua | Midnight Blue

Book Review:
John Gregory Betancourt, To Rule In Amber

by Jerry Wright

To Rule In Amber
Author: John Gregory Betancourt
Publisher: ibooks, Incorporated
Hardcover: 310pp
Series: Dawn of Amber
ISBN: 0743487095
Price: $22.95

Of course, the actual title on the book is Roger Zelazny's To Rule In Amber, just so all the Amberholics would know that, yes, this IS Roger Zelazny's Amber. Well... Kinda...

Nine Princes In Amber burst upon an unsuspecting world in 1970. Zelazny was known for his lyrical, occasionally poetic writing, with such gems as A Rose For Ecclesiastes and "The Doors Of His Face, The Lamps Of His Mouth". But Amber... sigh... Amber was both Zelazny's capstone and his downfall. One day I'll delve into that. For the present, however, Roger Zelazny melded high fantasy, low fantasy, SF, and noir detective novels together to create his ten book "Amber Series". And then he died, certainly too young.

John Gregory Betancourt, certainly a purveyor of workmanlike prose, has acquired the mantle of Zelazny, and has now completed a three book prequel to the Amber series. The three books: The Dawn Of Amber, Chaos And Amber and the book we are herein reviewing To Rule In Amber detail the life of Oberon, father of Corwin and the other Nine Princes. A daunting task for certain, but how does he do?

Well, instead of "damning with faint praise", this calls for "praising with faint damns". Betancourt has written a lot of books. He's pumped out Star Trek novels, written his own fantasies, and was responsible for the re-birth of Weird Tales. He has Zelazny's "Amber" voice down pretty well. Tom Easton said "John Betancourt channels Zelazny?" Well...

Are the books good? Are they worth reading? Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed them all. Oberon is not nearly as "fun" a character as is either Corwin or his son Merlin, but he swashes his buckles through Chaos and Shadow with panache. But Betancourt is not the poet Zelazny is, and lyricism becomes lumpen.

I remember the first "Hellride" Corwin took us through driving a car from our Earth through manifold shadows. The descriptions were joyous and juicy. Oberon's moving through the new created Shadows cast by the new Pattern have no ability to move the reader with the beauty of the writing. The universe created by Zelazny is a wonderful thing, and Betancourt does a pretty good job of bringing it back to life, but I miss Roger.

This third book does a better job of capturing Zelazy's style than the previous two, however, if you haven't read the previous twelve books, you will be lost. You would probably be okay if you started with The Dawn Of Amber, but why suckle on synthetic Zelazny when you can have the pure quill? Read the Amber Dekology first, then try Betancourt out.

Oh. What are the books about? The Dawn Of Amber introduces Oberon, his mad father Dworkin, and his various family members as Oberon makes his way to Castle Juniper, a Shadow his father created, where he helps his family escape an overwhelming attack.

In Chaos And Amber Oberon and his family return to the Courts of Chaos, unable to determine who is killing off the family one by one. The book ends with Dworkin destroying the flawed pattern that allowed Shadows like Juniper to exist and creating the primal Pattern that will allow Amber to exist.

To Rule In Amber delineates the creation of Amber and the Pattern, warfare and treachery between Order and Chaos and ends with a temporary truce between Oberon and the Courts of Chaos.

And yes, there is room for more Oberon books. He isn't even married yet!

Return to top

Home Page