I know, I haven't posted my Harry Potter review yet. I'm still gestating on that one. I both loved it, and was disappointed in it.
In the meantime, Brian found for me a book called The Dawn of Amber, which is a prequel to Zelazny's Amber series. If you've never read this series, it is a fantastic bit of fantasy. It is vibrant, exciting, and very well written.
The Dawn of Amber was written by John Betancourt, as Zelazny went and died on us several years ago (the nerve). The book jacket says that this prequel has been blessed by the Zelazny estate, and displays quotes saying things like "Betancourt channels Zelazny ..."
No, he doesn't.
I'm thrilled to have a new Amber novel to read. But I am very disappointed in this author. Betancourt manages a reasonable approximation of Zelazny's style, but it's just a surface imitation. There is no depth. Zelazny's formulae are used as if that's all it takes to write an Amber novel.
We start with nine brothers and nine sisters, and a dinner at which we uncover the family loyalties and rivalries. This is exactly how Zelazny's original series begins. The difference is that in Zelazny's books, these relationships are believable, the characters strong and memorable, and the reader is drawn into their affairs.
After finishing Betancourt's book, I don't have any sense of who these people are, or why they do anything that they do. Or why I should care. The characters are utterly flat and inconsistent. The author fails to give them any convincing motivation. He has simply made up names to fit the formula.
And then there's the plot. Betancourt is constrained here, as this is a prequel, and certain events must happen. I don't have words to express how badly he's bungled this. Major plot points are revealed with all the air of bad parlor tricks, and are given no more weight in the story than the minor plot points.
I can't say I recommend this, unless you're a morbidly curious Amber fan with a masochistic streak. Unfortunately that's me, so I'll probably read (but not buy) Betancourt's next book and complain just as loudly. Maybe it will be better. Hope springs eternal.Posted by Steph at June 27, 2003 10:47 AM