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A Prince of Amber’s Curse} ?> Corwin of Amber is a main character I struggle to like. He’s a selfish prince in a constant battle with his own brothers for the crown. There isn’t much else to say, though because the story is told from his perspective, I have to follow along with his problems. Generally, I wouldn’t care about Corwin’s plight. Yet there is one fleeting moment in Roger Zelazny’s fantasy novel Nine Princes in Amber where I do envy him, one moment where he seems particularly human. It is the moment he sets out for revenge.
Corwin has been captured and tortured by his brother Eric after trying to overtake the throne. Corwin’s attempted regicide fails and he pays the price; Eric leaves him to rot in a dark dungeon deep under Amber. Here, Corwin meets some well deserved misery. However, Eric treats him so badly (humiliating him in front of the royal family and blinding him, among other things), that it’s hard not to feel sorry for him at this point. In this pitiful state, Corwin takes out vengeance on his brother.
Trapped, he unleashes a curse. This is a power all princes of Amber have, but most only unleash it right before death. However, Corwin is so angry and in so much despair that he is able to strike out at his brother using this magic power. He doesn’t know exactly what it will do, but he knows it will make his brother miserable: “I knew that Eric would never rest easy upon the throne, for the curse of a prince of Amber, pronounced in a fullness of fury, is always potent.”
After that, he escapes from prison and flees into the shadow worlds (every other world is but a reflection of the true world, Amber). Here he hides. building an army, making alliances. He experiences some personal growth along the way, learning both the importance of humility and justice in terms of leadership. Here is finally a main character I can respect, one who deserves the throne more than Eric.
The metamorphosis seems on the verge of completion. The new and improved Corwin makes another attempt to overthrow his brother in the second book of the series, The Guns of Avalon. His army marches on Amber’s castle, but he discovers the castle is already under siege by creatures of evil. In that moment, he must choose between his final vengeance or saving the world he loves.
Of course, he must save Amber. And doing so, he discovers the dark ones that assault the castle are creatures his curse had summoned. The curse had opened up a black road, a highway of sorts between the world of Chaos and Amber. Eric has had his hands full fighting these monsters ever since Corwin had left.
Through the raging battle Corwin finds his brother, who is mortally wounded. Eric recognizes Corwin and tells him, “I could feel your curse. All around me. The whole time. You didn’t even have to die to make it stick.”
There, where vengeance has bloomed to fruition, where hate is on the verge of satiation, Corwin’s victory is suddenly hollow. His brother is already dying and his desire for revenge is sapped away.
Despite the fact that Corwin’s curse had driven him to his death, Eric only gives Corwin a smile. “No, I’m not going to give you my death curse,” he says. “I’ve reserved that for the enemies of Amber—out there.” With his last breath he curses the enemies of Amber. It so easily could have been a stab at Corwin, another strike of vengeance. A continuation of violence. But it’s not.
Corwin’s curse perpetuated violence; Eric’s curse, hurled against their common enemy, sought a restoration. It made all the difference in the world.
After his brother’s death, Corwin wins the battle against these creatures, but the battle is long and costly. He then takes over the regency.
After this “victory,” I had to take a moment to reflect. I really had wanted Corwin to get revenge. Not only that, but I had been envious of how easy it had been to curse his brother. All he had to do was get angry, say some words, and justice would begin. Isn’t that what Sirus Black wanted for Peter Pettigrew, what Frodo wished upon Gollum, what the Psalmist prays to happen to his enemies?
If all vengeance was like Eric’s—an act of restoration—I might start to hate sin instead of the person doing the sinning. I might start seeing evil for what it is—something that is possible in all of us.
I am no longer jealous of Corwin’s ability to curse. I think I have a role in bringing justice to the world. It starts when I realize the wrongs I have done. If I choose to seek forgiveness when I’m wrong and make amends, I pursue a vengeance like Eric’s. This is how restoration begins.