marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

reflections on epic

In one respect, Amber is much more epic than Lord of the Rings.   It involves scads upon scads of worlds, and their fate.

It doesn't feel like it.

It does follow the one rule I had formulated prior to it:  namely, if the world is danger, you can't tell me until you are at least half way through the first book.  There is no way before then that you can have the world-building sturdy and convincing enough that putting the world in danger makes me think that it's a great menace, rather than that the world's built of cardboard at best.  But that's a minimal rule, apparently.

Amber, I think, has three problems.  One is that the cursory treatment of the Shadows and Amber are not the solid world-building needed to convince us of their existence and substance.

The other, closely related, is the point of view character.  Now, Corwin is indeed what you would expect in a prince raised in a position of power and security, with superhuman abilities, who has been taught that only Amber is real and all the Shadows are unimportant.  Willingness to sacrifice armies of beings from the Shadows to claim the throne is plausible, but -- not very useful for convincing readers of their reality.  True, there's character development, but that takes a while.

Finally, there's the problem that we are assured that any variations in Shadows that could occur, did occur.  That if he stops to help a wounded knight with six dead foes, he could instead have gone on to a Shadow where the foes lived, and the knight died.  It's the same problem as the many-world hypothesis to explain alternate histories:  nothing has significance, because all combinations are real, this is just the one the character happens on.  A world is not significant if its decisions are not real.

Hmmm. . . refinements of the original rule, with more clauses about what you need to make it real.
Tags: character arc, characterization, genre: fantasy, point of view, realism, world-building: general

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