I've noticed Zelazny's books on the store shelves since I started prowling the Science Fiction/Fantasy sections twenty-five years ago. At first they didn't interest me, because they seemed to be an uncomfortable (for me) blend of fantasy and science fiction. I recently read one person's description of the Amber novels as "science fantasy." I don't like it as a category, but it suggests some of the right things. Over the years people have suggested I read these books, but I've mostly moved on to literary fiction and philosophy now, and when I read something frivolous I get frustrated with myself. But I took the recommendations seriously--especially that of fantasy author Steven Brust, who loved these books so much he named his son "Corwin" after the protagonist.
So I found four of the Amber novels at a flea market for fifty cents apiece and grabbed them. When taking a chance on new genre stuff, it's my practice to go as cheap as possible.
Okay, about the book. Zelazny does a good job of incorporating a kind of pulp-crime tone into this story. He does a really good job with point of view, his pacing is pretty good, and there is no way to predict the direction of the story (except for the assumption that Corwin will survive--fantasy stories are reliable that way). The conventions of fantasy literature are met in unique ways, and that has been difficult for everyone in the genre.
That said, I have a quibble: The arc of the story is incomplete. This is clearly intended as the first in a series, so that's probably nothing Zelazny would worry about, but I dislike when authors pull this kind of open-ended crap. Even Robert Jordan had a plot-arc for each of his sprawling monstrosities.
I'll get around to reading The Guns of Avalon at some point, but the guy at the flea market didn't have that one. Until then I'll have to stew on the non-ending of Nine Princes.