Weak and on the run, having just escaped from five years in prison, with eyes that still haven't fully regenerated, and a desire for revenge uppermost in his mind, Corwin heads for what was, or what used to be, and perhaps doesn't exist anymore except as a shadow of a shadow, a place that he holds dear in his heart: Avalon. Not that he'd really admit to such an emotion, nor does he dwell overlong on his memories of that place. But bits and pieces of that long ago time in that far away place occasionally surface - and that is part of the power Zelazny infuses into this series about one 'real' and many Shadow worlds, dragging you in by inference and suggestion, and saying a great deal about Corwin's character without actually saying it.
The first section of this book is almost a separate book in its own right, as Corwin, on the road to Avalon, gets stopped by encounters in Lorraine with Lancelot and an old lieutenant of his, Ganelon. While this section seems only marginally related to Corwin's quest for the Amber throne, it introduces a both an important new character and an unexplained threat that will bear its greatest fruit much later in the series, along with letting the reader come to know just who Corwin is in much better detail. By the time he does reach Avalon (or what passes for it in these days) and meets another of his brothers, Benedict, he is once more in peak physical and mental form, with a plan in mind for how to take the throne.
The last section of this book is both action-packed and full of surprises, as good guys are revealed to have some serious flaws, the bad guys suddenly seem somewhat heroic and honorable, and previously made plans get some drastic alterations. None of this comes out of a hat, as Zelazny carefully prepares for each of these things, but makes sure that you are held in suspense, as you really can't predict how things will turn out. And of course, the book ends with a cliff-hanger - else why would you want to read the next book? And you definitely will want to, not only to find out what happens next, but to be caught up again in Zelanzy's tight prose and his masterly intimations of other times, other places.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)