Zelazny's 'Jack of Shadows' is some dark stuff

Originally published at: Zelazny's 'Jack of Shadows' is some dark stuff | Boing Boing


Zelazny’s Amber series is one of the first science fiction series I can remember falling in love with as a young reader.

Same. I read this after I had read the Foundation series, as well as the “pre-quel” stories. While I liked the Foundation stuff, the Amber series was incredible. A real “holy shit, this is what great writing looks like.”

Boy, thanks for bring that up, I hadn’t thought of those books in years. Time to read it again, I think.


I remember that book. Jack’s early meeting with a vampire: “sorry, but I was more hungry than you were”. Truly a badass anti-hero, and we never find out if he survived at the end either.


Why oh why is Damnation Alley the only thing that has been adapted? You could run a whole streaming service off of just Zelazny material!!!




Roger Zelazny is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi/fantasy writers. This Immortal was the first book of his I read as a young science fiction reader. Creatures of Light and Darkness, A Rose for Ecclesiastes, Lord of Light and The Chronicles of Amber are must reads for anyone getting into Zelazny’s work.
He died far too young.


Jack of Shadows is called out in the famed “Appendix N” as an influence/inspiration on Dungeons and dragons.

Discussion here:


why Chronicles of Amber (at least the original set, before Merlin) hasn’t been optioned into a miniseries i will never understand. it’s perfect for one. and i would love to see an adaptation of Lord of Light. there are so many others, too.


Lord of Light is one of my favorite novels - ever! Zelazny was a freaking genius!


Jack of Shadows was a spinoff/followup from the Chronicles of Amber. As I recall, Jack was Corwin’s illegitimate son, left behind when Corwin decided to go walking through Shadow and never returned. Probably justifiably bitter.


Now this is a coincidence, I was browsing in the bookstore in town today, and a couple of people were discussing which books to try next, so I got chatting and suggested some books by a young British writer, who’s written under three names, Catherine Webb, her own name, when she wrote a number of YA books, Kate Griffin, under which she wrote the Matthew Swift urban magic series, and Claire North, which she uses now. It was while I was talking about the first two books she wrote, ‘Mirror Dreams’ and ‘Mirror Wakes’ (she wrote the first during her school holidays at the age of fourteen), that I mentioned that they reminded me very much of Roger Zelazney’s work, and they weren’t familiar with his name! So I got very enthusiastic about his writing, and made a note of his name for them, mentioning the Amber series among others of his books.
I first discovered him in the 70’s, possibly via a library copy of one of his novels, and I’ve still got a whole bunch of paperbacks of his from that time, I’ve also got a novel he co-wrote with Alfred Bester, which is well worth tracking down. I love the way he used words and descriptions, almost poetic at times.
Thanks for putting this up, Zelazney is a much-missed writer who really deserves to be brought back into the light for a new generation of readers.


The relationships he has are the high point in that story for me.

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I’d call it teasers. It’s not as if I said anything about the story.That vampire was just a short scene at the start of the book to show how dangerous Jack was.


“What are you doing, dinner?”. One of my favourite lines, ever.

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I did not know (or remember) that! Thanks for pointing it out.

Liked, and not just in agreement that Zelazney deserves a spotlight.

Partially due to lockdown and partially due to the continuing desertification of local retail, the thought of talking about about books at a bookstore makes me so nostalgic that the description itself reads like fantasy.


According to this article in The Verge from 2016, the Amber novels were being given a hard look for the next conquest by the people who made the Game of Thrones TV series.
Not sure where that went though, perhaps the forces of Chaos intervened…

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Zelazny had a rare and valuable skill in that the dialogue of his characters sounded exactly like natural people conversing. You can sense their conflicting motivations, their spurious insights, their evolving extrapolations. I have a Writers Digest tape of Zelazny on Writing in which he described his writing process: he’d start with imagining the character for his protagonist, then he would imagine each of the other primary characters and start them interacting with each other. He said that sometimes he would do this for a few hours and it would lead to a frustrating dead end. But when it worked it was a joyful exercise and (as they say) the story would write itself.

I would love to be able to do this, but still can’t imagine how he pulled it off so admirably.

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Claire North/Kate Griffin/Catherine Webb is one of the best writers currently out there. The Midnight Mayor stories are great and Harry August is a masterpiece.

Loved Amber but felt like the quality dropped somewhere in the series, but it ended strong. Might need to re-read. My favorite line is when the protagonist returns to his old abandoned house, which has been ransacked except for his bookshelves: “Nobody steals books but your friends.”

Recommended Lord of Light, my favorite Zelazny novel, to a friend years ago. He read it and said, “You like that kind of stuff? It wasn’t for me.” And I’m like


How can everyone not love what I love???

I’m about a quarter of the way through Jack of Shadows – pretty fun so far. Like most Zelazny, I feel like it should be narrated by a beat poet over a background of upright bass.

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I think I was about a quarter of the way through Jack of Shadows … before I left the bookstore!

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