I am trying to find a book, probably from the 80's. The main character starts with amnesia. The royal kingdom has powerful siblings - some try to help the main character, some try to hurt and hinder him, as they juggle for position in the succession (the father is going insane). They have playing cards, with pictures of the family members on them. And something about a Pattern...

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    Can you be more specific about what Science Fiction or Fantasy elements this story contains? As is it written there is nothing that would inherently make this question on-topic.
    – Skooba
    Jan 12 at 12:40
  • Could this be "Lord Valentine's Castle"? Valentine does begin with amnesia...
    – Basya
    Jan 12 at 12:57
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    @Skooba Except it's obviously the Zelazny series that Fuzzy has identified. ;)
    – DavidW
    Jan 12 at 13:26
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    No, Skooba has a point, especially since it is possible that there are other matching works that might not be sci-fi or fantasy. :) It's one of those situations where it's right to prompt the querent for more details, but it's also right to provide the matching SF&F answer.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 12 at 14:12
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    Just from the question title I thought of the Amber series. If you are looking for a good audiobook version, the first five books are narrated by the author. Highly recommend.
    – RIanGillis
    Jan 14 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


This is likely Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber

Carl Corey wakes in a medical clinic, with little to no knowledge of who he is or how he got there. He suspects he is being over-medicated, so he overpowers the nurse and doctor and escapes his room. He finds the manager of the clinic, and learns that he was recovering from a car accident in a private clinic, paid for by his sister, Evelyn Flaumel.

He flees and heads to her house. She addresses him as Corwin and calls herself Flora. Hiding his lack of memory, he convinces her to let him stay. In Flora's library he locates a set of customized Tarot cards— the Trumps—whose Major Arcana are replaced with images which he recognizes as his family. As he looks over the cards he remembers all his brothers: sneaky Random, Julian the hunter, well-built Gérard, arrogant Eric, himself, Benedict the master tactician and swordsman, sinister Caine, scheming Bleys, and the mysterious Brand. He also views his four sisters: Flora who offered him sanctuary, Deirdre who was dear to him, reserved Llewella, and Fiona, whom Corwin hated.


Corwin finally reveals that he has very little memory of his identity or their destination, so Deirdre convinces him to walk the Pattern, which she believes will cure his amnesia.

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    If this is correct, you can accept by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons, as per the [tour[.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 12 at 12:55
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    My first thought upon reading the title. Definitely the Amber series.
    – Tom
    Jan 13 at 5:51

I'm certain this was a series of five books (later sold in a single volume): The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny (originally published in the mid-1970s).

Starting with Nine Princes in Amber, Corwin wakes up in a hospital bed; he knows a form of his name, but doesn't remember his youth or where he came from. None the less, he escapes from the mental hospital where he's restrained, acts on clues from his environment, and begins the process of finding out who he is -- and claiming the power that (he believes) is rightfully his (by taking it from his most hated brother, Eric, via shifting alliances with other brothers and sisters).

All the cited features are here: royal siblings (Benedict, Bleys, Random, Fiona, etc.), "Trumps", cards similar to tarot but with the major arcana replaced by images of people and places, usable to communicate or even travel to the person or place pictured. The one going mad, however, is the granfather, Dworkin; the father, Oberon (as Corwin recalls once he regains his memories), has been missing for centuries, longer even than the five hundred years or so Corwin lived on the "Shadow Earth" while his amnesia held.

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    BTW, if you reread these and like them, there's a second quintology, The Merlin Cycle following Corwin's son and five short stories written after that, as well as a prequel trilogy written by another author after Zelazny's death.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jan 12 at 17:33
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    You can in fact get all ten books in a single volume The Great Book of Amber, that's how I was first introduced to Zelazny's work.
    – Ash
    Jan 13 at 8:30
  • The first book was actually written in 1970. Jan 14 at 22:48

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