The Pattern is inscribed on the floor of a large cavern that is part of a system of caves deep within Mount Kolvir, directly underneath Amber Castle in the city of Amber. The Pattern is a single, intertwined curve, laid out in a spiderweb-like shape.Members of the Royal Family of Amber can walk along the Pattern to its center in order to gain the power to walk among shadows — alternate worlds. Whether members of the house of Amber create the shadows they walk into or that the shadows already exist and that the pattern walker merely enters them is a subject that the author Zelazny leaves open to reader interpretation. Once a walker sets foot upon the Pattern, he must continue following its labyrinthine course to the center; stopping for too long, or leaving the pathway of the Pattern, results in a terrible death.
Walking the Pattern is not an easy task. There is a resistance that slows the walker, as if he is wearing lead boots that get heavier and heavier with every step. During the ordeal, the walker passes through several points of extreme difficulty called "veils" — The First Veil, the Second Veil, and the Final Veil. These points represent intense surges in this fierce resistance; however, "breaking through" a Veil causes the resistance to let up a bit.
Once at the Pattern's center, the walker has acquired the power to walk in Shadow. As well, being at the center gives him the opportunity to command the Pattern to send him anywhere he wishes—across the room, back up to Amber Castle, across the world, to another Shadow world, here on Earth, etc.
During the series, it is revealed that Amber itself is but the first "Shadow" of a Primal pattern, located when the Unicorn of Order lead Corwin to a previously unseen location. The Primal Pattern was guarded by a purple Griffin named Wixer that apparently had also been placed there to guard Dworkin (previously thought deceased), as Dworkin had, at this point, lost much of his mental faculty. This Primal Pattern was damaged prior to the events of Nine Princes In Amber when Amberite blood was spilled on it — the blood of Martin, son of Random, Oberon's youngest acknowledged child. Oberon attempted to repair the Pattern, although he realized the process would kill him. Brand, whom Dworkin acknowledged as his most apt pupil in study of the Pattern, suggested that such repair may not be possible. Brand also suggested when Corwin was inscribing his own Pattern that there could not be two such centers of order in the multiverse, and that it would be necessary to destroy Corwin's Pattern before he could inscribe his own. However, Oberon successfully repaired the Pattern, and it was seen to coexist peacefully with Corwin's Pattern - possibly because both are merely reflections of the Pattern in the Jewel of Judgment.
It is implied that nobody could successfully repair the damaged Pattern perfectly, or reproduce it as it originally was: and that their own personality would be inevitably imprinted on it in the attempt. This is accepted — and desired — by Brand, who wished to destroy the Pattern outright and re-create a new Pattern in his own image, with himself as architect of the new Universe: and a fact either not known or misunderstood by Corwin, who attempts to faithfully recreate the old Pattern (after Brand deceives him into believing Oberon to have failed in his attempt to repair the original) only for his new Pattern to not only evolve differently but eventually resist the attempts of the successfully-repaired Pattern to incorporate it. It follows, from this (and from the fact of Corwin's successful creation of a New Pattern, in which he did not die) that it may not have been necessary for Oberon to die in repairing the Old Pattern: and thus that, since Oberon did indeed die, he may even have done so willingly (and known in advance that this was necessary) as a way to avoid imprinting his personality on the Old Pattern at its re-completion. At any rate, after its repair, the Old Pattern (when displaying sentience) does not appear to display any characteristics of Oberon's personality.
Through the course of the ten books, the existence of many other alternate Patterns is revealed. There is the Pattern in Rebma (Amber spelled backward), a reflected version of Amber beneath the sea; there is one in the ghost-city reflection of Amber in Tir-na Nog'th; there is the Primal Pattern, the one true Pattern that is higher on the reality scale than even Amber; Corwin's own Pattern, off in Shadow; and even imperfect versions of the Pattern found in Shadows very close to the true Pattern. The latter are called 'Broken Patterns' and can be walked by anyone with enough courage to do so. Broken Patterns allow initiates to traverse shadow and perform magic in a similar way to the initiates of the true Patterns. However the broken path manifests itself in a number of ways. The main example is that the break in the Pattern manifests itself in each Shadow the initiate visits. The size of the break depends on the size of the break in the Pattern and one's distance in Shadow from Amber. Broken Pattern mages draw their power directly from the break, similar to drawing their power from Chaos. The Pattern degenerates the farther it is from Amber. The first nine broken images were negotiable but Merlin in the course of Knight of Shadows repaired one presumably leaving only eight. It might be however that other patterns became safe enough to use after this.
The Jewel of Judgment
The Jewel of Judgement is a large ruby-like gem worn as a pendant around the neck. As the saga progresses, its importance grows. At first it is just a device for controlling the weather, useful in battle, but then Corwin is told that if he walks the Pattern carrying the Jewel, and then uses the power of the Pattern to project himself into it, he will gain a new level of power. When he does this, he finds that the Jewel itself contains a Pattern, in three or even more dimensions. Eventually he learns from Dworkin that the Jewel is the real source of the Pattern of Amber, and that it was obtained from the Unicorn. Corwin uses the Jewel to forge his own Pattern, when he believes that Amber's Pattern has been destroyed. Standing at the center of his Pattern, he is then able to project himself into the final battle at the Courts of Chaos.
The Merlin Cycle
In the Merlin Cycle, the second series of five novels in the Chronicles, the Pattern is shown to be sentient. It is able to manifest itself at any point in shadow, and teleport others without their consent. It is also able to create Pattern ghosts, artificial versions of any person who has walked the Pattern.
The Jewel of Judgement is revealed to be the left eye of the Serpent of Chaos, stolen by the Unicorn at some point in the very distant past. It eventually ends up serving as a replacement eye for Coral, allowing her to see the "clear, cold lines of eternity".
Reception and analysis
Naturally, the Pattern is recognized as a symbol of order in scholarly analysis. Some analysis has emphasized the crucial role that the psyche of the Pattern's creator, whether Dworkin in the case of the Pattern of Amber or Corwin in the case of his new Pattern, may be expected to play in the cosmos formed from it.
The Pattern has been analyzed in metaphorical counterpoint to the Trumps, where the Trumps represent "wild cards" blurring the distinction between perception and reality, but both are sources of empowerment for their users.
In popular culture
- Lindskold, Jane M. (1993). Roger Zelazny. Twayne Publishers. p. 71. ISBN 0-8057-3953-X. "Initiates of the Pattern of Amber can create new realities simply by imagining a place and then going to it. At best, however, these characters and their experiences provide metaphors for Zelazny's thoughts on writing as a form of creation."
- Beetz, Kirk H. (1996). Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction 5. Walton Beacham Publishing Co. p. 775. ISBN 0-933833-38-5. "Amber represents "form" or "order" or "pattern" — indeed it was formed by the creation of a "Pattern" in the midst of Chaos, a Pattern that is inscribed in the genes of all of the Lords of Amber."
- Yoke, Carl B. (2007). Roger Zelazny. Borgo Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-916732-04-5. "Third, it is not only achieving the goal that is important but the style with which it is accomplished. Corwin expresses this concept as he inscribes the new Pattern. He knows that the universe he is creating will be an extension of himself when it is finished just as the existing Pattern is itself an extension of Dworkin's mind. He knows that the richness of the new universe, its character so to speak, will be determined by the details that he puts into the new Pattern [...]"
- Tymieniecka, Anna-Teresa (1991-07-31). Ingardeniana III. Roman Ingarden's Aesthetics in a New Key and the Independent Approaches of Others: The Performing Arts, the Fine Arts, and Literature (Analecta Husserliana). Springer. p. 336. ISBN 0-7923-1014-4. "But in the end we discover that the Pattern of Amber itself originated in the Courts of Chaos. This cosmological plot might have been written to make Husserl's point that "The world is the totality of what is taken for granted as verifiable... [but we must go back] to the ways in which this subjectivity 'has brought about', and continues to shape the world through its concealed internal 'method'. The interest of the phenomenologist is not aimed at the ready-made world... which is something already 'constituted'. (Crisis, pp. 176–77)"
- Bleiler, Everett Franklin (1985). Supernatural fiction writers: fantasy and horror, Volume 2. Simon & Schuster. p. 1116. ISBN 0-684-17808-7. "Seeming and being are difficult to tell apart here, and with each new addition to the series, more wild cards enter the game. This metaphor is, in fact, exact, since a tarotlike pack of cards combines with the Pattern of Amber to give the family members their mental powers over Shadow."
- Busey, Andrew (1995). Secrets of the MUD Wizards. SAMS Publishing. p. 456. ISBN 0-672-30723-5. "Pattern, The [...] This is the home MUD for Dworkin's Generic Driver (DGD). It is the best place to go to ask DGD-related questions or to learn more about DGD."