The seventh and final volume in Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, containing stories from the late seventies and eighties. This one was a bit different than the previous for me, insofar as it is the only volume I had never read before, as it had not been released (or indeed, written) yet the last time I read through the series. Knight and Knave of Swords is generally considered the series’ low point, and with very good reason – while Swords and Ice Magic was rather mediocre, this one is outright bad, and if it wasn’t for my stubbornly insisting on reading the series in its entirety I probably would not have finished it.
My Fafhrd and Grey Mouser read-through is nearing its end – Swords and Ice Magic is the sixth and penultimate volume and differs from the previous ones in having been first published after a seven year hiatus and collecting stories written in the seventies. It is generally considered to mark a decline in quality for the series, and indeed the volume is not off to a good start.
The Swords of Lankhmar, fifth volume in Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser books, stands out among the others by being the only novel in the series. It has often been remarked upon that this form is not really suited to the tales Leiber tries to tell, and I am finding myself in agreement with this. Not that The Swords of Lankhmar wasn’t a fun to read, but it does drag a bit in places, in particular during the sea voyage described in its first part which is almost a standalone tale.
Swords and Wizardry is the fourth volume in Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series, which means that I’m past the halfway point in my re-reading now. It contains only four stories, two long novellas and two short tales serving as introductions to them. It maybe deserves some notice that the first story, “In the Witch’s Tent” was written especially for this volume, thus presumably being one of the bridge vignettes like those encountered in previous volumes which were intended to provide a consistent chronology for all the story. What is interesting about this particular one is that it does not even attempt to do any bridging, even fails to make any mention at all of Fafhrd’s and the Gray Mouser’s excursion into our world in “Adept’s Gambit” from Swords in the Mist. I can only assume that Leiber himself was embarrassed by this whole world-and-dimension-switching mess and chose to just conveniently forget all about it.
The next stop in my project of re-reading the whole of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books is Swords in the Mist, the third volume, which contains one lengthy early novella, three mid-period stories from the fifties and sixties, and two bridge vignettes Leiber wrote for this volume to bring his stories into some kind of continuity.
This is the second volume in Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser books, and I would say that the series really hits its stride here… except that the stories this volume collects are some of the earliest he ever wrote for this setting (in fact, it contains the very first of them, “The Jewels in the Forest”, first published in 1939) and thus precede everything collected in the first volume.
Swords and Deviltry is the first volume of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, a series that in its own way has probably been every bit as influential as The Lord of the Rings. With the difference, though, that this influence was not primarily literary – while Tolkien’s magnum opus spawned countless High Fantasy novels that imitated or emulated it, reworked it or pitted themselves against it, Low Fantasy authors looking for literary inspiration for the most part turned towards Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories as their model. But what Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, their world of Nehwon and particularly its largest city Lankhmar were a huge influence on, is fantasy roleplay gaming, in particular Dungeons & Dragons (and everything in turn influenced by D&D, like a large part of Fantasy movies – leading to the slightly bizarre situation that the Conan movies owe at least as much, if not more, to Leiber as to Howard).