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The Swords of Lankhmar

(Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #5)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,065 ratings  ·  98 reviews
One of them was a huge, brawny, full-bearded barbarian from the northlands of Nehwon. His name was Fafhrd, his weapon a broadsword.

The other was a small, nimble man dressed all in gray. Men called him the Gray Mouser, and he carried both rapier and dirk.

They were known throughout the city of Lankhmar as brawlers, cutpurses, and rogues. But they were the most dangerous fi
Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Published 1968 by Ace Books
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Bill Kerwin
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy

This is a superb fantasy novel, featuring sword fights, magic potions, ancient gods awake and wrathful, super-intelligent rats, a time-traveler riding a sea serpent, a whistle for summoning mystic war cats, transparent but still attractive lady ghouls whose bones gleam provocatively in the moonlight, lovely femme fatales and (of course) deluded males, nudity, copious drinking, overt sadism involving whips and chains, and just a hint of masochism for good measure.

In other words: a thoroughly enj
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Swords-and-sorcery fans
Recommended to Werner by: It was a common read in one of my groups
Shelves: fantasy
Note, Sept. 3, 2013: I corrected a minor typo here just now.

In creating the barbarian soldier of fortune Fafhrd and his partner, the short-statured swordsman known only by his nickname the Gray Mouser, and the fantasy world of Nehwon that they inhabit, Leiber was influenced by his sword-and-sorcery sub-genre predecessors, notably Robert E. Howard and E. R. Eddison. But he also wanted (according to his preface for this novel) to create "fantasy heroes closer to true human stature" than the likes
Charles  van Buren
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Fritz Leiber may not have invented the sword and sorcery genre but he did name it. He also created two of the most iconic characters in the genre, Fafhred and the Gray Mouser, and put them into a well received series of dangerous and sometimes outrageous adventures. The Swords of Lankhmar is one of those which is both dangerous and outrageous. If you are squeamish about disease carrying vermin, namely rats, this may be too much for you. SPOILERS: Giant rats, regular size rats, i
J.G. Keely
When I first started reading Leiber, my expectations were pretty low. He is often praised along with the other 'giants', but the fantasy genre is awash with unwarranted praise: the barely-differentiated is lauded as revolutionary, and many of its 'giants' are giant only in disappointment. But Leiber surprised me. Throughout the Lankhmar series, he has shown a lively, stylized voice, an eye for character and suspense, and an evocative sense of wonder.

Unfortunately, he begins to fall off his pace
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Oh man, I can't stress enough that I had more fun reading this than I have with anything in a long time, except maybe for some of the other Lankhmar stuff, like the classic "Lean Times in Lankhmar", which everyone with a taste for satire and mockery of religion should definitely read. This is the one and only Lankhmar novel (the rest are of course all short stories) and starts with the two rogues already in some serious trouble as they return to the grimy and beloved city of Lankhmar to find all ...more
Juho Pohjalainen
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the first of these tales to drop the short story format altogether and spend the entire book telling a single long tale - much like a cartoon series being expanded into a movie. But where such movies (at least all the good ones) would take all the advantage out of the vastly expanded length to tell stories of higher scope, more complex and epic struggles, genuine drama and character growth, all the things that a single half-hour episode could never accomplish... The Swords of Lankhmar, r ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012

Reaching the fifth installment of the ongoing saga of Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, I thought for a while that I'm approaching saturation point, or that the author is better suited to the short form rather than this attempt at a full blown novel featuring his pair of lovable scoundrels. It took a German speaking traveller between parallel universes, riding a double headed sea serpent and searching for his misplaced spaceship to get me in the right mood for tackling Swords of Lankhmar . I believe th
I recently re-read for the Pulp Fiction group. Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser are certainly 2 of the most entertaining of all sword & sorcery heroes. Their faults are legion, but their hearts are usually in the right place, unless of course there's money or sex to be had. Then they make horrendous mistakes, scramble frantically to extricate themselves from their current mess & swagger off, chalking it all up to experience. Of course, they promptly get into another mess shortly after that, but they're ...more
"A plague of rats overrun Lankhmar, the capitol city and glittering gem of the land of Nehwon. Commissioned to guard a ship of grain from the cursed rodents, brother-in-arms Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser soon discover the plague has progressed to a fatal point. Mustering the strength of sorcery, they descend into the depths of Lankhmar and rise to battle in order to save the soul of the ill-fated city."

This is certainly not the strongest of Fritz Lieber’s series about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, bu
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the first volume where the reader gets to truly savor the outré, decadent delights of Lankhmar, a city that is wealthy and metropolitan more or less in spite of itself, and this alone is worth the price of admission for the novel.

This type of setting has been done more extensively elsewhere (see New Crobuzon), but I'm curious: was this the first? What came before Lankhmar?
Kat  Hooper
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

I never get tired of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — I adore those two rogues! In The Swords of Lankhmar (a full novel rather than the usual story collection), the boys have been hired as guards for a fleet of grain shipments because several ships have recently disappeared. Aboard the ship they meet a couple of enchanting women who are escorting a troupe of performing rats across the sea. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser soon discover that these are not ordinary wo
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, 2014

The Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books are a fun way to waste some time if I'm in a particular mood.

They're pretty formulaic. In each one, our two heroes go on an adventure, get into trouble due to lust, greed, or often both, then spend the rest of the story trying to frantically work their way out of trouble again.

But whereas the other books are anthologies of slightly connected but mostly separate short stories, this particular one is a full length novel. And where the short stories are a
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 3.5 stars. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in their first full-length novel take on a horde of civilized rats bent on taking over Lankhmar. I did enjoy it quite a bit, but the heroes were really missing the obvious in the beginning and the middle had slow parts, and the end with the whistle was just a little bit too lucky. I really liked the juxtopositions of how sometimes being small has its fighting advantages, and sometimes being large does.
Ray Otus
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is the eleventh tale of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, written by Fritz Lieber. It first appeared as Scylla's Daughter in 1961 in Fantastic. It was later revised/expanded in 1970 as The Swords of Lankhmar, volume 5 (all of it) of the collected stories.

This is a craaaaazy story! Not always in a good way, but definitely always in a colorful way. It's not really a spoiler to tell you it's about a bunch of rats trying to take over Lankhmar, because that is so heavily foreshadowed you'd have to be
Francesco Manno
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Swords of Lankhmar is the fifth book, and the only novel in the saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (second in Italy, because the first four are contained in The World Nehwon), written by Fritz Leiber and published in 1976 by the North.
In this adventure the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are hired by Glipkerio Kistomerces, lord of Lankhmar, to escort a fleet of ships laden with grain that will be offered to Movarl of Eight City, as compensation for hold off Min
I never came around to enjoy this one. It started strong with witty banter between Fafhrd and Mouser and there was a tantalizing promise of a gonzo story of a time traveler riding a purple dragon, then the first third of the novel ended and Leiber wrote a nonsense tale of rats that involved Mouser in a Alice in Wonderland kind of tale.

I would only give two stars, but it had its moments of high notes, but only a few and too scarce; for instance, Fafhrd falling for a ghoul was fun.

I see two prob
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lesser tale, run too long

We're already at the point of diminishing returns in the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. What would be a decent novella is stretched into a mediocre novel, slowed by palace intrigues that aren't and mysterious side characters that aren't worth pondering. Still, it's pleasant enough and the world building, including the invisible-fleshed Ghouls and the rat kingdom of Lankhmar Below make for a worthwhile read.
Zach Naylor
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply a fantastic adventure. An inventive, galloping swirl of fantasy fiction with great characters and an entertaining (if basic) plot. This could make for a decent introduction to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in general--for those who prefer long-form stories--but more on that below:

Fritz Leiber is a great wordsmith. His voice has an incredible grasp on efficient detail, which sings and dances with his originality and wonderful irreverence. I frequently found myself laughing at even the tamest
Julian Meynell
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I recently read Swords and Deviltry, the first in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series and because of its role as an origin story of a pair of existing characters felt that I could not really evaluate it properly and that there was potential there. It is very rare for me to read a book in a series shortly after reading a previous one, but I did because I thought that I should give Leiber another shot and I am glad that I did. This is a better book and a better introduction to the characters.

May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Of the several modern Fritz Leiber collections I've 'read' on audible, The Swords of Lankhmar is, next to Swords and Deviltry, the most archetypal Fafhrd and Gray Mouser adventure.

While Swords and Deviltry is a must read because it is the rogues' origin story, The Swords of Lankhmar is the first long form and mature tale of sword and sorcery that hits all the right notes with all the proper Leiber flare.

The evidence: The story begins for the rogues on a mercenary job with some promise of danger
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
Possibly the best fantasy novel of all time. I grabbed it randomly off a bookshelf one night, maybe a month ago, before going to bed, and re-read it for the 3rd or 4th time in my life. It's a quick and amazing read. Swords, sorcery, rats... humorous and even kinda sexy... the only flaw in this book is the dumb part about the interdimensional traveler -- I think this was filler material recycled from another story. Anyhow this is the only full-length Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser novel, and it is no ...more
James  Proctor
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
High adventure as I enjoy it best, ribald and antic and inventive. Fritz Leiber is so masterful at these tales (his copious catalog of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is rightfully legendary), he pulls them off with deceptively elegant ease. A few snippets for your delectation:

The Mouser studied Fafhrd, wondering if it were politic to make a certain proposal he had in mind. He was not quite certain of Fafhrd's feelings toward Hisvet. He knew the Northerner was a goatish man enough and had yesterday s
Ashley Lambert-Maberly
Unusually inventive--hard to believe this is a product of decades long past, rather than the latest outing from a Matthew Hughes or Scott Lynch. I have been reading in internal chronological order, and this, the only true novel, is a fitting climax to the series (of course, there are more stories to go--may they provide equally fitting denouement).

I was the tiniest bit worried that Leiber might not be able to maintain a novel's length worth of interest, especially since some of his novelette-siz
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was easily and hands-down the best of the series so far, and the only proper novel. Very easy to see here how it influenced Gygax and crew, to the point where I think I recognized elements pilfered for Greyhawk/D&D campaign modules (not in the plagiaristic sense, but more "inspired by untrue events"). Not as quotable as some of the previous stories, but it's the long game here, and the story arc is both gripping (for sword & sorcery anyway) and, apart from the fairly obvious fact that (view ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I believe this is the best book I've read so far of the adventures of The Gray Mouser and Fafhrd. My only negative observation is that the author will switch scenes with no preamble so you're reading about what one character is up to and the next paragraph takes you to an entirely different scenario. It's only a bit disconcerting but I don't think it is evidence of good writing.

Lots of magic and strange happenings. The book ends with our heroes riding off into the sunset with their new lovers.
Al Sirois
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm partial to Leiber's work, and this, the only novel-length "Fafhrd and Grey Muser" tale, doesn't disappoint. Rats are taking over the pair's home base, the city of Lankhmar in the land of Nehwon, and not just any rats: these are intelligent and organized and very dangerous. There is plenty of sword play, and sorcery to boot, along with some of Leiber's most inventive plotting. Originally commissioned to guard a ship full of grain, the big barbarian and the small man with the quick blade soon ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am continuing my read of Fritz Leiber Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories in the order they were first published. I really enjoyed the Swords of Lankhmar to include the Easter eggs place within the story. If I had not read the a number of his early writings I would not have picked up on them. I highly recommend this novel and I'm looking forward to reading "The Snow Women" in the near future.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
By far the best in the series (so far), and a fine example of how exciting and fun the Sword and Sorcery genre can be. Adopting the novel form (as opposed to Howard-esque short stories) serves Lieber well, as he’s able to slowly build up a suitably ominous (yet simultaneously comical) villain for the two heroes to do battle against. I found the previous entries hit and miss, but this one grabbed me from start to finish.
Judith D
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-for-2019
The story is Book #5 in the series about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It is a new story from beginning to end. The two characters have experienced a split because of a clash of personality. So, the adventure follows each as they go their own way. It's like two wavy lines moving toward the same spot over different terrain. This series is a picture of male and female experience. A fantasy of entertainment and characters.
Wes Thompson
Dec 19, 2019 rated it liked it
As much as I enjoy Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories, this one was kind of a slog to get through. It was very obvious that this started off as a short story - the first quarter of the book seems to be that. Afterward the middle half of the book meanders around for a couple hundred pages, finally wrapping up with our heroes that we know and love. 3 stars, while I still love the series, this one should have remained a short story.
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Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. was one of the more interesting of the young writers who came into HP Lovecraft's orbit, and some of his best early short fiction is horror rather than sf or fantasy. He found his mature voice early in the first of the sword-and-sorcery adventures featuring the large sensitive barbarian Fafhrd and the small street-smart-ish Gray Mouser; he returned to this series at various ...more

Other books in the series

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (7 books)
  • Swords and Deviltry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #1)
  • Swords Against Death (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #2)
  • Swords in the Mist
  • Swords Against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #4)
  • Swords and Ice Magic (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #6)
  • The Knight and Knave of Swords (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #7)

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