Bill Kerwin's Reviews > Swords and Deviltry

Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber
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May 20, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Read from April 06 to May 01, 2010


This is the first volume in Fritz Leiber's classic fantasy saga, the adventures of Fafhrd and his friend and partner, The Grey Mouser, composed from the 40's through the 70's. The volumes are ordered chronologically by their position in the saga, not the date of their composition, and this volume features some of Leiber's most mature works. We meet the young Fafhrd--a barbarian of the northern wastes dominated by his mother, the great Snow Witch--who longs for the excitement and variety of civilization that arrives in the form of a theatrical caravan, and we meet Mouse--the apprentice of a poor hedge wizard--who revenges his master's death, becoming in the process "The Grey Mouser." The book end with what is perhaps its best tale, an account of the two heroes' first adventure together, in which they join their wits and swordsmanship to defeat the Thieve's Guild of Lankhmar, the City of a Thousand Smokes.

Leiber does not choose to construct an alternate world--or an elaborate multi-volume quest, for that matter--with the painstaking care of Tolkien, but he writes just as well (perhaps better) and creates a marvelously expansive world filled with good food, good wine, good sex and good fellowship, with a little roguery and thievery thrown in for good measure. Tolkien's debt is to Beowulf and the old Viking sagas (plus more than a dash of Merrie Olde England), but Leiber is a direct descendant of Dumas and Sabatini, with liberal doses of "If I Were King" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" thrown in for good measure. This makes for a romantic, wordly-wise, cosmopolitan, theatrical fantasy--a world I find much more comfortable and compelling than the good professor's esteemed--but rather dull--Middle-Earth.
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05/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Lyn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lyn I want to read this, great review


message 2: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob It is gratifying to see a fantasy world the reader can become immersed in without the world itself being front and center. One of my issues with modern fantasy is too many writers in the last 30 years have imitated Tolkien by focusing on world-building in an architectural sense. Lieber shows that an author can make a world engaging and evocative without mapping out a dozen family trees and seven centuries of history.


message 3: by Bill (last edited Jun 11, 2015 09:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill  Kerwin Rob wrote: "One of my issues with modern fantasy is too many writers in the last 30 years have imitated Tolkien by focusing on world-building in an architectural sense. Leiber shows that an author can make a world engaging and evocative without mapping out a dozen family trees and seven centuries of history. "

Good point. One of my rules for choosing a fantasy: if it has a map in the front or a genealogy in back, think twice, and, if it has both, to hell with it.


message 4: by William (new) - added it

William Wonderful review, Bill. Somewhere in my past there is a Fafhrd and a Grey Mouser, but I can't remember where, or why, or what I though. A mystery itself.


Bill  Kerwin William wrote: "Wonderful review, Bill. Somewhere in my past there is a Fafhrd and a Grey Mouser, but I can't remember where, or why, or what I though. A mystery itself."

Try it. I think you'll like it.


message 6: by William (new) - added it

William On my top-to-read list now!


message 7: by Rodzilla (last edited Oct 30, 2017 07:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rodzilla The Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories are wonderully fun because they combine the creativity of Robert Howard with a finely honed sense of humor. I always imaged Leiber thinking, "These Conan stories are colorful, but how much better if you imbue the series with a sense of the ridiculous." After all, it is hard to take swords and sorcery seriously: A little comic relief goes a long way.


Bill  Kerwin Rodzilla wrote: "The Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories are wonderully fun because they combine the creativity of Robert Howard with a finely honed sense of humor. I always imaged Leiber thinking, "These Conan stories ...

Good point!



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