Zach Naylor's Reviews > The Swords of Lankhmar

The Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber
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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 of jokes in part because of how neatly they were delivered ("Farewell, Lankhmar!"). Part of this, I believe, has to do with the strength of its characters.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser probably need no introduction, and this book partly relies on that. They're given a somewhat oblique description early on (possibly as a result of this book's beginnings--again, more below), and we get a firsthand look at the duo in immediate banter and action. Leiber's dialogue and chemistry are keen, and it's easy to see how these two became so closely associated with his body of work and across fantasy fiction in general. Their dynamic is fantastic, with well-rounded and distinct personalities bouncing off their competitive attitudes towards money, women, and combat. They feel very "real".
Not to be undone, the villains of this piece are also quite memorable, particularly the flighty and hedonistic Glipkerio Kistomerces ("Farewell, Lankhmar!"). Magic is peculiar in the world of Nehwon, helped by the distinctly mysterious qualities of Sheelba and Ningauble. Their contrasted personalities keep aloft some of the more "distant" part of the work (again--below), and their capricious spells mesh very nicely with the well-explored (and slightly terrifying) prospect of an evil rat army.

However, the "rat army" angle and the general arc of the plot is held back a bit by the story's first leg: an entire boat trip, which mostly just serves to set up a couple characters and a particularly distinct side character (seen on the cover). This trip was the product of an entirely removed short story with Fafhrd and the Mouser, and this book--being the only full-length adventure in their catalogue--suffers a bit for its inclusion. Much of this could have been alleviated, I believe, the if the book split itself into two distinct "Parts".
The other fault is arguably that, despite its ease with introducing the northern barbarian-and-brawler (and that-mongrel-and-long-suspected-burglar/cutpurse/swindler/assassin), the "real" leg of the book, once off the boat, splits the pair into two separate adventures, with minimal payoff. This is a bit vexing and unnecessary, and only serves to increase the book's length on the balance. The characters themselves enjoy some fun romps in the meantime, but without their ongoing banter the middle distance of the tale feels at times incomplete.

All that said, the story itself, once it really hits go, is a blast. Forbidden (and unpleasant) romances, a would-be uprising, a rat civilization below the surface, swashbuckling action, fickle magic, and a hearty amount of personality made this a fast favourite of mine. Definitely recommended.
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Finished Reading
June 29, 2018 – Shelved

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