Saturday, January 13, 2007

By Fritz Leiber

Swords Against Wizardry is the fourth book of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Fritz Leiber’s unparalleled sword and sorcery heroes. Fafhrd is a tall, Northern warrior and sometime singing bard. The Gray Mouser is a short, slender thief (in the Douglas Fairbanks tradition) and sometime sorcerer. The twain are not exactly inseparable, Leiber enjoyed splitting them up so he could bring them back together in ways that delight and amaze his readers.

The pals seek a legendary treasure on top of Nehwon’s (the imaginary land where their adventures take place) tallest peak, Stardock. After much stern mountaineering they arrive, though Stardock is anything but a barren wilderness. A race of invisible folk make an entrance thus thematically linking this tale to a number of others involving the semi-invisible ghouls (their skeletons are visible, see Swords of Lankhmar) as well as women who are bald or completely hairless (see “The Sadness of the Executioner” in Swords and Ice Magic). Which is to say that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s somewhat fetishistic relations with women is of increasing import here.

Balancing out the journey to the highest peaks is “The Lords of Quarmall” where Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser find themselves gainfully employed on opposite sides of a dynastic war in Quarmall. That Quarmall is an entirely subterranean kingdom ruled by wizards of formidable power only makes the twain’s sojourn there more interesting.

From mountain climbing to subterranean wizards, Swords Against Wizardry is an eccentric travelogue from Nehwon, the imaginary world where Fahrd and the Gray Mouser, two of sword and sorcery’s most eccentric heroes dwell.
-Dave Hardy

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