Monday, January 15, 2007

By Fritz Leiber

This is the sixth and penultimate volume of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series. The heroes have adventured in just about every corner of Nehwon and they’ve made piles of enemies. In particular they’ve made an enemy of someone who is out to get us all, sooner or later, Death himself.

While that is nothing special, one must admit that when Death gets personal it’s a very serious matter. “The Sadness of the Executioner” opens the book with a tale of how Death decided it was time to let go of his two most effective servants. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s problems get bigger, the gods themselves take a hand in “Under the Thumbs of the Gods”.

The stories build to the heroes’ fateful decision to venture to Rime Isle. In the climactic tale (titled “Rime Isle”) the twain confront the old and new enemies in a complex multi-cornered struggle to destroy the heroes and their new home.

Swords and Ice Magic is fun and thrilling sword and sorcery adventure. It is also fiction that reflects on itself. Leiber looks at where his heroes have been and where they are going. He has a fine time reviewing his heroes past loves (sort of a sword and sorcery psychoanalysis) as if to ask how they developed such idiosyncratic sexual preferences. In “Rime Isle”, Leiber confronts the death-wish that lies at the heart of adventure fiction. This is fiction that is almost painful in its self-awareness. Fritz Leiber helped create sword and sorcery as a genre. In Swords and Magic he managed to transcend his own creation.
-Dave Hardy

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