Friday, January 12, 2007

By Fritz Leiber

Swords in the Mist is the third and shortest volume in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. I believe it is also the first one I ever read, so it has a special resonance for me. First impressions count for a lot, Fritz Leiber’s first impression on me was very favorable.

Swords in the Mist follows Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in more of their swashbuckling adventures. “Lean Times in Lankhmar” actually splits them up. Fafrhd gets religion and becomes a hymn singer (he was going to be a singing skald before he left home abruptly) and the Gray Mouser joins an organized crime outfit. When the gangsters start taking an interest in the prophets to be made in the Street of the Gods, the pals are on a collision course. “Lean Times” is one of the funniest sword and sorcery tales I’ve ever read.

The other bookend for this set is “Adept’s Gambit”. This story blends fantasy with a historical setting (a very happy mix). The twain find they’ve wandered out of the fantasy world of Nehwon into the 3rd century BC Seleukid Empire. After a strange curse afflicts the heroes, they undertake a strange journey to lift it. Leiber has returned to the coming of age story, only this time it is about a sorcerer (no Harry Potter) and the pain he inflicts on those who love him. While still filled with the absurd humor that characterize the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser tales, “Adept’s Gambit” is also truly creepy, a good reminder that sword and sorcery has its roots in the horror genre.

Swords in the Mist is a true feast of sword and sorcery. A remarkable set of tales by any standard, it is part of one of the best s&s series of all time.
-Dave Hardy

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