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Swords and Deviltry (1970)

by Fritz Leiber Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,828427,097 (3.73)37
The award-winning sword and sorcery classic that introduced Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, from a Grand Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. First in the influential fan-favorite series, Swords and Deviltry collects four fantastical adventure stories from Fritz Leiber, the author who coined the phrase "sword and sorcery" and helped birth an entire genre.   In "Induction," in the realm of Nehwon, fate brings young prince Fafhrd and apprentice magician the Gray Mouser together to mark the beginning of a loyal and lifelong friendship. Consumed by his wicked mother's enchantments, Fafhrd finds freedom by pursuing the love of a beautiful actress in the Nebula and Hugo Award-nominated "The Snow Women." Studying sorcery under a great wizard in a land where it is forbidden, Mouse crosses the thin line between white and black magic to avenge a great wrong in "The Unholy Grail." And in the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novella "Ill Met in Lankhmar," Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser disguise themselves as beggars to infiltrate the Thieves' Guild--only to pay a horrible price for their greed when they come face-to-face with a monstrous evil.    … (more)
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» See also 37 mentions

English (38)  French (3)  German (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Books are written with a certain audience in mind, and are also set within the time frame that they were written, despite the material that they are framing. I put this preface on my review, as I feel that this book could easily be misjudged. With that said, I feel that these stories are good examples of swords and sorcery (as opposed to heroic fantasy). If read from a perspective of heroic fantasy, the protagonists are not heroic - they are human, with a mixture of base and noble traits. Contrast this with a heroic fantasy character, and the characters can seem very coarse and repulsive. This is what is intended - the protagonists are not driven by a heroic storyline, but simply by life and survival, which brings out the best and the worst.

Of the three stories, I enjoyed Ill Met in Lankhmar the most, and rightfully so, as it is the Nebula winning story collected in the book. However, both of the other stories have merit. The first is a story of Fafhrd in his youth, and the development of his wanderlust, and how he deals with the social pressures he faces from his tribe. The second is the introduction of the Gray Mouser, how he took that name, and some of what drives him. The third is the first main encounter between the two (although they had briefly met before).

I wonder if this book is a relic of the times - does the sword and sorcery genre still exist with this type of material? My perception is that the genre has become almost completely heroic fantasy.

( )
  quinton.baran | Mar 29, 2021 |
It's entertaining, with some pretty solid story work, but it's a little overly flippant at some times and scant in detail at others with some handling of plot elements amidst serious events, and the purple dialog suggests Fritz Leiber was getting paid by the word or trying to impress someone. At times, the long-windedness of the characters interfered a bit too much with verisimilitude. ( )
  apotheon | Dec 14, 2020 |
I'm getting old, and can no longer save early books from the canon for some later date. I'm now trying to read through David Pringle's list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels, and it's time for Leiber's fantasy series (which I'll read in order, of course, though I understand the individual elements were written and published more higgledy-piggledy than that).

I was just recently tremendously disappointed with Glory Road (a Heinlein), which seemed so old, so sexist, so frustrating. Swords and Deviltry, in contrast, felt so fresh, so modern, so engaging. I knew it was an old book (or, rightly, a collection of one two old novellas and one old story) but it wasn't as old as I'd pegged it before reading (in my head it was a 1930s sort-of-thing, not 1960s, which is a considerable difference), but regardless it read (especially "Ill-Met in Lankhmar") as if it had been published yesterday. Apparently the first Fafhrd/Mouser story was written in 1939, so I'm not far off conceptually, but those collected here are later).

What Lord the Rings did for "traipsing across the vastness" quest fantasy, Fritz Leiber has done for "rollicking urban buddy" fantasy. It's all there. Am I reading Swords and Deviltry or am I reading Lies of Locke Lamora, or The Crown Conspiracy, or The Name of the Wind? I've been thinking of those sorts of books as particularly 21st century, not having a clue (because I hadn't read the Fafhrd/Mouser series) of their tonal antecedents. I think Leiber may have invented the Thieves Guild, influenced Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs, video games ... he apparently coined the terms Heroic Fantasy and Swords & Sorcery.

I'm ecstatic that something that used to be so difficult to obtain (track down old editions of magazines, or obscure novels in used books stores) is now a few mouse clicks away, whether getting new printings from Amazon, ebooks for a Kobo or Kindle, or sourcing original texts from Abe.com ... sure, sometimes you're stuck with a dreadful Glory Road (which you can abandon midway, oh, the bliss!), and sometimes you're rewarded with a wonderful Fritz Leiber collection.

P.S. Had already read his Conjure Wife, three times, so I knew I liked him. I recommend it, the central premise is terrific. It's urban fantasy.

P.P.S. His writing (actual words, not plotting/characterization) is terrific. I kept smiling at the aptness of individual sentences.

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s). I feel a lot of readers automatically render any book they enjoy 5, but I grade on a curve! ( )
1 vote ashleytylerjohn | Oct 13, 2020 |
Beefy & scrawny
both astoundingly stupid
each in their own way. ( )
1 vote Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Pulpy sword-and-sorcery from a time when fantasy stories didn't have to be nine thousand pages long. ( )
  chaosfox | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fritz Leiber Jr.primary authorall editionscalculated
Fainza, HeidiCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fibla, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ström, FredrikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sundered from us by gulfs of time and stranger dimensions dreams the ancient world of Nehwon with its towers and skulls and jewels, its swords and sorceries.
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The award-winning sword and sorcery classic that introduced Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, from a Grand Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. First in the influential fan-favorite series, Swords and Deviltry collects four fantastical adventure stories from Fritz Leiber, the author who coined the phrase "sword and sorcery" and helped birth an entire genre.   In "Induction," in the realm of Nehwon, fate brings young prince Fafhrd and apprentice magician the Gray Mouser together to mark the beginning of a loyal and lifelong friendship. Consumed by his wicked mother's enchantments, Fafhrd finds freedom by pursuing the love of a beautiful actress in the Nebula and Hugo Award-nominated "The Snow Women." Studying sorcery under a great wizard in a land where it is forbidden, Mouse crosses the thin line between white and black magic to avenge a great wrong in "The Unholy Grail." And in the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novella "Ill Met in Lankhmar," Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser disguise themselves as beggars to infiltrate the Thieves' Guild--only to pay a horrible price for their greed when they come face-to-face with a monstrous evil.    

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