In Swords Against Death, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser journey from the ancient city of Lankhmar, searching for a little adventure and debauchery to ease their broken hearts. When a stranger challenges them to find and fight Death on the Bleak Shore, they battle demonic birds, living mountains, and evil monks on the way to their heroic fate.
The late Fritz Leiber's tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser launched the sword-and-sorcery genre, and were the inspiration for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
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©1995 The Estate of Fritz Leiber; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
"The two of them are the finest and most wonderful team in the history of sword and sorcery." (Neil Gaiman)
"Fritz Leiber's tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are virtually a genre unto themselves. Urbane, idiosyncratic, comic, erotic and human, spiked with believable action and the eerie creations of a master fantasist!" (William Gibson)
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Swords Against Death is the second collection of stories about Fafhrd, the big northern barbarian, and The Gray Mouser, the small thief from the slums. For the past three years, the two have grown so close that they are now (as Neil Gaiman suggests in his introduction to the audio version) like two halves of the same person. They???ve been traveling the world together in an effort to forget their lost loves.
During their travels ???they acquired new scars and skills, comprehensions and compassions, cynicisms and secrecies ??? a laughter that lightly mocked, and a cool poise that tightly crusted all inner miseries,??? but they haven???t been able to assuage their guilt or lessen their feelings of loss outside of Lankhmar, the city which they swore never to return to.
But as Sheelba of the Eyeless Face prophesied (???Never and forever are neither for men. You???ll be returning again and again.???), Fafhrd and the Mouser are persuaded to return to Lankhmar where, it turns out, they have not been forgotten, and soon the duo is back to their old tricks and dealing with their former enemies in these stories: ???The Circle Curse,??? ???The Jewels in the Forest,??? ???Thieves??? House,??? ???The Bleak Shore,??? ???The Howling Tower,??? ???The Sunken Land,??? ???The Seven Black Priests,??? ???Claws from the Night,??? ???The Price of Pain-Ease,??? and ???Bazaar of the Bizarre.???
Some of the stories are better than others (my favorite was ???Bazaar of the Bizarre???) but all are ???classical rogue??? (Neil Gaiman???s term) and all are worth reading simply because they???re written in Fritz Leiber???s gorgeous prose, which is thick with alliteration, insight, and irony.
Jonathan Davis who does a terrific job with this series. His voices for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are perfect ??? Fafhrd sounds pensive, intellectual, and introverted while Gray Mouser sounds a bit greasy and common. I highly recommend this format; it adds an extra dimension to these fun stories.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Swords Against Death (1970), the second book in Fritz Leiber's classic sword and sorcery series featuring Fafhrd (the pale giant barbarian) and the Gray Mouser (the dusky, compact ex-slum boy), is a collection of ten entertaining short stories assembled by Leiber into a fix-up that, with some strain, is almost a composite novel dealing with the attempts of the duo to come to terms with the violent deaths of their beloved lovers at the end of the first book, Swords Against Deviltry (1970).
In the first story, "The Circle Curse" (1970), the friends are so sick of grief, guilt, and loss in Lankhmar that they leave the city forever, they believe, wandering the world of Nehwon and living by "thievery, robbery, bodyguarding, brief commissions as couriers and agents… and by showmanship," gaining "new scars and skills."
In "The Jewels in the Forest" (1939), Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser go on an amusing and suspenseful treasure hunt involving an architectural guardian, a quirky peasant family, and some rival rogues.
Multiple sets of characters compete for the possibly animated ruby-eyed skull and jeweled hands of an ancient Master Thief in the madcap "Thieves' House" (1943).
In "The Bleak Shore" (1940) a mysterious stranger puts a geas on the Mouser and Fafhrd to see if they can cheat Death, who commands sword-armed dinosaurs.
After their geas-quest, "The Howling Tower" (1941) finds the friends on their way back to Lankhmar, encountering belling ghost hounds, spooky bandages, and a cracked wizard.
In "The Sunken Land" (1942), Fafhrd catches a fish and finds an old ring its stomach: is he as lucky as he thinks or should he obey the Mouser's advice to throw the thing overboard?
In the loopy "The Seven Black Priests," still Lankhmar-bound, Fafhrd and the Mouser stir up a cult of black-skinned priests protecting a hill bearing an ominous stone face in the snowy Cold Wastes.
Back in Lankhmar, the friends are caught up in an avian crime wave that has left ladies of rank wearing protective gilded bird cages on their heads in "Claws from the Night" (1951).
"The Price of Pain-Ease" (1970) is an oddly moving story, in which the Mouser and Fafhrd take up housekeeping in a purloined ducal garden house set on the ashes of their former lovers. Although at first they enjoy their new digs (in which they find books of erotica and death), soon they are being visited by the ghosts of their loves, until they are compelled by impending madness to strike bad bargains with some mysterious wizards.
The collection closes with "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (1963), a satiric critique of mercantilism and consumerism. Are the inter-universal super-merchants who've set up shop in Lankhmar's Plaza of Dark Delights selling what the Mouser sees, lenses revealing "the blue heaven-pinnacle of the universe where angels flew shimmeringly like dragonflies and where a few choice heroes rested from their great mountain-climb and spied down critically on the ant-like labors of the gods many levels below"? Or what Fafhrd sees, "old bones, dead fish, butcher's offal, moldering gravecloths folded in uneven squares like badly bound uncut books, broken glass and potsherds, splintered boxes, large stinking dead leaves orange-spotted with blight, bloody rags, tattered discarded loincloths, large worms nosing about, centipedes a-scuttle, cockroaches a-stagger, maggots a-crawl"?
Despite ranging over roughly five decades (from the late 1930s till 1970), and despite Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser forgetting their dead lovers for entire stories, the tales in Swords Against Death mostly cohere in tone, plot, theme, and setting, unified by the rogue-adventure friends' relationship and by Leiber's baroque prose and sardonic vision. Leiber writes fresh and witty dialogue, as when the friends discuss a man who wrote poems daring adventurers to pilfer his jewels: "'The man's mind runs to skulls,' muttered the Mouser. 'He must have been a gravedigger or a necromancer,'" while Fafhrd chips in, "'Or an architect'" And he writes great descriptions, as in this one redolent with mood: "She stood breathless and poised, one hand touching a treetrunk, the other pressing some leaves, ready to fly away at the first sudden move. Fafhrd and the Mouser stood as stock-still as if she were doe or a dryad."
I enjoyed Jonathan Davis reading the third person narration of the stories in an American voice flavored by British and or Australian English and rare rolled Rs, and the Gray Mouser's lines in a quasi Australian-British accent and Fafhrd's in a straightforward American one, making it easy to distinguish between the two friends. His deeply intimidating Sheelba and purringly epicine Ningauble are spot on. Best of all, Davis revels in Leiber's rich and quirky prose, which percolates with alliteration and rhyme and archaic or obscure words.
Unlike Robert E. Howard's laconic loner Conan, Fafhrd and the Mouser are often a garrulous comedy duo, bantering about their different predilections and stratagems. Fans of the contemporary realistic fantasy of Martin, Erikson, Cook, and the like may not enjoy Leiber's old sword and sorcery, but I found that the dry wit, baroque style, anti-heroism, imaginative adventures, satires on religion and civilization, vividness of Nehwon and Lankhmar, and humor and horror, all make most of his stories (apart from their dated sexism, by which women--"girls"--are untrustworthy or "for dessert") entertaining.
Listening to this was like getting to know old freinds again. The voice acting and narraration is superior and done right. Really brings the characters to life. I will buy more in the series.
Simply a great fantasy series with wonderful characters and some imaginative plots. A refreshing classic and not a knock-off of Lord of the Rings. Nice to see this finally become an audiobook. The writing and narration is top-shelf. If you like stories about rouges and theives with some humor thrown in then this is for you. My best fantasy recommendation.
I still can't seem to connect with these two characters. It's possible that it's something to do with the narrator, though I thought he did a great job on Snow Crash...and he certainly doens't lack experience... Maybe it's just a hard book to read aloud. I dunno...but from chapter to chapter...it doesn't seem like these characters are developing. I don't like or dislike them...I just feel like I don't know them...and almost like they're different characters every time a new chapter starts.
Also still find the stories to be...missing some depth...and some are boring (yes, I know some are just to lead to others), and strange to say about fantasy...but some things are not terribly believable.
But as I said in my review of book 1, I'm just coming off of Jordan's Wheel of Time and Martin's Song of Ice and Fire...maybe just hard to compete with that. And maybe I'm expecting this to be one epic saga...and maybe it's just not...or at least not in the way I'm used to...
I would give this a 3.5, but not a 4 (so it gets a 3). And sorry, but I don't give credit for the "Citizen Kane factor" - I sat through it in film class and listened to the professor tell me how great it was...but as a movie compared to other movies I like, Citizen Kane was boring, slow moving, and had a boring ending - however groundbreaking and innovative it was for the time.
That said...there are plenty of good things about this book... and I'm going to go get book 3 now.
Listening to this book over 30 years since I'd first read it was an interesting experience. It was immediately apparent why Leiber is a legend of the genre. His writing is just so far superior to that of most writers. And the narrator was perfectly suited to Leiber's style. My only complaint, and it's a big one, is that this was not so much a novel as a series of short stories, each about some quest for a valuable object. I'm not a big fan of short stories in an audio format and would not have purchased this book had the blurb told the truth about it. AudioBooks should be sued for false advertising. I am now in a quandry as to whether listen to other books in the series. That's too bad because I love listening to Leiber.
It was almost like every sentence was written in paragraph style with the point being made left to the very end and then not very interesting for the long journey. It was like Dorothy swirling around in the hurricane expecting to find the road to Emerald City but only finding the road to 7-Eleven.
Regrettably, it was tedious to listen to and I've given up on the series after this Book 2.
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This the best Sword and Sorcery ever written. The stories seem to go by really fast and I can't wait to read more, I just need audible to put more of them on sale.
I really enjoyed this story and will probably go through the entire series :) The story starts of honed to a sharp edge without a wasted word and I enjoyed the way the way the asthetic of the storytelling was interwoven with the setting in the cold dark North. Then the storyline and action picked up as the setting moved onto the hot and humid southern regions, this is classic storytelling at it's best :)
Enjoying audiobooks daily!
I love Mouser and Fafhrd. This set of stories splits them up and takes them both on journies to hell for the souls of their dead loves. It's gripping, entertaining and humorous in a dark way. The boys get what they want in the end...sort of. Enjoyed it immensely. Lots of adventure.
"Good but not brilliant"
I recall reading this the late 70s and early 80s when good fantasy fiction was a rare commodity. My friend and I immediately took to the books and I especially liked the city of Lankhmar and its many faces described brilliantly by the author. Many years on and many other books later the stories suffer by comparison with the other fiction I have since read (Hobbs, Abercrombie, Martin, Pratchett) which is a little unfair since many of these authors will have been influenced by Leiber and improved on what he started.
It's not that the stories are bad (they are far from it: imaginative, funny, scary, intriguing and memorable for the most part), I just find there to be far too many dull moments where nothing of import happens. I guess these fill in the gaps in the characters' development (e.g. the trip at the beginning of the book to the ends of the world and back) but it's a bad sign when you find yourself writing down your weekly shopping list while supposedly listening to the story. Given there is only nine hours or so of listening, the tight fisted git in me is a trifle narked at losing an hour or so of this time to nothing very interesting at all.
The narrator is good and I think the voices he uses are perfect for the characters. I would recommend the book as a filler if you like fantasy and find you have some credits spare that need to be used up, or you can't think of any other book to read but want a good fantasy book. As I say, they are good but just lack the consistency to be brilliant.
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