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Customer reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
The First Book of Lankhmar (FANTASY MASTERWORKS)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 April 2015
Before reading this book I’d heard a lot about it. The saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber was apparently responsible for the invention of the term, “Sword and Sorcery”. With this in mind I had high expectations, hopes and anticipations. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like this book, which is actually a prequel to a more expansive series, at all.

Firstly, the book isn’t actually a coherent novel, it’s a collection of three novellas with an introduction describing the imaginary world of Lankhmar where place names and features are rapidly dished out; none of which I remembered. Its very clear that the stories were written separately then organised chronologically, with extra sections added to try to tie them together in a semi-logical manner.

The first two tales are origin stories: the book kicks off with “The Snow Women” which is about Fafhrd’s boyhood in the Cold Wastes (1 star out of 5), the second “The Unholy Grail” sees Gray Mouser as a magician’s apprentice (1 star out of 5) and the third is when they meet and become friends (1.5 stars out of 5); how the last novella won the Nebula (1970) and Hugo (1971) awards is beyond me!?

Anyway, I think what Leiber aims for is a mix of sophisticated writing style, humour, adventure and touches of horror here and there. But what I read was simply a confusing jumble. His prose is very much like Marmite; you’ll either love it or hate it and sadly I fell very much into the latter camp. I felt that his dense style was used to prop up the very weak stories instead of making them more attention-grabbing and interesting in the first place. It was muddled and mumbling: my personal preference is for a simpler less eccentric and more direct way of writing.

Perhaps future books work better as the main characters are together for the whole time? Perhaps the writing style is simplified and stronger plots are present? To be honest, after reading Swords and Devilry I really don’t want to invest any of my precious life in reading them to find out. I guess for fans of the tales this series this first book provides some back story and should be read for completeness if nothing else.

If you’re just generally into Sword and Sorcery you may want to give this a go? Although it wasn’t for me due to the reasons that I’ve already described above you may like it and perhaps Swords and Deviltry could be a nice addition to your fantasy library?
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on 14 March 2012
I don't get why the Lankhmar stories are praised to high heaven. In theory I should have loved this. I'm a big fan of Sword and Sorcery books and Fritz Leiber was one of the founders, and invented the term 'Sword and Sorcery' itself.

However, when I started to read this my spirit began to sink. Rather than being the light-hearted and fun read I've seen them described, I found them ponderous and heavy-going, very much over-written and not a little dull.

The Lankhmar stories are also held up as being darker, more gritty than epic fantasies such as Lord of the Rings - I'm sorry, but it read to me more what a 14 year old boy's idea of being 'adult' or 'daring' was, wine, women and song (or something)with no experience of any of them. Finally the 'witty' style grated with me very fast.

Sad to say, this did nothing for me. My copy went to a charity shop and I won't be seeking out any more from Fritz Leiber
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on 4 April 2012
I used to read a lot of fantasy, and have read most of the 'greats' . This is not one of them , this book is awful. i'm all for the premise of an anti-hero but the characters are poorly written and are somtimes really evil and sometimes really good without any real justistfaction for their actions.

The plots are what a 14 yr old child could come up with , to be fair at the time the plots were probable more orignal and less predicatable, but now just don't compare.

I was geniuinly surpised how bad this book was given the praise it had received , but serously don't believe the hype and save yourself a few painful hours.

As for the 'bromance' , if they wrote a book of 'Dude where's my car' the realationship between the two characters would be more believable and heart warming.

Also why is it that all women in fantasy novels have to be submessive women and/or whores , do other characters get taken out during editing.

If I could unread this I would , but I can't and feel I am worse person because of it .
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VINE VOICEon 6 December 2002
OK, the title is hyperbolic but justified. Two things. One, these stories are Sword and Sorcery, more similar to Conan than to Lord of the Rings. Two, they're different from Conan in a number of ways, better in my opinion.
For those who've not heard of them, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are, respectively, a northern barbarian and a city slum kid who get together in the third story (the first two stories introducing them seperately.) Despite being two very different people they get on and after tragedy strikes in the third story go wandering off around the world engaging in various types of (usually illegal) business. Thus far they're similar to Conan. But the stories differ in being more cerebal, exotic and entertaining than Conan. Lets face it, Conan's response to any problem is to hit it. Fafhrd and the Mouser do hit things but, and this sounds terrible, are usually more thoughtful about it. What I'm trying to say here is that the appeal of Conan (and I am a fan of Conan) is his brute fury, his barbarian rage. That's not the case here, the characters are far more thoughtful and realistic, they do get angry but it isn't their central characteristic, there's more to them than that.
And the writing is wonderful. Leiber was able to describe the weird, the wonderful and the exotic in ways that hold your interest and never becomes overblown. The world in which Fafhrd and the Mouser live is magical and yet also deeply sordid and decadent and Fafhrd and the Mouser too are ocasionally engaged in sordid and reprehensible deeds. The result is to have a world and heroes which are both more realistic and more entertaining than most of the current crop of Fantasy writers.
These are the best of the Lankhmar stories. The second volume consists of later stories in which Leiber has clearly lost his edge. Despite that, I would reccomend volume 2 to anyone, as Leiber, even not at his best, is far superior to most of the current Fantasy writers around today. But this volume, the best of Leiber's Lankhmar stories - this one's a must.
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on 25 February 2013
These stories are well-written, spectacular fun, and outlandishly creative. I have now read several tales within the Sword and Sorcery genre - including Conan - but these tale surpass every single one. Fritz Leiber was clearly an immensely talented writer, and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are two of his finest creations, being flawed but likeable.
I whole-heartedly recommend these stories to all lovers of Fantasy fiction, and am deeply baffled by the mediocre reviews this book has received, for it is certainly undeserving of them.
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on 11 June 2015
A must background-read (along with "Conan Chronicles"). Maybe a bit juvenile storyline - but explains totally the basics of all "AD&D" -characters and adventures.
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on 26 September 2006
A weighty tome of easy-going spell and hackfests, providing a good dose of entertainment in a light hearted manner. Don't be put off by the size of the book as each chapter could almost be read in isolation.

Why only 3 stars? Not entirely my cup of tea - the "witty" writing style started to grate after a while and some of the stories seemed a bit rambling and lacking in sharpness.

But, if you want to be entertained rather than challenged and to have a book that you can pick up and put down at will, then go for it.
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on 14 November 2014
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VINE VOICEon 15 September 2003
Bit of a throwback this one and something I would normally have read about twenty years ago, but still, this collection of 4 novels about the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are written in a high-literary style, reminiscent of the best of Robert E Howard and come recommended if you like the pre-1970's style of sword and sorcery which is invariably darker and distinctly more bloody than its descendents. Generally I prefer the stranger writings of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, but this collection still hits the spot. This volume actually contains 4 separate books, of which my favourite is the last, with the totally immersive tale of the ascent of Stardock. Loved it.
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on 13 May 2004
One of the best things about Leiber is the way the incidental never gets out of hand. In one passage he recounts our heroes are not seen for a year, and bit by bit stories filter back. Other writters would use this as an excuse for padding, possibly another volume (why tell a story in one volume when you can make 5 times the profit with 5). FL on the other hand relates it all in passing in one long paragraph, yet makes it incredibely interesting. You want to know the full story, but it doesn't matter you don't- the anticipation of a story never told rather than the let down of a poor one.
The great thing about F & GM is that the game's the thing- the money is just a convenient way to keep score (and buy wine and female company of course). Who else in a moment of drunken genius would steal an entire house (not squat, STEAL!)?
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