We picked up Swords in the Mist awhile back at local used book store, having never read anything by Fritz Leiber before. It’s the third book in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series.
The most surprising aspect of the book itself is the handwritten review on the inside of the back cover. The previous owner had purchased the book 1974, and the read and reviewed the book in April 1978! Talk about “old school.”
We agree with some of the previous owners assessments (you can read his review below), but Swords of the Mist was entertaining for the most part. It contains six stories.
- “The Cloud of Hate” (It had good build but ending was a little disappointing).
- “Lean Times in Lankhmar” (A drunken religious tale, apparently a fan favorite).
- “Their Mistress the Sea” (Not really a story, but an exposition to the next tale).
- “When the Sea King’s Away (Good story)
- “The Wrong Branch (Again, more of an exposition
The book’s strong points were its concepts, not the necessarily the writing. Nehwon is an imaginative world and Lankhmar reads like a living city. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser fill out their roles as standard Sword-and-Sorcery hero tropes.
Very old school. Very Appendix N.
We finally got to read about fickle patron deities like Ninguable of the Seven Eyes (featured in Deities & Demigods book from long ago).
You’ve got cults and the stronger the get, the bigger the temple they receive along the Street of the Gods. (Question: Then why, in the first story, is the Cult of the Temple of Hate located beneath the city with its 5000 worshipers?)
There’s a lot to like in this book, and there would have been more like if Leiber fleshed out certain scenes and had better dialogue between characters. In some places the exposition just drags on.
Final analysis: If copies of other books in the series turn up, we’ll buy them.
Read this if: You’re a fan of classic sword-and-sorcery tales. You want read stuff from Appendix N. You’ve enjoyed works by Jack Vance or Robert E. Howard.
Don’t read this if: You’re really into epic fantasy and well-developed plot lines. Swords in the Mist is episodic.
Now here’s the original review from the back of the book:
The fact that Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are the closest body of fiction yet published to R.E. Howard’s Conan stories merely demonstrates (in this particular book, at least) how no one has ever been able to even come close to the terrific writing and storytelling abilities brought to the sword and sorcery genre by the Conan titles.
Although Leiber demonstrates here a truly fine imagination, the success of his stories are frequently torpedoed by a style of writing that sometimes explains when it should be describing, and all to often lapses into a conversational tone, that sometimes goes beyond this to plain old “bull$#^!.”
He also tends to be over exact and uses awkward sentence structure on occasion. Although he was a strong vocabulary, it becomes anachronistic to the point of interrupting the “suspension of disbelief.”
He also refers to the two protagonists as “the heroes” and as “the adventurers”—YUK.
The first story has mediocre imagination and absolutely terrible writing. Fortunately, the following stories aren’t so markedly bad.
High school level reading.