Fritz Leiber – Swords Against Wizardry

One of the icons of the early sword & sorcery fantasy genre are Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, their stories mainly originating from the forties until the seventies. Sometimes I wonder if fantasy readers these days are aware these stories by Fritz Leiber exist. I happened to encounter a few of their collected stories at my hometown library when I was a kid and I liked them well enough to buy the complete seven story collections years later. The collection that I’ve read now is the fourth, called Swords Against Wizardry (1968).

In truth this collection consisting of four stories feels like two novellas that have been provided with an introduction and an intermezzo to connect the two rather unrelated novellas. The first short story is so short it barely functions as one, just allowing the start of the first novella to be not to abrupt. The third short story does manage to stand on its own, but the opening and ending match the end of the first novella and the beginning of the second novella too much to be suspect of having been written to connect the two novellas so to provide the collection with a greater wholeness.

The two novellas have little in common except the main adversaries of the pair are dangerous wizards. Funnily enough, or perhaps intentionally, there is a great contrast in the setting as the first takes place in high places while the second is set beneath the earth.

As short stories go the plots are relatively simple, although Leiber puts in a number of twists that will keep the reader from easing down. The style and setting remains somewhat gloomy and grim while there are moments that will make the reader smile or grin. Leiber’s prose is not the smoothest or captivating, which is one of the reasons I’ve never been a particular fan, so it is very much his unconventional storytelling that makes me want to read him again at times.

These stories still remains classic stuff from different times in the fantasy genre. Anyone who likes different flavors of fantasy should at least explore one of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story collections.

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