Swords of Death, by Fritz Leiber, is the second collection of short stories based on unlikely heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Compiled in 1970, it's essentially the same book as an earlier collection titled Two Sought Adventure. Three stories have been added to this version, making the total count ten, each sweeping the reader from the seedy streets of Lankhmar to the far reaches of mystical Nehwon.
Surviving the tragic events told in Ill Met in Lankhmar, Swords Against Death places Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser into multiple adventures, searching for elusive inner peace after the loss of their true loves.
Fafhrd is a tall, young barbarian from the northern Cold Wastes, armed with his wits and weapons: Graywand and Heartseeker. The Gray Mouser is small, a wizard of middling skill, but a master thief and accomplished swordsman, armed with Scalpel and Cat's Claw. Thieving to survive, they use the same names whenever they replace their lost or broken weapons.
The tales in Swords Against Death are of varying quality. What follows is a brief synopsis, including comments.
The Circle Curse - The Circle Curse reads like an outline, containing enough material to create an entire series of new adventures. As a story it's ultimately unsatisfying, serving only to bridge events from Ill Met in Lankhmar to the subsequent narratives presented here. Key is Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser's initial meeting with Sheelba of the Eyeless Face and Nigauble of the Seven Eyes, wizards they come to serve in subsequent tales.
The Jewels in the Forest - Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser seek the treasure house of Urgaan of Angarngi in an idyllic valley south of Lankhmar. What they discover is seemingly deserted, though it exudes an aura of evil. Soon, they realize they are not alone. Jewels in the Forest is an excellent story of horror and mayhem, featuring an unexpected adversary.
Thieves’ House - Thieves’ House is another great tale involving theft, a double cross, and ancient terrors best left undisturbed. This story is gripping, humorous and eerie. One of Leiber’s best.
The Bleak Shore - The Bleak Shore reads like two disparate stories. The first half is little more than a synopsis narrated by a third party, serving to gloss over a long passage of time. The second half has Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser dealing with the object of their journey. Unfortunately, the climax is rather anti-climatic, making this a rather weak effort.
The Howling Tower - An ominous tower far from Lankhmar forces The Gray Mouser into a race against time as he attempts to rescue Fafhrd. The Howling Tower is well-told, though the action is only mildly gripping.