'Fafhred and the Gray Mouser faced each other across the two thieves sprawled senseless. They were poised for attack, yet for the moment neither moved.
Each discerned something inexplicably familiar in the other.'
Thus two of fantasy's greatest heroes meet, forming a bond that will take them from adventure to adventure in the world of Nehwon, and more specifically, the ancient city of Lankhmar.
Long considered a grandmaster of fantasy writing, comparable to Howard and Tolkien, Fritz Leiber is credited with coining the term 'Sword and Sorcery'--a genre packed with larger than life heroes, exotic magic, damsels in distress and finely crafted, colorful locales.
Swords and Deviltry could be considered the first of a series of books chronicling the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Fafhrd, giant barbarian from the cold wastes, young and impressionable, and the Gray Mouser: master thief, sometime wizard, and larger than life swordsman.
Swords and Deviltry contains three stories. The first, The Snow Women, written in 1970, introduces Fafhred as a young man living among his people in the snowbound north. He meets his first love, Vlana, and together share adventure and mystery, eventually journeying south as the story ends.
While not a particularly strong piece, The Snow Women serves as a coming-of-age tale for young Fafhrd, and explores the sense of adventure and wanderlust inherent in his subsequent adventures.
The second story, The Unholy Grail, was written in 1962, and concerns the early years of Mouse and the origin behind his transformation into the Gray Mouser. Like Fafrhd in the previous story, Mouse finds love in the form of Ivrian, the daughter of Duke Janarrl.
The third story is the classic Ill Met in Lankhmar, published in 1970, winner of the 1970 Nebula and 1971 Hugo for best novella. The story describes their first official introduction an encounter forming the close bond that takes Fafrhd and the Gray Mouser through many adventures in the misty alleys and dangerous streets of Nehwon's foremost city.
Ill Met in Lankhmar is an engrossing tale of adventure, friendship, love and tragedy, crafted by a true master who has seldom received the accolades due him. Leibers' strength lies in the intricate characters and vivid descriptions that inhabit his tales, often touching on themes considered relevant today. Above all, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are human, with desires and emotions common to every man. And in the hands of a master like Fritz Leiber, required reading for any serious fan of the genre.