I was not impressed. After starting this book, I went back to check on
some reviews, and am thankful to see that this seems to be considered
one of the weaker books in the series. Because I didn’t like the
writing, the characters, and the plots were pretty boring. The story of
Fafhrd was strange, and I kept waiting for something to happen. At least
there is a semi-plot in trying to save the girl from being sold, but for
the most part Fafhrd just walks around getting pelted by snowballs by
his mother. At least the Grey Mouser’s story was easier to understand
–revenge, both by Mouse and by the Duke’s daughter. The revenge, though,
wasn’t satisfying in any way. Finally, the story where they meet up in
Lankhmar was much better written, but the plot was nonsense and made no
logical choices at all. The characters are extremely lucky, at least
until they lose that which they were fighting for. The girls were only
interesting when they were interacting with each other. After this one,
the other books in this trilogy have moved lower down on my reading
I’d heard a lot of good things about
this author and these characters, but apparently this is not the first
novel that should be read about them. It’s their origin story, and while
the tale of Fafhrd is fairly original, the writing style is bland, the
dialog is mostly terrible, and the plotting is mediocre. Still, there
was something to like about the two main characters throughout, and
maybe that’s the action. For a book about sword and sorcery, there is
very little of the latter, but the former is well described, and that’s
where the book gets its second star.
I couldn’t believe what I
was reading in the first story, as Fafhrd gets pelted with snowballs by
the women of his village, who are witches trying to keep their men
loyal. Huh? This is the time of year when the circus comes to the
village, and no women are allowed, because it seems that all the circus
performers are naked or nearly naked women, and sometimes there are
orgies. Fafhrd makes out with his pixie girlfriend, who admits she is
pregnant, and then goes to observe the beautiful Vlana, main performer
in this circus show. I liked the way his girlfriend caught him spying
from the tree branch, but nothing really came of it. He meets up with
Vlana, and manages to seduce her somehow, even though she is about to
run away with another man from the village. She puts him off until later
in the night, and when he returns, they make love.
with his mother were very strange, as she casts her ice net wide, even
creating giant ice caterpillars that crawl up the outside of Vlana’s
tent. Her magic can reach anywhere there is snow or ice, so it’s a
pretty wide net. But Fafhrd can block her, at least a bit, and when he
overhears the circus owner is going to sell Vlana to a man as a sex
slave, he manages to get back and upset the man’s tent. But Vlana
escapes with somebody else, and Fafhrd chases her, with the sex slaver
on their heels. I think this was my favorite part of this story, as he
chases them down the mountain slopes on skis, and finally battles all
the men, when Vlana finally deals the death blow to set them both free.
Fortunately the ending was reasonably good, because everything else
was lower than mediocre.
In the second story, we get the origin
story of the Grey Mouser, apprentice to a mid-level sorcerer. Returning
from a quest, he finds the sorcerer dead at the hand of a nearby Duke.
Mouse seeks revenge, but the Duke easily overpowers him. The Duke’s
abused daughter, Ivrian, whom he abuses and mocks at every opportunity,
has spent time with Mouse, and can’t kill him at the Duke’s request, and
at that distraction, when the Duke is berating her, Mouse escapes. He
concocts some dark magic, to which he supposedly loses his soul (but
only for this story, it seems), causing the Duke to get sick. When
Ivrian finds Mouse, now the Grey Mouser, the Duke’s men capture him, and
bring him back to the dungeons. But Mouse sees the desperation in
Ivrian’s face, how she hates her father, so he gives her instructions,
and when she follows them, Mouse escapes, and the Duke is dead.
This story was fairly dark, and while I didn’t like the characters, the
dialog was at least better than in the first story. It left me with at
least some hope that the book was getting better.
Finally, in the
third story, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser meet in the city of Lankhmar,
for which Fafhrd lusted all his life –civilization. But it’s a bland
kind of civilization, I think. I’ve seen other books with a Thieves’
Guild, an Assassin’s Guild, and all other sorts of other legalized
criminals, but I wonder if this was the first, the author being
considered as the
father of sword and sorcery. While the writing style grew much more
sophisticated, and easier to read, the dialog was still terrible. From
the moment the two met, they say stupid things to each other, and it
keeps going to the end. Fortunately, when they get back to the women,
Vlana and Ivrian, the dialog improves somewhat, but that doesn’t last
Getting drunk, they decide to destroy the Thieves’ Guild,
something Vlana has been wanting to do since they stole her life away.
But first they stop off to get more drunk. The infiltration of the Guild
was horribly plotted, but at least yielded some results, as they found
the man they were looking for, and his wizard. I’m still not sure what
the purpose of the dark smog was, but after they escape, Fafhrd and
Mouser return to find their girlfriends have been overcome by the smog
and eaten by rats! Ugh! I didn’t see that coming, and the surprise was
both disgusting and a welcome change to the rest of the bland story.
The two go back to the Thieves’ Guild and kill the sorcerer and burn
the place down. And then they are off to their many novels of
adventures, I guess.
I’ve read several Terry Pratchett books, and
I think this was trying to achieve that kind of humor –no outright
jokes, but silliness. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, at all.
Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but less stupid, if I can say that, I
just wasn’t amused. At least many of Pratchett’s books make me smile or
laugh. This book had no real comedy element to it, or it bordered way
below my comedy threshold.
I was expecting sword and sorcery,
but not the attitude we got here. Besides mediocre plotting, bad dialog
and stereotypical and sexist characters, I found some things that I
liked. Unfortunately, the women who provided the best parts of the book
were killed in the end. I hope the author can do better with his male
characters in the next book.