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Swords And Ice Magic (1986)

Swords and Ice Magic (1986)
3.99 of 5 Votes: 3
0441791964 (ISBN13: 9780441791965)
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Swords And Ice Magic (1986)
Swords And Ice Magic (1986)

About book: I'll say it straight off--Swords and Ice Magic is not that great.Oh sure, there are some good parts. "The Frost Monstreme" is a good story in the old Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser model, where they're approached in a tavern and given a task for hope of gold and glory. While on that task, they run into an inexplicable weirdness that threatens them, and they have to overcome it. It's not too long, it has evocative imagery, and after the earlier stories in this book it was like a cup of water after crawling a week in the desert."Rime Isle" also wasn't bad, though it dragged in places and I was not a fan of the main conflict. There is way too much deus ex machina, in both the literary technique sense and in the literal gods solve problems sense. As an example, one of the main conflicts in the story is the reception of the Rime Islers to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, which is quite chilly (get it? get it?). There's a lot of worry early on about whether their mercenary force is actually wanted by the Islers, and how they're going to get paid, and what it means if they don't have a mandate from the council like they thought they did, and whether the Mingols are even invading at all, since the Islers point out that the Mingols are their fast friends and trading partners, and indeed, there are Mingol ships at anchor in the harbor at the time this is mentioned. How is this all dealt with?Well, the Gray Mouser gets possessed, gives a speech which is glossed over because he's possessed, and then the Islers are all, "Man the barricades!"Also, the being that possesses him is a god from another world. I'm not sure why this annoyed me so much, because things popping into Nehwon goes back at least to "The Bazaar of the Bizarre" and probably something earlier I'm forgetting, but what with all the deus ex machina it just seemed like I was watching a chess game that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were pieces in rather than the wandering adventures of two sword and sorcery protagonists. If that doesn't bother you, though, the other parts of "Rime Isle" are good.But the other stories are pretty bad. Not necessarily for their writing, though honestly I didn't think it was up to Leiber's usual quality, but their content ranges from "meh" to "offensively awful." In "The Sadness of the Executioner," Death is screwing with the heroes for no obvious reason, which leads to a rape scene where the Gray Mouser "ravishes"rapes the slave girl that Death teleports into his room to kill him, because that's an obviously reasonable reaction. But it's okay, because she stops hating humanity as much and goes on to become a successful merchant! Ah, yes, what I wanted to read was another variant on how the proper solution to a woman's "attitude" is rape. Thanks, Leiber! (┛ಠ益ಠ)┛彡 ┻━┻"Beauty and the Beasts," "Trapped in the Shadowland," and "The Bait" were all so unmemorable that I had to go back and reread them to even remember what they were about. "Beauty and the Beasts" and "The Bait" can both be summed up as "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are attacked for no reason, they win, the end," which isn't enough to hold my interest. "Trapped in the Shadowland" seems like an obvious bridge story between this book and The Swords of Lankhmar, but for some reason it comes third instead of first."Under the Thumb of the Gods" is just weird. Back in "Lean Times in Lankhmar" in Swords in the Mist, Issek's religion is set up as a scam. It's even referred to as "Issekianity" to make sure all the obvious parallels get drawn. But here, all of a sudden Issek is a real god, and he's annoyed that Fafhrd isn't as devoted to him anymore. It kind of undermines the major points of "Lean Times in Lankhmar" and the whole idea of the Street of the Gods if all the gods there are real. Furthermore, the gods' vengeance is basically just, "Remember all those women Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser hooked up with in the past? Well, in case you forget, here they are again." It's a giant recap, and is pretty much as exciting as an actual recap with the added benefit of ruining the previous mood of Lankhmar. I mean, I get that it's supposed to be turning the tables on the pair by showing that all the woman they loved and left don't care about them at all, but it just fell flat."Trapped in the Sea of Stars" is the Gray Mouser engaging in pretentious cosmological babble. Also there are waterspouts. There, you don't need to read it unless you think that "Nehwon is a bubble floating through the seas of infinity" is an idea that needs a detailed explanation that may or may not be true. I suspect that's why I liked "Stardock" from Swords Against Wizardry but didn't like this one--"Stardock" doesn't have all the discussion in it.On the other hand, it wasn't until I read this book that I really understood exactly what Terry Pratchett was riffing off of when he wrote The Color of Magic and launched the Discworld. It's all here: the world of the heroes is but one among an infinite of worlds, it's possible for beings to travel from world to world, the gods meddle in mortals lives for basically no reason, Death, barbarians from the north with unpronounceable names... Even the world is similar. Nehwon isn't flat (though it may be bubble-shaped), but only half of it has been explored.Apparently there's a version that's just "The Frost Monstreme" and "Rime Isle" bundled together called Rime Isle. If you can, get that collection and skip this one. Those two are the only parts of Swords and Ice Magic worth reading.Previous Review: The Swords of LankhmarNext Review: The Knight and Knave of Swords.

"Ahoy, small man! Mouser, well met in wildering waters! And now -- on guard!" Yarely! I tell you, the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser continue, this time with a theme of sea and cold climates, wizards and foreign gods, old flames and old enemies. The duo of lovable scoundrels ('twain' is how Leiber describes them) remains firmly embedded in my sword & sorcery hall of fame, but I must admit, the sixth volume is my least favorite in the collection. Like a populat TV show that start strong but runs out of ideas in later seasons, I see the stories included here as outtakes, reruns, underdeveloped scripts and repeats of a succesful formula: entertaining and familiar, but running mostly on inertial energy. The Sadness of the Executioner is a very short piece featuring a personified Death (reminds me of sir Terry Pratchett) trying to get the upper hand in a long term competition with our heroes. Beauty and the Beast is a curious and rather forgettable short about following a bizarre and alluring woman/ghost through the streets of a desert city. Trapped in the Shadowland is another piece about Death trying to lure the heroes to their doom. The Bait is another very short, typical piece, about illusions, temptresses and deadly perils. It ties with the earlier three stories featuring Death.With Under The Thumb of the Gods the general outlook of the collection improves, by humorously addressing one of the shortcomings in the series, namely the portrayal of women a sex objects. The girls from the 'twain' past get a welcome revenge, with the help of a few gods disgruntled by the heroes atheism. Instead of falling prompty into the heroes's brawny arms, the girls lead them on a merry dance of unfullfilled erotic daydreams. Trapped In the Sea of Stars has a very interesting dialogue between Fafhrd and Mouser about the geography of Newhon and the really bizarre phenomenons associated with the world's equatorial currents. I didn't expect to find echoes of Larry Niven in a fantasy book. The Frost Monstreme and Rime Isle are the two linked novellas that make the price of admission worthy, and justify the 'ice' reference in the title.Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are shown here rather bored and blase about their adventuring (been there, done that, so what next?), iddling the hours in their regular Lankhmar seedy tavern. The way out is shown by a couple of drop dead gorgeous ladies (of course), who offer them employment in repelling a horde of murderous Mingols bent on ravaging their northern isle (based on Iceland - volcanoes, ice, fishing, hardy locals).Things are complicated by an evil wizard who creates from ice a monster ship ( My word's analogous ... to bireme ... quadrireme. Monstreme! -- rowed by monsters ; deathberg ) . Leiber gets his groove back and his prose recaptures some of the lurid, flowery style from earlier books: The weird rays of the rising black sun striking its loadside engendered there a horrid, pale reflection, not natural white light at all, but a loathly, colorless luminescence -- a white to make the flesh crawl, a cave-toad, fish-belly white. And if the substance making the reflection had any texture at all, it was that of ridged and crinkled gray horn -- dead men's fingernails. Odin and Loki from our own Earth mythology put in a guest star appearance to complicate things even further, but overall my reaction to the spectacular finale was lukewarm rather than enthusiastic. On the plus side, we get a new look at the more mature and responsible heroes, organizers and leaders instead of drifters: Her beauty and her Rime Isle silver had chained him, and set him on the whole unsuitable course of becoming a responsible captain of men -- he who had been all his days a lone wolf with lone-leopard comrade Mouser I dont' think Swords and Ice Magic is a good entry point for readers unfamiliar with the two heroes, but it makes an interesting addition for dedicated fans. And it has one of the best covers in the series, courtesy of Michael Whelan:
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This is a collection of tales that are told in the Conan the Barbarian style of Sword & Sorcery and are short tales and not 1,000 page epics that are the norm today. The stories are all about the tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Leiber’s most popular creation. The first part of the collection is a collection of short stories that are enjoyable but sometimes sadly too short. My favorite of these was ‘Beauty and the Beasts’ were Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are trying to find some women to bed but by going back through all their old lovers they get rejected by all, until they find one that allows them to rub her feet and they find out that this was just perfectly fine. This was a humorous tales and a lot of fun. The other first few tales were somewhat forgettable as they were too short and a little too generic.The gem of this collection is ‘Rime Isle’ which is a short novel and closed out the book. It starts with a couple of women who come to The Silver Eel (a tavern) and recruit Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser to help them fight a war alongside Rime Isle. It’s not as simple as it seems and it jumps around and keeps you guessing. It also has appearances by Odin and Loki the Norse gods who are not part of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser universe but we get a parallel universe type of thing going on here. This was the longest and most satisfying tale in this collection. All-in-all we get good and bad in this collection but it’s worth it for the tale ‘Rime Isle’.
Kat Hooper
Originally posted at FanLit.“I am tired, Gray Mouser, with these little brushes with death.”“Want a big one?”“Perhaps.”Swords and Ice Magic is the sixth collection of Fritz Leiber’s stories about Fafhrd the big northern Barbarian and his small thieving companion the Gray Mouser. The stories in the LANKHMAR series have generally been presented in chronological order, so we’re nearing the end of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s adventures in Nehwon and its famous city Lankhmar. The tales in this particular volume were published in pulp magazines in the mid 1970s and were collected in this volume in 1977. They are:“The Sadness of the Executioner” — Death is required to kill two heroes before time runs out and he’s got Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in mind. But Death is a sportsman and thinks heroes should go out with style, so when the duo outwits him, he refuses to pull a deus ex machina and the boys live on.“Beauty and the Beasts” — In this vignette, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser see a beautiful girl who is black on one side and white on the other. Since they can’t decide who she should belong to, they say they’ll split her. Something weird happens when they pursue her.“Trapped in the Shadowland” — Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are dying as they cross a desert and Death is sure he’s going to get them this time because if they survive the desert, they’ll cross into Death’s territory. But Death is foiled again by Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s patron gods. Darn those dei ex machina!“The bait” — Death baits the boys with the image of a naked “nubile girl.” This short vignette has Mouser saying the repulsive line “She was just the sort of immature dish to kindle your satyrish taste for maids newly budded.” (Ugh! I can’t believe I read this stuff!)“Under the Thumbs of the Gods” — The gods, upset that the most famous thieves in Lankhmar no longer pay them any attention (not even bothering to use their names in vain!), decide that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser need to be taken down a few notches. They’ve been listening to the boys boast about their romantic exploits, so the gods decide to hit them where it hurts and arrange for the duo to be rejected by every (naked and nubile) female they’ve ever loved.“Trapped in the Sea of Stars” — While sailing, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser became enchanted with a couple of shimmer-sprites who appear as young nubile girls. (Yes, again!) The sprites have drawn the guys into uncharted waters where no land is in sight. Eventually, after philosophizing about the nature of the sun, moon, and stars in space, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser realize that the sprites may have nefarious motives.“The Frost Monstreme” and “Rime Isle” — Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are bored and reminiscing about past loves in their favorite tavern, The Slippery Eel, when two beautiful (nubile, but not naked) girls walk in and ask them to help the Rime Isle fight an impending invasion by the Sea Mingols. In this novelette and novella, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are possessed by the gods Odin and Loki and they once again cross paths with the two invisible ice princesses who we met a while back in the novella Stardock. Together, these two stories make up most of the page count of Swords and Ice Magic. There are plenty of young nubile girls in this one, and lecherous men fondling their breasts, but there are two strong women, too. I didn’t think the Odin and Loki angle worked very well (Leiber has attempted to tie Newhon to other worlds, including our own, in a few of his stories). There’s a big twist for Fafhrd at the end of “Rime Isle.”At the time the stories in Swords and Ice Magic were written, Friz Leiber was in his mid 60s and had been writing these adventures for more than 30 years. Now Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser are getting older and talking about retiring and settling down with mates. Generally, this batch of stories is not as exciting or creative as the earlier ones, the setting of decadent Lankhmar plays a disappointingly insignificant role, and Lieber’s prose seems less brilliant. I’ve always had an issue with the way Lieber portrays women, but this volume seems to have an inordinate number of young nubile girls with small breasts who get fondled by older men, and there are numerous references to, for example, a “delicate tidbit of girlflesh.” In “The bait,” we’re told that the girl looked no older than 13 though the expression on her face suggests she’s 17. In the first story, Mouser tames a young female warrior who’s trying to kill him (she shoots spikes from her pointy metal bra) by “ravaging” her. Leiber certainly isn’t the only speculative fiction writer whose writing grew more lecherous as he got older, but it’s disappointing to find it in a series that I have enjoyed so much.Even with these issues, there’s no doubt that fans of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser will want to read Swords and Ice Magic, especially the last two stories about Rime Isle because of what happens to Fafhrd. I highly recommend the wonderful audio version produced by Audible Frontiers. Jonathan Davis narrates these and even though he manages only one female voice for every female he reads, his voice is beautiful and his ear for the dialogue and pacing is exceptional. I love the way he portrays Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
I'm reading this series of books for nostalgia, mostly, since I devoured them when I was in high school. I remember becoming disenchanted with the series as I progressed through them and I couldn't remember why.Now I remember. This series falls into the trap which many fantasy/sci-fi books do: escalation. By that I mean a need to have the protagonist(s) face greater and greater challenges. So, a series that starts off with a couple of fun-loving carousing rogues gets to the point where they are interacting with gods and even doing inter-dimensional travel. Ugh.Of course, since Leiber fell into this trap so many other authors have done so, as well. That doesn't forgive the sin, however, so it keeps me from recommending this book to others.
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