Book Review: Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber

Lankhmar

One of my very favourite books, by one of my very favorite writers, starring two of the most delightful characters in the history of fantastic literature.” – Neil Gaiman

I came across Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar while browsing through a random MPH bookstore. Having read a lot of fantasy novels since young, I was keenly intrigued by its brief description – a sword and sorcery fantasy of the highest order, harkening back to the early periods of the genre’s birth. After reading many contemporary fantasy series, I started taking notice of the influences that inspired my favorite authors to write in the first place – the original fantasy authors, pioneers of the genre, master writers. Fritz Leiber is one of them.

What separates Fritz Leiber from the other master writers is his characters. Instead of one, he has two main characters – Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. One a barbarian, the other a thief; they each have contrasting personalities that complimented the other – creating an iconic duo. They first met each other in Lankhmar (hence the title), and immediately felt a kinship between themselves, solitary souls in a chaotic world. In a world where gods and monsters, wizards and demons exist, they went on many adventures together, often working as mercenaries or thieves. Their misadventures range from fighting with elder gods, running errands for their whimsical sorcerer-masters or unlucky chance encounters with unknown elements. Every chapter is a separate story, a single adventure, unlike most fantasy series nowadays; yet each chapter is bursting with originality and wit, showcasing the synergy between our two antiheroes and the otherworldly nature of Fritz Leiber’s world.

Contemporary fantasy novels focus on character development as the plot progresses, but Lankhmar is different. Instead both our protagonists are presented fully matured, with their own ideals and morals, and we are only bystanders witnessing their misadventures one by one. Each story reveals more of their personalities, their tendencies, such that we could almost predict their next move, save for the otherworldly settings under which they were in – the world of Lankhmar. Mysterious and unpredictable, Fritz Leiber kept us on our toes as he introduced new characters, interesting plotlines (that holds up to contemporary stories) and an entirely new world filled with unique races, languages and history comparable to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Fritz Leiber can be considered one of the founding fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, alongside Robert E. Howard and many others. Unlike epic fantasy, his is a more down-to-earth approach, where the characters are not tied to the fate of the world or such; instead they tolled and struggled through life, little gems shining through on the strength of their substance. The fantasy sub-genre spawned a generation of authors, games and other content, continuing to influence fantasy-related content to this day, and Fritz Leiber is a major contributor.


Written by Lim Shen, President of TBC

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