Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser

Often referred to as 'the greatest fantasy author you've never read' by some. And sadly true.But if you've read any modern sword and sorcery with dark themes, complex characters, strong world building, you've felt the far-reaching influence of Leiber.Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is a fantasy most of you probably have not read, due to its age and the criminal lack of recognition given to the series over the years. The impact on the genre Fritz Leiber cannot be understated. Together with Conan stories and Lord of the Rings, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were some of the most influential books in the fantasy, helping to define the boundaries of the genre and impacting generations of writers. Fritz Leiber actually coined the term Sword and Sorcery and together with Howard's Conan stories, he's credited as the father of Sword and Sorcery.The familiar trappings expected by the modern fantasy reader are all present in the stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: evil wizards, abundant thieves, roguish swordsmen, princesses in distress. But all these elements are used in such a way that the stories are fresh; indeed this older series is very much readable by today's standards of fantasy. The cities are well developed, the landscapes are filled with a rich tapestry of history, the characters complex and realistic, thoughtful and at times dark. And the writings is sweet, hearkening back to a time when to be a writer meant to be a wordsmith, where the minimum of words are used with great skill to express so much.Read this not only because it's one of the books that fostered an entire genre of writing, but for the phenomenal world building, the compelling characters, the deep relationships and exciting adventures all told with Leiber's remarkable prose -- a prose that many modern writers would do well to ape. Despite the age of these stories, it's clear Fritz Leiber is 10x a better writer than a number of modern popular fantasy writers. There's a certain cadence to the way Fritz Leiber tells his tales -- a subtle but powerful, like a monastic chant that soothes the soul, and very much present in all of his works. You have to read his stories to get the feeling of it, but once you do, you'll feel right at home in his wonderfully crafted worlds.Not a 'Modern' fantasy you say? Meh, this stuff is better than 95 percent of the new fantasy that's published these days. Leiber is right up there with the modern greats like Martin, Abercrombie, and Lynch and was undoubtedly a huge influence in their own writings.If you want to read sword and sorcery fantasy that focuses every bit as much on the relationship between characters as it does on the violence and action, this is a series you want to absolutely read. 

Similar Recommendations

Conan the Barbarian

Read the classic Conan stories by Robert Howard. Together with Fritz Leiber, both authors pioneered Sword andSorcery and influenced countless writers.

Elric of Melnibone

For the modernized version of classic sword and sorcery, made edgy, dark, and disturbing; for themes that all modern grim dark fantasy touch on, read Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. He's that man who took sword and sorcery and made it depressing and deep.

Kane Books

Classic sword and sorcery but often left unmentioned, unlike the other greats like the Conan books. Kane delivers exactly what it promises: swords, sorcery, madness, revenge, loyalty, and plenty of violence. It may be old, but it's absolutely worth reading especially if you want some outstanding Sword and Sorcery.

The Witcher

A modern update (translated from a Polish author) on some of the classic Sword and Sorcery with complex themes, deeply trouble characters, and strong world building. The Witcher has taken the western world by storm -- you may have heard of these books through the awesome Witcher video games which are based on the books. If you have not yet picked up The Witcher books just yet, you are in for the treat -- it's really some of the best NEW fantasy out right now, and very much different than your typical western-influenced fantasy as these books were penned by a Polish author and as such feature a different perspective than you'll find in typical Tolkien-inspired fantasy.

Sword of Shadows

For a modern take on Sword and Sorcery, you might look at J.V. Jones Sword of Shadows saga.It's more of an epic fantasy, but it does hearken back to some of the classic sword and sorcery conventions -- it's set on an icy world, the characters are dark and troubled, there's violence and nastiness, and plenty of magic and mayhem. Not quite grimdark, but definitely gritty.

The Book of Swords

Some ol' good sword and sorcery by Fred Saberhagan to be found in his Book of Swords books. The premise centers about god swords that fall to earth -- mortals who find them are given great power. Of course, humanity being the flawed species that it is, problems ensue. On the surface this may sound like a standard fantasy tale, but it's surprisingly deep as you get into it. Sword in Sorcery that's much better and much deeper than your usual shallow stuff. 

The Broken Sword

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, an absolute classic in the genre and arguably highly influential when it came out decades ago. This is Sword and Sorcery set in a Norse world and a very deep novel and highly underrated.

The Black Company

The Black Company by Glen Cook. Military Fantasy with a lot of Sword and Sorcery. I won't say much here that I haven't already said a million times in other recommendations, but...if you haven't read The Black Company and you like Sword and Sorcery, military battles, strategy, and plenty of anti-hero characters, read it.

See our Best Sword and Sorcery List for more specific S&S recommendations

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