"...but keep the wolf far;
with his nails he'll dig him up."
There. Quarmal's death-spell.
The final Lankhmar book! Or at least, the last one done by Fritz Leiber, & I have no intention of reading off-brand pastiche. Sorry, that just isn't my style. & maybe I shouldn't even refer to them as "the Lankhmar books" at this point, since this volume & the previous have more of less abandoned that hive of scum & villainy. Far more honest to call them the "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser books." I miss the big city-- clearly I've made my choice in life & I choose Metropolis, I choose Gotham-- & I miss Ningauble & Sheelba. Those wizards are maybe my very favorite part of the series. This volume contains a few Rime Isle adventures-- a treacherous mer-girl is writ large as are the actor-assassins, sent to spell the doom of our (anti-)heroes. Or well-- you could call them heroes, but they are true heroes, in the classical sense, not the modern sense, with all the troubling ambiguities that entails. Speaking of problematic issues, this series has never been particularly good, from a feminist standpoint. Women are largely secondary, & their protestations are just roadblocks to be overcome on the path of seduction. As we go along, however, that doesn't become entirely true. Stronger female characters arise, & Fafhrd & Gray Mouser's paramours Cif & Afreyt (reverse respectively) are the culmination of that impulse. Furthermore, this book is more...erotically charged then the previous. The sexual undercurrents are much more frankly carnal, which is no doubt attributable to the more lax notions of "propriety" in the late seventies & eighties-- at least, compared to the late thirties, when these began to be published. The more titillating text actually works to make the narrative less misogynist, if you ask me-- that is, while the books are clearly Fantasy, making the sexual "fantasy" explicit transforms it into wishful thinking. Which is mete with me; the bondage undertones are clearly a matter of kink rather than a matter of course. I'm also rather charmed by how Mouser & Fafhrd sometimes wonder why they never had a homosexual affair with each other. "What is wrong with us?" The final story-- "The Mouser Goes Below" is the final story of the novel & of Fafhrd & Gray mouser-- is very much a "growing up, growing old" tale, as is the penultimate section, "The Curse of the Smalls & the Stars." I have to say-- I'm a young man, so I can't really speak to the real heights of maturity, but I'm with it. Growing up & not being an idiot is much better than being a young idiot. We're supplied too with heirs for Fafhrd & Gray Mouser, as well as notions that they might begin seeking out their other illegitimate offspring. Not a bad twilight for them to sink into. Not retired, just adult. The last story they dealt with being a grown-up that I liked was the Angel series finale, come to think of it.