The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books are classics, but they're also out of print and out of fashion. I'd never read them, but recently I decided it was time to get my hands on the first book and try it.
Swords & Deviltry is really a collection of shorts: one novella about Fafhrd's origins, a short story about the Gray Mouser's origins, and a short story about how the two characters met. Because I knew that Terry Pratchett's earliest Discworld books are partly inspired by the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books (I kept recognizing bits of Lankhmar as having been appropriated into Ankh-Morpork, and every time it delighted me), I expected Swords & Deviltry to be light and fun. It is fun, but it's surprisingly dark too.
Most of the darkness is internal--subtle, even, which is surprising in a book that uses the word 'thews'*. Swords & Deviltry is a sort of parody of crappy swords & sorcery books of the 1960s, sort of a "stand back, this is how swords & sorcery should be." The characterizations are deft, the stories clever and interesting.
I can see why the books are neglected now, though. The trappings of oldschool swords & sorcery--the purposely archaic language in particular--are long out of style. Like me recognizing Ankh-Morpork in Lankhmar and not the other way round, most readers today just don't have the reading background to catch Leiber's sly nods to swords & sorcery tropes.
But I enjoyed the book a lot. I'm also really glad I had the foresight to toss the second book in the series into my cart when I ordered the first one.
*Actually, I don't think the word 'thews' is actually in this book, but it would have fit in perfectly well.
[Additional note: my 1970 paperback edition of the book spells Leiber's name "Lieber" on the cover. Apparently it's spelled Leiber. I think I'd be a bit pissed if someone spelled my name wrong on the cover of my own book.]