Of all the Charles DeLint books I've read this has to be the least favorite. I didn't care that much for it and I didn't read the one on the other side.
Ill Met in Lankhmar
I picked up this book because the tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser were listed in the back of the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide for the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons as being a source of inspiration for the game. I'd read one Leiber book earlier (The Big Time), and was unimpressed, but decided to give this story a go to see if his "adventurer" stories were any better.
In short: Nope. Leiber might very well be one of the creators of the popular fantasy genre, but his writing is still atrocious. In particular, Leiber is an absolute master of the run-on sentence. As an example:
"When Fafhrd was halfway to the seventh doorway, from which the monotonous yet sinister recitation continued to well, there shot out through it a slender, whey-faced youth, his narrow hands clapped over his mouth, under terror-wide eyes, as if to shut in screams or vomit, and with a broom clamped in an armpit, so that he seemed a bit like a young warlock about to take to the air."
And that was one I just happened to pick out. Every time one of these monstrosities came along I cringed.
Yes, these adventurers are forefathers of the genre. And if you're doing a scholarly review of fantasy, I'm sure you should read Leiber's work. The rest of us, though? Stay away.
The Fair In Emain Macha
The "other" story in this double volume does a much better job of being interesting. It's set in a group of islands (Britain) during the time when druids were powerful, and there were kings aplenty. The thrust is a story of a warrior under a king's curse trying to cause a king-breaking on the king who laid the curse and has in the meantime arranged an alliance with the Norsemen.
It did a good job of presenting the faith of druids and their interactions with the gods they revered. I was impressed with how nicely everything was presented, as I rarely read stories of this time period.
Two fantasy books in one! I have to admit to being partial to Charles De Lint but Fritz Leiber is excellent as well.
I enjoyed both of these books.