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Friday, December 9, 2022

The Crew by Sadir S. Samir (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 


OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: SADIR S. SAMIR spent his first years in the Middle East before moving to Sweden. A passion for storytelling manifested early in childhood, and he always knew that would be his guiding light in life growing up. That passion eventually led him to the video game industry where he’s been working as a game writer and a producer for over a decade. Now he lives in the medieval city of Uppsala, where he writes tales of the fantastical and bizarre.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Kings of the Wyld meets Deadpool in this action-packed fantasy adventure set in an Arab-inspired landscape.

Varcade fled to the deserts of Harrah to escape his past as an Educator, a member of an order of zealot warrior-monks that aims to shape the world according to their sacred Teachings by force. Varcade makes his living as a reckless sword-for-hire, caring only about himself, until his self-centered lifestyle is turned on its head when he is contracted to recruit a misfit team of unruly assassins and take out the mighty Bone Lord of Akrab.

But the Bone Lord is aware of the plot and sends her band of Dusters to stop them; individuals who have gained bizarre and lethal magical powers by snorting the pulverised bones of dead gods. Hunted by Educators and Dusters in a city-state where an escalating conflict between the human and demon population threatens to boil over in a civil war, will Varcade and his ragtag crew save Akrab from the cruel Bone Lord, or will they make things even worse?

FORMAT/INFO: The Crew is 388 pages long divided over thirty-three chapters, and an epilogue. Narration is in the third-person, via Varcade, Edghar and a few other characters. This is the first volume of The God Dust series.

November 29, 2022 marked the hardcover, paperback and e-book publication of The Crew and it is self-published by the author.  Cover art is by Love Gunnarson.
 
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Crew by Sadir Samir came with the tagline of Kings Of The Wyld meets Deadpool and came with some solid recommendations from Dyrk Ashton and others. I was given an ARC of this book and I jumped in with anticipation. Plus that superb cover, had left me wanting to desperately read the story & find out which characters were featured in it. 

The story begins with our protagonist Varcade who is a deadly mercenary, a bit homicidal and very much an unreliable narrator. He’s hanging out in the desert region called Harrah which is mostly a vast desert and has seven city states which are each ruled by a singular person titled Bone Lord. Varcade is part of a mercenary guild in the city-state called Razula. His guild is approached by a person to eliminate the Bone Lord of the neighbouring city of Akrab.  Forced to assemble a team of eclectic and potentially half-insane personalities, Varcade and his mysterious patron have their hands full. But the Bone Lord has more tricks up her sleeves and places a big bounty on their heads. Now the stage is set for a massive confrontation but there are secrets afloat and more mysteries abound.

The first thing the reader will be find upon reading this story is the zany, irreverent tone of humour that’s injected into almost every aspect of the story. While it is amusing, it also distracts the reader skillfully from this sword & sorcery story that unlike most S&S stories has an in-depth world that is very much like most rich epic fantasy worlds:
- From giant dead Gods
- To the powder that’s harvested from their bodies and ingested to gain incredible power,
- To demons escaping from a different dimensional reality,
- To large bugs/insects and a desert landscape that is alien-esque as much as it is familiar.
 
Sadir Samir brings a big swing to things from his Deadpool-esque main character to the world setting to the humour to the religio-political war occurring in the background.

I was thoroughly impressed by how much scope this debut book encapsulates. You have to hand it to the author’s audacity for really doing things his own way. Readers are either going to really enjoy the story or they might just bounce off it. Either way you will not forget Sadir Samir. While I’m sure many a reviews have highlighted the humour quotient of the story. I wish to highlight another equally strong feature, namely the worldbuilding. Seriously it’s one of the best that I’ve found in recent times and the author utilizes his own middle eastern ancestry to eschew stereotypes in characters, landscape and the people that reside within. He draws on a variety of sources from his own favoured books, TV shows, video games & pop culture to populate a world that has a lot of tongue-in-cheek references as well a lot of hidden ones. One of the coolest things which the author mentioned to me was how Varcade’s red overcoat was a reference to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s inside out jacket. From such cool things to more well-known references such a silence of three parts. This book has a lot of cool things interspersed within the fast-paced plot.

Lastly the pace and crazy action sequences alongside the comedy made this book virtually unputdownable for me. Amidst the chuckling, I was constantly trying to figure out where the plot was going. Plus there’s a couple of characters out of the left field who I believe will be further explored in the sequels & I can’t wait to know more.

For the drawbacks, I can only say one thing. This book really isn’t for everyone as the irreverent humour & dialogue might annoy readers who wish for a more traditional structure but for those readers who are willing to take a chance, they will find some inherent richness here.

CONCLUSION: The Crew is an incredibly zany and funny Sword & Sorcery debut that combines Deadpool-esque irreverence in a desert city setting. Sadir S. Samir has written a story that will either have you laughing in splits or shaking your head in its audacity. The Crew is unlike any other fantasy debut you will have read this year. Miss out at your own peril.

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