Timy reviews The Crew, Sadir S. Samir‘s debut Fantasy novel, the first book in The God Dust Saga series.
An eARC was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
|Series: The God Dust Saga #1||Genre: Epic Fantasy, Grimdark|
|Date of Publishing: November 29th, 2022||Trigger Warnings: violence, death, gore|
|Page count: 388||Publisher: self-published|
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?
“He forced both spears deeper into his body until they went straight through, then kept pushing them, making the two marauders stab each other. “Hey, would ya look at us? hanging out shish-kebob style. Isn’t this something?” Varcade said.”
When the cover and the blurb of The Crew popped up on my feed, I was intrigued, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if it would be up my alley. For one thing, it’s labeled as epic fantasy, and for another, I’m not really into action-movie-style novels – mainly because I’m not really into action movies either. On the other hand, one of the comps used to market this book is Kings of the Wyld, which I did enjoy back in the day. Then again, that was a couple of years ago and my reading habits changed a bit. What actually convinced me to give The Crew a chance was an interview with Sadir S. Samir over at Fantasy Book Critic. The fact the book was set mostly in Akrab was a deciding factor for me, because I’m not a fan of a lot of traveling in books. And then there is the comedy aspect, which really can be a hit or miss.
Keeping all that in mind, I proceeded with caution. The first chapter of a book – hell, the first page even – can be a decider whether you’ll like a book or not. At least, that’s how it works for me. And that’s true for The Crew as well. I smiled – even giggled! – through the first chapter and from there I knew I’ll be fine. It sets the tone really well and gives you a taste of what’s to come. This book won’t be for everyone, so I definitely recommend taking a look at the sample. I promise it’ll only going to get weirder the further you read, but in a glorious way. It’s clear right from the start that Varcade is not your average MC. As you learn about his background you’ll understand why. He is frustrating and damn entertaining at the same time. You just never can predict what is he going to do in any given situation.
The Crew introduces a wide host of characters all of them quite distinguishable and memorable. I especially love the naming of most of them – such as Fat Pudding (a demon gang leader), Fish-City (a demon innkeeper and peace advocate who stands up to Fat Pudding), and Modzarellah (a giant toad beast – don’t ask, just read the book), just to name a few. We obviously get to know the crew itself better:
- Baaq a demon with a special (and cool as hell) rifle,
- Marduk the revolutionary demon who believes that demons should rule,
- Dog Man a Duster (someone who uses God Dust to have powers) who’s been using it for so long that it had permanent effects aka he is stuck in a dog’s body (also he is my absolute favorite character),
- Zuba Ghul the Mad Puppeteer who is creepy AF, like really but in an entertaining way which made me question my own sanity and go “What the fuck, Samir?! That’s sick and this isn’t supposed to be funny, and why the fuck am I laughing?!”,
- Lady Qanah who is Zuba’s mother and protector as her son is pretty much useless in a fight,
- Biter who tags along after Varcade saves him,
- Varcade himself
- and of course, Edghar who put this mad crowd together in the first place in an attempt to save his beloved city, Akrab. Being a former Spymaster, he seemed pretty unprepared and lacked knowledges about a lot of stuff going on in Akrab…
While I liked the characters and most of them get a nice arc within the story, I never fully connected with them on an emotional level. Varcade, for example, felt like a very complex character whose depths weren’t fully explored, but I would be very interested in that. Then again, this book is more action-heavy, and as I said there is a big cast so it’s hard to find that balance where you can make the reader invested in the characters but also keep up their interest. Personally, to me, it felt like the balance was a bit off as I wanted more from the worldbuilding too – like, most of the book is set in Akrab, a big city in a desert, and while the characters visit several places, I never could grasp the feeling of the city itself, you know. I didn’t feel immersed in this world and also the demon-human conflict was a bit superficial. Like, I got the issue and we’ve seen glimpses but it was more tell than show. Then again, the ending of The Crew suggests the possibility to have a much closer look at this conflict.
I loved the idea of the God Dust and the impact it makes on those who use it regularly, and generally how it’s the most valuable thing. I loved the wide variety of Dusters and their abilities, some great stuff there. And the role it plays in the overall plot. And since we are talking about the plot, I found it overall well-executed, the ending didn’t feel rushed and it had a few surprises in store for us and for the crew as well. Also, most of the plotlines got a resolution, but a few were left open to explore in the sequel. And I can’t wait for that to happen.
I’m not sure including Vashi’s plotline was absolutely necessary for The Crew, although it did provide an interesting insight into Varcade’s past and a tiny window at the wider world, especially The World Authority. Which gets mentioned as the big looming threat but it never really gets any weight – not in this book anyway. Nor is it fully explained/introduced so it’s a bit out of place. I understand what Samir tried to accomplish here – setting up the world and the conflict between Clea and Edghar in the first place, adding more depth to Varcade’s past, etc. but at the same time, maybe he tried to cram too much into the book all at once. I kind of have conflicted feelings. And a lot of thoughts about the Teachings and the Educators, but I’m afraid I’m not writing an essay here…
Where Samir’s writing style really shines is the dialogues, especially the banters between the crew members. And since we are talking about the dialogues, one thing I wanted to touch upon was the dialogue tags. I know there is a lot of argument out there about them, but from a reader’s perspective, I’m really not a huge fan of using only – or rather mostly – “said” throughout the book, as I find it repetitive and often takes me out of the reading. I’m team descriptive tags. But, I also admit this is a wholly subjective thing.
I probably could go on talking about this book, but this review already got a bit too long, and we would go into spoiler territory, so let me finish it off by saying that The Crew is a noteworthy debut novel. It’s a bit rough around the edges, and it shows the signs of being a debut, but it also shows that Sadir S. Samir got skills (and some sick sense of humor that I absolutely love) and we better watch out for him in the future. The Crew is one hell of a fun book, one I didn’t encounter in a long time. If you like action-packed fantasy novels and have a certain sense of dark humor, then I would definitely recommend giving this a read.