What do you get when you mix Deadpool, Kings of the Wyld, and adventure fantasy? You get The Crew by Sadir S. Samir. This wildly imaginative, rampantly out there tale has plenty to love, and unfortunately for this reviewer, some things that didn’t work.
In The Crew, Edgar, former spymaster of Akrab, is on the run from the Bone Lord of Akrab, Clea. She’s ordered his death, has lost control of the city and the rising tensions between the human and demon population, is about to go bankrupt, and the only way he can see to save his beloved city is to remove her, despite his feelings for her. He needs a crew. One that makes use of the natural-born, manufactured, and imbibed power of the people of the land. And his starting point is Varcade, an ex-Educator and semi-superhuman mercenary. From there, along this crazy, exciting, non-stop journey to the heart of Akrab we meet dusters (humans who snort the ground bones of dead gods to gain magic powers) who have become dogs, fly on clouds, and are made of smoke, a necromancer who loves detonating bodies, an old lady with a wicked judo chop, demons of every size and shape you could imagine, and a crazily vast range of characters as diverse as a toad is from a human and everything in between.
What The Crew has in spades is wild imagination. Demons, dusters, people who look like animals, a past war between said demons and humans and the uneasy peace ongoing, toads for steeds, and so many other really cool things packed into the story. The magic system is absolutely next level–it’s hands down my favourite part of the book (except for this one scene where I lost it laughing while on a bus home from the Sydney CBD, but I’ll get to that later) and worth picking this book up just for that.
The history of the land and the Educators I thought were really cool and well done. Despite some of the things that I wasn’t in to, that I’ll detail further in, these landed right in my enjoyment sweet spot. Using Vashi (Varcade’s brother) to showcase the thought process of the Educators was excellent (and got a few grins out of my grumpy self), and while I’m not really sure Vashi needed to get as much screen time as he did to tell the story, this is a book that’s about entertaining you like a good popcorn action movie, and that’s where I found his value.
Having said that, there are a range of things about this book that didn’t land with me. Based on seeing some of the other reviews out there about this book, there is a decent chance that I just don’t share a sense of humour with the author, and that I am potentially not the reader the author will be targeting. As a lover of Kings of the Wyld and the Deadpool franchise (from loving the movies, to screaming at the ceiling when I accidentally ruined my first Ed., first print comic as a teen) I wish these things had worked for me, but they didn’t.
Firstly was our primary badarse, Varcade. As the Deadpool-esque character his flippant approach to every mission situation just felt like a lack of effort in planning and lack of depth, and the merc with a mouth’s humour just didn’t land with me. In fact, the part I referred to earlier where I was in tears laughing on the bus home from the Sydney CBD after work like some kind of maniac (a brilliant scene with a cheeky wizard dog and some arrogant soldiers) had Varcade sidelined for most of it. For the first 10% of the book I wasn’t really sure what we were achieving, apart from making sure we knew Varcade was an epic badarse with two swords and a dark history … and that didn’t help it get off to the flying start it needed.
The mixing in of modern colloquialisms to a medieval fantasy world also just doesn’t work, for me. This is a massive personal choice here; I would hold this against me more than the author. It’s a fantasy world, the author can do whatever he wants, but things like holding out a fist and asking a medieval city person to “bump it” to seal an agreement, and some of the other modern colloquialisms used, really broke my train of concentration every few pages.
I do also need to flag for our readers that the eARC I received had spelling and grammar errors throughout that I hope will be fixed for the general market release (eg. I’m pretty sure that at some point there was a select all and replace done which switched every instance of “off” to “of”). There is also consistent telling as opposed to showing. I recognise there is an argument for both styles of storytelling–hell, I’ve made it many times when reviewing Warhammer 40K books which are renown for taking elephant sized info dumps on readers which I am totally okay with–and that’s perfectly fine, but for some reason when it’s done in fantasy it just doesn’t work for me.
Adventure fantasy fans will likely enjoy The Crew, as may die hard Deadpool fans with a different sense of humour to me. While The Crew has things in it that weren’t my jam, they may very well be yours. I encourage you to give it a try and see if it works for you, because I know there is a decent amount of people out there who are going to have a rip-snorting time laughing their arse off the whole way through.