By Percival Constantine
Pulp Work Press
This wonderful, sci-fi fantasy adventure is the longest work Percival Constantine has ever done. It’s also his best to date. And that’s saying a lot. Having enjoyed his work since he first popped up on the New Pulp scenes a few years ago, what impressed me the most was how each new book revealed a growing, maturing talent that was constantly improving. His last few offerings have been exceptional and “Soul Quest” simply knocks it out of the ballpark. It is a solid, literary homerun.
Set in a colorful alien, world, the story centers on a crew of Sky Pirates. Their ship, the Excalibur, is well known, and dreaded, throughout the shipping lanes of various empires. Swordsman Zarim is her captain and his crew is made up of the boomerang hurling Ekala, a beautiful thief, and the winged faerie tough guy, Swul. When Zarim’s mystic mentor, Master Quand, sends them on a mission to find five powerful gems said to possesses unimaginable power, their lives are quickly turned upside down.
What Quand fails to tell them is that the High Priest of the city-state of Serenity, Vortai, is also seeking the very same gems for his own nefarious ends. When Zarim and the others are nearly killed retrieving the first two stones, Quand is forces to confess the full extend of the legend behind the powerful rocks. Whoever possesses all five will absorb their power and be able to remake the world in his, or her, image. In other words become a god. Considering Vortai’s streak of sadistic cruelty, Zarim and his pals understand immediately that he cannot be allowed to triumph in his quest. If they don’t find and collect the stones before Vortai, the world as they know it will cease to be.
And on that plot road, Constantine puts forth all manner of terrific, fun and original characters, both good and bad. Traversing this amazing new fantasy world, the Excalibur’s ranks swell with the addition of Tanus, a former officer in the Dreadnaught Navy, Reyche, a religious devotee turned vampire and Liran, a white furred humanoid catwoman warrior from the frozen north. Whereas Vortai has his own cadre of relentless killers ready to foil Zarim and his team at every turn.
“Soul Quest” reminded me a great deal of those early Ace Paperbacks in which I first discovered science fiction and fantasy as a teenager. The action never stops; the heroes are true romantic rogues in the classic sense and the villains as dastardly as they come. For a big book, “Soul Quest” moved at such breakneck speed, I read through it quickly only to be both satisfied and sad to see it end. Zarim and the crew of the Excalibur are wonderful characters and I really am keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see them again soon.