The Procurement of Souls

The Procurement of Souls

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Procurement of Souls by Benjamin Hope
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars.

A commendable debut, The Procurement of Souls is a dark and fantastical tale that will satisfy gothic fans.

Right from the very start, there was a disturbing scene of a man trapped and strapped down on a chair by a mad scientist, Dr Weimer, who duly inserted a long tube with a metal barb at its end down his victim’s mouth, throat and even further to extract something out of that poor man. And that something is where the book got its title.

I love gothic settings. The Victorian-era, when combined with an alchemical magic system, becomes a deliciously dark and heady concoction which fascinates me tremendously. And this backdrop is my favourite component of the book. From dreary city slums to fog-filled docks, to a monastery and its catacombs, the scenes are ominously atmospheric and spine-chilling with the prospect of malevolent alchemy at work. The soullessness of Dr Weimer’s victims which are now subject to his mind control added another layer of darkness into the story.

The characters are well-written in that their motivations and actions did not appear inconsistent. There is this intangible quality of engaging characterisation that I always find hard to pinpoint and explain why it works and why it doesn’t. While we have an adequate backstory to our main protagonists, Magnus Drinkwater and his daughter, that threaded through the plotline to make me sympathise with them, I simply couldn’t connect emotionally. Instead, I find that Novice Goode, a supporting character, to be the most compelling one of all. That could be due to the central theme of the story which pitches religion against science with Dr Weimer’s primary objective to be like a God from the procurement of souls. A dastardly deed which he took to the abbey to seek purer souls than the criminals he had been provided with by his sidekick, Marina. And as bad guys go, both Dr Weimer and Marina are unremittingly villainous. I could not find a single redeeming factor in them.

This is not to say that I didn’t feel saddened by some of the character deaths, but it was more from the context and circumstances of those deaths rather than any emotional investment in those individuals. And the act of procuring souls was downright horrifying to me. What it means is that instead of connecting with any individual character, I found emotional resonance with the overall narrative. The author did well in portraying the horrors of alchemical science taken too far, and the plight of the people who suffered and became victims of those who believed they have the right to wield such power.

The Procurement of Souls is a satisfyingly well-crafted tale that stands well on its own (there may be a sequel) and is worth checking out.

You can purchase a copy of the book from Amazon

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