Heart of Perdition by Selah March is a short, chilling gothic story. And I do mean chilling. The ending was very eerie, and I got the shivers. Not from cold, but from the creepy-crawlies. In a good way.
Heart of Perdition takes place in a steampunk-style world, but the story isn’t steampunk, and that doesn’t matter. Steampunk can be a setting, just as an alien planet or near-future apocalypse can be a setting, while the story is another genre entirely. That’s how we sometimes get genre-benders like futuristic romance or historical mysteries.
So the steampunk setting of Perdition allows the use of airships and clockwork servants, but doesn’t drive the story. What drives the story is an ancient evil creature named Xaphan, and a terrible curse embodied by one lonely young woman.
Elspeth Shaw lives alone on the Greek island of St. Kilda. It’s a very bleak island, and it’s better that way. Elspeth suffers from a terrible curse. Every living creature who becomes emotionally attached to her, dies. Every creature, not just humans. Elspeth can’t even have a pet without watching it die horribly of her curse.
Elspeth only allows herself one human servant, a housekeeper whom she pays well and treats just barely tolerably, guaranteeing that the woman never forms any attachment to her. It’s her only way of keeping the woman alive. All of her other servants are automata.
Poor Elspeth’s own feelings don’t enter into the curse, she can love anyone she likes. Or not. What matters what they feel about her.
The curse is the result of an evil bargain her father made the night she was born. Her father tried to cheat death. To do so, he stole a powerful artifact that had been safeguarded by a church. That artifact controlled an evil spirit named Xaphan. The bargain her father made was that the curse would be visited on his first-born child. Elspeth’s father assumed his first-born would be a son. He was an egotistical scientist in the Victorian era, he was like that. Instead, his firstborn was Elspeth.
Her father was not killed by the curse because he never loved her. He lived a normal life-span.
But as he died, an old bitter man, he decided upon one last act of horror. Dr. Shaw died in the house of James Weston, Earl of Falmouth. Weston was a young man dying of congenital heart disease. Contemporary physicians could recognize it, but not cure it.
With his dying breath, Dr. Shaw directed Weston to go to Elspeth, and to release Xaphan. Knowing the evil would grant the dying young man his wish of restored life, at the cost of releasing that terrible evil back into the world.
The inevitable result is tragic and horrible and incredibly chilling.
Escape Rating B+: I recommend Heart of Perdition if you like your romances with a side of eerie. You will gobble this story right up–but don’t gobble this one up alone in the dark with your ereader. The ending haunts.