Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer – Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer

“A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice.  
 
Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.”

You know when you start a book and two pages in, you stop and think “this is going to be AMAZING”? Yeah, that’s what happened with Johannes Cabal. Honestly, who doesn’t love a good tale of Faustian bargains?

I knew it was going to be fantastic as soon as I saw the table of contents which includes chapter titles such as “in which a scientist visits hell and a deal is struck” (chapter 1) and – my personal favourite – chapter 8: “in which Cabal is educated in business affairs and undertakings are undertook”.

From Cabal’s first meeting with Satan to his follow-up appointment in Hell a year later (not really a  spoiler, how else did you expect Satan to know that Cabal kept his end of the deal?), the writing is witty, descriptive, eloquent (I occasionally needed a dictionary – yay for building vocabularies!), and compelling. I had a hard time putting it down when reading before work.

There were so many sarcastic and well-crafted lines, I can’t really pick a “favourite” moment (I laughed out loud a couple of times), but here is just one example of the charming humour you’ll find:

“Despite there not being another vehicle on the road for as far as the eye could see, the postman slowed, checked both ways, and signalled before joining the main road. A place where bicyclists – postmen to boot – obeyed the laws of the road. Cabal had seen many strange things in his life, of which the walking dead were the least. He’d run for his life from the guardians of Solomon’s Key, avoided the attentions of the gargoyle Bok, and studied, although been careful not to blow, a bronze whistle upon which the words ‘QUIS EST ISTE QUI VENIT’ were deeply inscribed. None of these, however, had filled him with such a sense of hidden threat and foreboding as this polite and cheerful postman”(p199).

(I googled the Latin phrase – allusions galore!).

In short: it was fabulous. Please read it as soon as possible. Also, I just learned there are two sequels, so colour me stoked!

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