Book Review: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

“Oh, sir!” cried the railway official. “You have to stop them! They’re likely to do anything!”
“You’re familiar with the theory of evolution?” asked Cabal.
“Sir?”
“They’re about to find out why intelligence is a survival trait.”

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
audiobook narrated by Christopher Cazenove

Summary

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, Johannes 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.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who doesn’t want to read about the hilarity that ensues from Hell’s bureaucracy and paperwork?

This is a book where the journey is just as, if not more, important than the destination. I was invested in the scenes for their own sake and not just the ultimate goal. While the pacing is mostly even, some parts do wander to other character points of view, are barely tangential to the main story, and should have been cut because they killed the pacing.

My favorite parts of the book are the smart writing and dry humor. It’s dark, sassy, and very British, which made for an entertaining read. The audiobook narrator really brought the flavor of the characters to life.

It felt weird to root for a protagonist who steals souls, especially since you’re also rooting for the characters acting against him, but the author does a good job of balancing villain and (anti)hero in the same character. I loved Horst and the foil he provides for Johannes.

The book isn’t perfect and I found some minor things to quibble about throughout. However, the sarcastic, subtle humor bumped my rating from 3.5 stars to 4 stars. The ending provided intriguing fodder for the subsequent books, which I plan to read.

You might like this if you like: Neil Gaiman, Constantine

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