A while back I picked up a random book that had caught my attention strictly due to the cover. Never underestimate the power of eye appeal. There it sat in the ineludible tbr pile, popping out, begging to be read. How can you ignore a book that seems to call out for you? Of course I had to get into it and see what it was all about, and I tell you, it totally surprised me with a style that was new and exciting for me.
Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer, published in 2009, is a dark, supernatural, fiction/comedy. The work of Jonathan L. Howard, a British author and game designer, whose script work on video games such as Broken Sword led him to his work on the Johannes Cabal series. Currently, at four novels, with a wide collection of short stories, the black comedy series has gained mixed reviews. A blend of styles from Macabre to steampunk, the first book reads like a collection of unique short stories with a string that binds each tale together for an overall plot.
Long before the story begins Johannes Cabal had sold his soul to Satan in order to gain his abilities as a necromancer. With his lifelong work on bringing the dead back to life, his lack of soul now stands in his way, and he needs it back. After a humorous and unexpected meeting with the Devil himself, a deal is struck. In exchange, Johannes has one year to collect contracts for the souls of one hundred living people. To assist the necromancer, Satan gives to him, a travelling carnival and a limited amount of his own dark power. Upon his return to the world of the living, Johannes enlists the help of the undead, and his brother, a brooding vampire with mixed feelings about his sibling. Through some humorous and grimy tales they slowly collect the souls they need, but obviously Satan has a few cards to play. As the year starts to run short, the stakes run high, and we find out just how far Johannes will go to get his soul back and why it is so valuable.
The greatest part about reading this book is the many unique ways in which people are tricked to sign their soul away. With many short tales filling the chapters of minor plots and new characters, the novel is packed of entertaining, hilarious content. The grim, supernatural themes are handled lightheartedly, as Johannes carnival travels across the country with new scenarios and situations at every new small town. Facing ghosts, competitive carnivals, a rival necromancer and a staff that is literally falling apart, the highly competent main character surprises every step of the way.
Johannes Cabal is an amazing character, never flinching in the face of death and adversity. His shocking motive for this desperate deal adds to the depth of a character that could have ended up being very one dimensional. As clever and powerful as he comes across, Johannes is not without his flaws, and they come to the forefront when facing off with his brother. Horst Cabal is one of the books greatest pieces. The cynical, lady killer vampire, is not entirely what you would expect, but at the same time he is what the story, and Johannes need. Filling out the carnival staff with the undead has unexpected results, with characters ranging from dim witted zombies to a sentient fortune telling machine.
The original approach to such a dark genre makes this book a fun train ride all the way through. The ending slowed down, but only to produce a build up to a fantastic climax. A funny, macabre feel that separates this book from other supernatural stories is why I give this novel a 4/5. If you are looking for a book to shake up your typical reading genres and themes, than I would highly recommend giving Johannes Cabal a run. A series I cannot wait to continue and a novel that would be worth a reread. I learned something very valuable from this one, sometimes you should judge a book by its cover.
Thanks booknerds, be sure to read any contract before signing your life away.