Thursday, 11 June 2009

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer - Jonathan L Howard


Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind.

There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on nodding terms with demons. His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spiritually. For such a prize, some sacrifices are necessary. One such sacrifice was his own soul, but he now sees that was a mistake – it’s not just that he needs it for his research to have validity, but now he realises he needs it to be himself. Unfortunately, his soul now rests within the festering bureaucracy of Hell. Satan may be cruel and capricious but, most dangerously, he is bored. It is Cabal’s unhappy lot to provide him with amusement.

In short, a wager: in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others. Placed in control of a diabolical carnival – created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but one may also win coconuts – and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year.

One year to beat the Devil at his own game. And isn’t that perhaps just a little heroic?


A modern audience is always looking for something new to enjoy so when this offering (or perhaps sacrifice might be the better term) landed, the book blurb told me something special was going to happen. Part Necromantic adventure, part comedy and part Faustian challenge this tale takes the best that all have to offer and brings it together in such a way that the reader will easily be enchanted within Howard’s snare.

But will the baser aspects of Cabal overrule his higher senses or is everything fair game in his pursuit of knowledge, a novel that will keep you guessing to the last page and one that will have you at times loving the protagonist or even loathing him in equal measure. Definitely a novel that I’m recommending as it was a pure joy to read.

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