Who among us, dear Reader, has never considered a deal with the Devil? If I would have to hazard a guess, I would say very few. Practically every one has at least thought about what they were willing to give up in order to get their heart’s desire. To many their immortal soul is a trifle and therefore quite easy to give away.
In Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Johathan Howard, the titular character Johannes Cabal has done just that. He has traded his soul to the Devil for the knowledge of the laws of necromancy. That was several years ago and while Johannes continues his study of necromancy without his soul he has reached a sort of impasse. In order to continue he wants his soul back. The only problem is Satan isn’t exactly willing to hand it over so easily.
As Satan cannot resist a good wager, he proposes one to Cabal. If Cabal can persuade one hundred persons to sign their souls over in one years time, he can get his soul back. Should Cabal fail though, the Devil keeps his soul and Cabal is damned forever. Cabal grudgingly accepts and Satan gives him a travelling carnival and a box of contracts.
It would be far too easy to call Johannes Cabal ‘evil’ and be done with it. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, Cabal is an asshole in all senses of the word. He’s brusque and rude and often a complete jerk but to him the ends justify the means. And while it isn’t until the last few pages do we understand his reasoning, once we do it makes it a little bit easier to understand him and why he did what he did.
Joining Johannes on his little adventure is his elder brother Horst. Horst is a vampire, an unfortunate side affect from Johannes early dabbling with necromancy, and a rather charismatic one at that. He is brought on as a barker but he also acts as a foil to Johannes at times. He is the light to Johannes’ dark, very amusing considering Horst is a vampire and the light kills him. His character is almost a complete opposite to his younger brother, and as the two brothers’ grew up together, Horst remembers Johannes as he was and is often dismayed at the man he has become.
While the previous book I reviewed was likened to Gaiman or Adams’ and in my opinion failed to hit the mark, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer hits the bulls eye. It reads very much like a Terry Pratchett novel, parts witty and parts wise, parts funny and parts sad. It has a dry humor found in most English novels and is certainly not for every one. While it is light-hearted, the subject matter itself is not. It is a peek in to the darkness inside the heart of very man and woman. It makes one stop and consider would they be willing to do what Johannes has done were they in his place?
Personally though I loved it and cannot wait to get my hands on the next two books in the series.
If you are a fan of English authors such as Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book.