Series: Johannes Cabal #1
Published by Doubleday on July 7th 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Humorous, Occult & Supernatural
Source: Personal Copy
Reviewed by: Kim
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 travelling 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.
This book drew me in from about ten feet away on the shelf. The whole thing is beautiful and feels old in your hand. The story of Johannes Cabal’s fight with the devil takes place in a demonic fair ground, where he is charged with stealing away 100 people’s souls in a year in order to exchange it for his own (which he carelessly sold to the devil a few years back - he figured a scientist wouldn’t need it!).
The reason he needs his soul back is amazing in itself.
The fair ground staff work for him but are, in the end, loyal to Satan, making for an interesting dynamic between Johannes and the demons. In order to wrangle them, he frees his vampire brother from the crypt where he has been imprisoned for the last decade. Unfortunately for Johannes, it was his fault his brother was turned into a vampire in the first place, so there’s a bit of tension there.
The writing is elegant and can be quite funny at times. This is the type of writing best read slowly, in case you miss anything. There are funny asides to the reader and seemingly nonsensical asides, which recall Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.
By the end of the book, Johannes is a truly human character, you feel bad for him and at the same time understand where he is coming from. With the fifth book in the Johannes Cabal series now published, I’m still amazed how each book can be totally different from the last one while keeping up the spirit and delicious writing style. Whether he is a necromancer, a detective or a revolutionary, Johannes Cabal is always entertaining.Series Titles:
- Johannes Cabal The Necromancer
- Johannes Cabal the Detective
- The Fear Institute
- The Brothers Cabal
- The Fall of the House Cabal
For more beautifully written trips down the rabbit hole, try Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Coraline by Neil Gaiman or
Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola.