Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer
by Jonathan L. Howard
Years ago, scientist Johannes Cabal had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers of the dead. From that day forth, he was no longer Johannes Cabal, man of science. He was Johannes Cabal, necromancer.
But things have changed, and now Johannes wants his soul back. The devil, though, is never one to give without getting. He is, however, something of a gambling man. Johannes, realizing that a sleight chance is better than no chance at all, agrees, and the wager is set: Johannes has exactly one year to convince one hundred people to sign their souls away.
Operating under the guise of a traveling carnival, Johannes and the motley team he assembles crosses the country, a stack of contracts tucked safely away.
The characters here are all dark and eccentric oddballs. Beyond Johannes and Satan, there is a myriad of hellish underlings, Johanne's vampiric brother Horst, a personal assistant made of (literally) skin and bones, two bumbling zombie cronies, and a sideshow full of freaks, just to name a few. They're colorful enough to draw you into the book, but it's the story that's going to get you through to the end.
Truth be told, the story, though interesting and a lot of fun, is more than a little uneven. It starts off with a Hitchhiker's Guide type sense of humor, full of wacky jokes and asides, but quickly changes its tone for the climax. It becomes a much darker and more somber tale, with a more low-key sense of humor.
The pacing was a little odd as well, taking its sweet time detailing the first few days of the carnival before finally leaping to the final few days, with practically all of the time in between unaccounted for. I understand that not a full year could be detailed, but it would have been nice to see a few more of the souls between number 1 and number 100. Surely something of interest must have happened.
I'm a sucker for horror, dark humor, and for carnivals, so it was quite easy for me to look past these shortcomings and fly through this book with the greatest of ease. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am now greatly looking forward to the sequel.
Johannes Cabal, Detective has recently been released, and the supernatural stylings of this bitter character should blend quite well with the detective genre.