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Johannes Cabal the Necromancer [Hardcover]

Jonathan L. Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 7 2009

In this uproarious and clever debut, it’s time to give the Devil his due.

Johannes Cabal, a brilliant scientist and notorious snob, is single-mindedly obsessed in heart and soul with raising the dead. Well, perhaps not soul . . . He hastily sold his years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. But now, tormented by a dark secret, he travels to the fiery pits of Hell to retrieve it. Satan, who is incredibly bored these days, proposes a little wager: Johannes has one year to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever.

To make the bet even more interesting, Satan throws in that diabolical engine of deceit, seduction, and corruption known as a “traveling circus” to aid in the evil bidding. What better place exists to rob poor sad saps of their souls than the traveling carnivals historically run by hucksters and legendary con men?

With little time to lose, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire (an unfortunate side effect of Johannes’s early experiments with necromancy), to be the carnival’s barker. On the road through the pastoral English countryside, this team of reprobates wields their black magic with masterful ease, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

Johannes may have the moral conscience of anthrax, but are his tricks sinful enough to beat the Devil at his own game? You’ll never guess, and that’s a promise!

Brilliantly written and wickedly funny, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer combines the chills and thrills of old-fashioned gothic tales like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the mischievous humor of Wicked, and the sophisticated charms of Jonathan Strange &Mr. Norrell and spins the Faustian legend into a fresh, irreverent, and irresistible new adventure.


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Review

 “Witty, inventive, and thoroughly entertaining, this rollicking Faustian adventure grabs the reader and holds him until the very last page.” --Tucson Citizen
 
"The spot-on work of a talented writer." --Denver Post
 
 “Howard makes it look easy to paint a soul-stealing murdering necromancer as a sympathetic character; that, folks, is worth the price of admission. Step right up!” —San Diego Union-Tribune
 
“For anyone whose taste edges towards the intelligent and macabre, this book is a gift." —Fangoria

“Amusing and clever.”—The Free-lance Star  
 
“Populated with some of the most creative, and odd, characters to be found . . . hysterical and fascinating.”—Bookgeeks
 
"A delightfully wicked and inventive story." --Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child
 
“Cross Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell with Gregory Maguire's Wicked, and you have this witty and sometimes touching debut novel in the Faustian tradition.”—Library Journal
 
 “That ole black magic has never been more fun than it is in this deft and quirky Faustian take. A diabolical romp.” —Elle Newmark, author of The Book of Unholy Mischief --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jonathan L. Howard is a game designer and scriptwriter who has worked in the computer games industry since the early nineties, notably co-scripting the first three Broken Sword adventure games. This is his first novel. He lives near Bristol with his wife and daughter. 
 
Johannes Cabal
is a necromancer of some little infamy, who has been digging up bodies without permission for several years now. His first appearance in print was in the short story “Johannes Cabal and the Blustery Day,” published in the premier issue of H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror. Where he lives is none of your verdammt business.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Macabre Humour at its Finest June 7 2014
By Sean
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've found that the very best stories usually hook me with the first paragraph. Sure, some books start slow then pick up steam (or not), but I've rarely seen a book start strong and then go downhill. So I'm always delighted when I find a book whose first lines make me want to keep reading: I just know that there is a good story to follow.

Such was the case with the first book in Jonathan Howard's Johannes Cabal series, which I recently bought on a whim because I liked the cover. And, fortunately, as soon as I read the first paragraph I was reasonably sure that I had not misjudged the book by its cover:

"Walpurgisnacht, the Hexennacht. The last night in April. The night of witches, when evil walks abroad."

It was short, it was sweet, and it set the tone for the rest of the book. This is the story of Johannes Cabal, a thoroughly callous and self-centered scientist who has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the secrets of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Cabal journeys to hell to barter with Lucifer and makes the following wager: he has one year to consign one-hundred souls to damnation or lose his own for eternity. Satan doesn't send Johannes away empty-handed, however: he lends him a long-abandoned carnival train to help him on his quest. Cabal, an anti-social introvert, considers the prospect of running a carnival more of an ironic punishment than a boon. One sympathizes. Imagine the character of Sheldon Cooper, from T.V.'s Big Bang Theory (or me) forced to rely on personal charm to seduce unwary patrons into signing away their souls and you will have a good idea of just how out of his depth Cabal is. Satan doesn't like to make these wagers easy, otherwise everybody will be wanting one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book May 27 2013
Format:Paperback
Fantastic read! Original and funny, with one of the best reluctant heros around.

I was invested in the characters, and I'm eagerly waiting for more in the series.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  142 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite the Carnival June 16 2009
By Sistertex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Johannes Cabal is not only a necromancer but a total jerk who suddenly finds giving up his soul to Satan has caused him a bit of a problem when it puts a stop to his research. In order to solve this he goes to Hell to meet with the Lord of Darkness in order to get his soul back. A wager of sorts is agreed upon with details set by Satan. The wager consists of bringing forth a dark carnival to help Cabal capture 100 souls in a year's time. If Cabal can accomplish this next to impossible task in the time allotted his soul will be returned to him. The Dark Carnival is of the of the soul-snatching kind, which apparently is not the only one Satan has in operation around the world. However, the one Cabal is given has to be totally reconstructed and revived. To accomplish the revival of the Dark Carnival Johannes enlists his estranged brother Horst, who is not very happy with him for reasons I won't mention here, but agrees to help him with a little arm twisting. Once Johannes resurrects his carnival workers and puts together some `freak show' entertainment he starts his journey to collect 100 souls.

Jonathan L. Howard's writing is outwardly humorous, dark, and brings to mind works by Terry Pratchett (`DiscWorld'), Douglas Adams (`Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy'), and Christopher Moore (`Fool'). Sometimes the laughs are real `groaners' and the quirkiness leaves you feeling a little off center due to the rapid pace of the book. The unpredictability of one strange situation after another quickly building on each other is part of the charm of this book, so fasten your seat belt and give in to it to achieve maximum enjoyment.

Though I enjoyed the book I still felt there were portions of it that were hastily written. There are areas where it seems the author only gives the reader a glimpse of the surface when it feels like things should have dug a little bit deeper with the characters and how things impacted them. However, this is not to be considered a `deep' novel and Johannes Cabal doesn't even take his `badness' seriously as he somehow manages to show some emotional depth upon occasion. I enjoyed the laughs along with the light and easy writing style. If you enjoy reading Pratchett, Adams, and Moore you will enjoy `Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer'. Author Jonathan L. Howard has done himself proud.

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof was to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Douglas Adams, `Mostly Harmless'
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully loony, surprisingly sad. June 22 2009
By Tracy Rowan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Johannes Cabal has sold his soul to the devil - with immediate possession - in exchange for magic and arcane wisdom that will help him further his research. But he discovers he needs his soul, not for any particular spiritual reason, but because he believes that being without it is hindering his work. And so he sets out to strong-arm Satan into giving it back. He's willing to make a deal, but both he and Satan drive hard bargains, and in the end, Johannes agrees that within the space of a single year he will deliver one hundred other souls in exchange for his own. And just because he's an okay guy, Satan gives Cabal a carnival. Not your fun-and-games, cotton candy and wild rides sort of carnival either, but one which has the potential to corrupt and destroy human beings.

There's something about this book which reminds me a great deal of Gaiman's and Pratchett's "Good Omens" which is one of my favorites. Probably it's the sense that what's going on in the narrative is serious stuff, and should be taken seriously... except it's not. The danger, the corruption, the infernal interference would all make a terrific horror novel, if it wasn't so damn funny. I guess that in the final analysis, evil isn't majestic or magnificent, but rather it's small and petty and even bureaucratic in nature. Evil is less being rent limb from limb by hell hounds and more getting pecked to death by ducks.

But there is an underlying seriousness within this book, and it's about the nature of the individual soul, about the relationships that have made the characters what they are, and which drive them to do what they do. That is, at least, deadly serious, and rightly so. And yet, that seriousness, and the sadness behind it, is always overlaid by a lively sense of the absurd, kept at arms length until the end when the bet with Satan ends and the truth about Cabal's work is made clear.

In spite of a few slow spots along the way, "Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer" held my attention both through my own sense of the absurd and my curiosity about how it would all turn out in the end. And I have to say that I was satisfied. I enjoyed the heck out of the book, and I think anyone who is willing to go along with the often hilarious narrative, will too.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Carnival of My Imagination April 4 2010
By Kindred - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I always thought that carnivals seemed slightly dangerous and evil--and this fabulous book reached into my mind and made me say--that's right! I knew it!

Firstly, this is my new favorite novel, ever. I want to make sweet love to it or at least take it out for a nice dinner and a peck on the cheek. And cheek this book has in spades. And spades too. And more shivery evil than a clown convention.

If you enjoy dry, biting humor and the ability to laugh at the absurd you must read this book. I would buy action figures if they were available. Every character in this book is an absolute character whether you love them or hate them. And in the end, your opinion of each may change several times.

Please Mr. Howard, lock yourself in a dungeon and don't come out until you have ten more books about Mr. Cabal. If need be I'll chuck homemade brownies and tea over the wall on a regular basis, just please get to it!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crisp, dry humor June 30 2009
By R. Leigh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
After a few false starts, I found myself unable to stop reading this book. Johannes Cabal is not an interesting character right off the bat, we have to wait until things get get started to really start to enjoy him.

As a Necromancer, Cabal has found that things don't go the way they are supposed to when the man in charge has no soul. Having sold his a while back in order to learn the secrets of necromancy in a hurry, Cabal has found that he's basically foiled himself, and he needs his soul back. Traveling to Hell to strike yet another deal with Satan, Cabal agrees to obtain 100 souls within one year for Satan in order to get his very own back. Given the use of a carnival that never got up off the ground, Cabal sets off to entrap doomed souls with the help of his brother Horst, who is a vampire.

This book was interesting, but I wasn't too pleased with some of the vagueness. Of course I didn't want to go into excruciating detail for the procurement of each and every soul, but time passes sort of without warning here (I guess as it does in life?) and that threw me off a bit.

We are treated to a few surprises when it comes to the morality of several characters, and I like that unexpectedness. A real treat is waiting for the reader at the end of the book, and that is nice, it casts a little more insight on the tale as a whole. The story has traces of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's collaboration "Good Omens," and that in itself is a comparison that I'm certain is an honor to have.

A very enjoyable spin on the old Faustian classic, this comes highly recommended
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, weird Kindle issues Dec 8 2010
By Scott Befield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the book - it is more than meets the eye. At first glance it reads like a typical Brit humorous fantasy (Good Omens comes to mind), but it actually has quite a bit to say about the nature of good and evil and the choices we make. A bit hastily written in palces, and the tone may not be for everyone, but overall a very impressive first novel.

That said, the Kindle edition is truly strange. The font size seems to change radically form chapter to chapter. On first opening the book, the font was huge so I set it smaller. Then later on, it became tiny, so I went back to my normal setting. And so on. It is also somehow difficult to read - as if teh overall justification and spacing is off.
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