Sunday, May 7, 2023

Book Review: Johannes Cabal The Necromancer

book cover for The NecromancerJohannes 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 traveling 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.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was fine. I was entertained. There were humorous quips and interesting bits of wordplay. The narrative was thought through and resolved neatly. But I wasn't eager to pick it back up each night when I sat down to read it, if I read it at all. However, I think it would work fine as a TV series as some of the gags require an audio or visual component to truly pull them off.

The book blurb covers the plot. There's a hint of Something Wicked This Way Comes in that an evil carnival roams the countryside causing mayhem. But while that was suspenseful, this story satirizes its horror. As the carnival proceeds via train through the English countryside, each stop presents a encounter with a potential soul to be taken or an obstacle to Johannes's progress. It's a very episodic format, which is fine and why it lends itself to a TV adaptation. It proceeds along at a measured pace until 70-75% of the way through when the carnival train makes its last stop and Cabal's deadline approaches.

At first, I rooted for Johannes in his quest to acquire 100 souls. His targets were people who were pretty lousy and seemingly deserved their fate. But the more I read of this anti-hero, the more I didn't care for him. His vampire brother, Horst, was the likable one who still retained any hint of conscience. By the end of the story, Johannes improves, but his path is muddy.

Maybe this book would've been a better match for me if I'd read it when I was much younger than I am today.

2.5 stars


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