A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the devil, twice.

Good thing Johannes Cabal is a necromancer, because I died laughing while reading this book. It is two hundred and ninety pages of pure sarcasm and dark hilarity. It does come with a warning label, however, as it is quite violent, and paints a fantastical picture of dark magic. If those two things are automatic turnoffs when you’re choosing a book, proceed with caution. I’m not usually big into the violent, dark magic type books myself, but I found that this book pokes so much fun at itself that it became a parody of the dark writing I often avoid.

Which brings me around to the writing. Anyone who can make me laugh as hard as I did in this book has talent, and Jonathan L. Howard is nothing if not talented. He did a good job of using third-person omniscient viewpoint, and his writing was easy to read while still capturing the heavy, gothic style he was emulating. The plot was an excellent roller-coaster of increasingly disastrous events. He makes Johannes Cabal dance on the edge of a moral cliff. The big question is whether he will fall off it – if he has not fallen off already.

This book has a delightful cast of characters. First and foremost, there is Johannes, the selfish, psychopathic, and unapologetically sarcastic necromancer. Then there is Horst, his classy and frustratingly morally upright brother (who also happens to be a vampire – long story), who Johannes employs to help him run the Carnival of Discord. I loved how these two very different characters bounced off each other, resulting in hilarious misadventures as they traveled around collecting souls.

The Cabal brothers meet a wide variety of characters on their one-year journey. Ratuth Slabuth,  general of the Infernal Hordes, is a particular favourite of mine. He never failed to make me laugh out loud – regardless of whether I was reading in the company of other humans. Other characters of note are; Francis and Leonie Barrow, Bones, Denis and Denzil, Rufus Maleficarius, the Little Old Man, and Alfred Simpkinks. I could list nearly every character in the book, as each one shone brightly no matter how short a time they had, but you will just have to read the book to find out about them.

If I have not already convinced you to read Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, here’s some more reasons why it‘s worth your time: The chapters cleverly titled (for example, chapter 8: “In Which Cabal is Educated in Business Affairs and Undertakings are Undertook.”), we get illustrations at the start of each chapter, annnnnd… it’s a series! We get at least four more books of the wonderful sarcasticness that is Johannes Cabal.

Overall, this was one of the best books I read this spring, and by far the funniest. I recommend it to those who like dark humour, sarcasm, science fiction/alternate history/steampunk, and are searching for a good summer read.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

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