Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
What do you do if, as an up-and-coming Necromancer, you sold your soul to the devil only to discover that being soul-less throws off the reliability of your investigations into mysteries both scientific and occult? You make a wager with Satan to get it back, of course. Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer is a delightful, creepy tale of the evil magician with a kernel of gold at the core of his heart (just a tiny kernel, mind you). A few thoughts:
- The mix of magic and science are pretty great here. At one point, Cabal explains that magicians stopped using magic not because it doesn’t work, but because science is so much easier.
- When Cabal makes his wager with Satan, he’s given an evil carnival with which to tempt unwitting souls. The evil carnival is pretty damn cool, with all manner of ghoulish carnal traps. I like the notion that when we’re celebratory, we lose our inhibitions and give way to temptation more easily.
- Minor spoiler: Cabal’s brother, Horst, is a delightful counterpoint to our villain. His supreme good looks and confidence work as a great foil to the straightforwardly-evil Johannes.
- I like the way Howard brings in alternate viewpoints for short passages. This works much better than in some other books I’ve read, most notably The Fury, which was irritating in its extra viewpoints that did little to add to the story.
- I’ve complained, for a long time, about the season finale of Bones in which beloved lab assistant (and probable resident on the Autism spectrum) Zach turned out to be the assistant of the occultist serial killer Gormagant. They reveal that Zach, though brilliant, had such a tenuous grasp of empathy that he was able to sway himself, by logic, to side with a killer. I never bought that aspect of the character and grouse about it regularly. But after reading this novel, in which the eponymous character could well be described as traveling the same path with the same errors in logic and reason, I can understand it more easily.
An entertaining and solid read. I recommend it.