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 100 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.
Johannes Cabal was just your average, everyday scientist trying to cure death before he gave up on science and turned to necromancy. To become a necromancer, all he had to do was sell his soul to the devil. Which was fine, he didn't think he'd need it. Turns out he was wrong, though, so he goes to hell to get it back. Only once there, he finds the devil's not so interested in returning it. At least not without making things interesting. So, Cabal and the devil agree on a little wager: If Cabal can collect 100 souls in the span of one year, the devil will return his soul to him. Cabal accepts the challengenot that he really had any choice, unless he wanted to settle for eternal damnationand returns to Earth to discover that the devil haskindly? provided him with a traveling carnival, which Cabal must use in his attempts to acquire those hundred souls.
If Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman had collaborated on another book after Good Omens, or Christopher Moore had been raised in the UK by devil-worshiping carnies, or J. K. Rowling had decided to write a humorous novel but had a cold, black lump of coal in her chest where a heart would otherwise be, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer is the book they, he, or she might have written. Which is to say a laugh-out-loud funny fantasy, with liberal doses of the devil, darkness, and death.
To narrate such a text-one rife with numerous (and challenging) voices and requiring of impeccable comic timingwould be a tall order for any actor, but Christopher Cazenove makes it seem as child's play. His sonorous British tone matches up with Jonathan L. Howard's prose precisely, and he provides several unique voices, bringing a wide range of characters to life (some of which are dead!), resulting in a truly remarkabledare I say...flawless? audiobook production.
Given the subject matter of the novel, it's entirely possible Howard and Cazenove sold their souls in exchange for their incredible talents. If you run into either of them, be sure to read very carefully anything they ask you to sign... John Joseph Adams
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a devilish pleasure