Johannes Cabal, necromancer of some little infamy, returns in this riotously clever and terrifically twisted tale of murder and international intrigue.
In this genre-twisting novel, infamous necromancer Johannes Cabal, after beating the Devil and being reunited with his soul, leads us on another raucous journey in a little-known corner of the world. This time he’s on the run from the local government.
Stealing the identity of a minor bureaucrat, Cabal takes passage on the Princess Hortense, a passenger aeroship that is leaving the country. The deception seems perfect, and Cabal looks forward to a quiet trip and a clean escape, until he comes face-to-face with Leonie Barrow, an enemy from the old days who could blow his cover. But when a fellow passenger throws himself to his death, or at least that is how it appears, Cabal begins to investigate out of curiosity. His minor efforts result in a vicious attempt on his own life—and then the gloves come off.
Cabal and Leonie—the only woman to ever match wits with him—reluctantly team up to discover the murderer. Before they are done, there will be more narrow escapes, involving sword fighting and newfangled flying machines. There will be massive destruction, not to mention resurrected dead.
Steampunk meets the classic Sherlockian mystery in this rip-roaring adventure where anything could happen - and does.
©2010 Jonathan L. Howard (P)2010 Random House
“For anyone whose taste edges towards the intelligent and macabre, this book is a gift...a Lemony Snicket for adults.” (Fangoria)
I'm assuming if you're reading this, you listened to and loved the first Johannes Cabel novel as I did.
In fact, I esteem the first novel so highly that it pains me to say this - the sequel wasn't quite up to snuff.
I think I've narrowed it down to the two points that caused a problem for me. The first is the narrator Robin Sachs, who was very capable, but lacked the panache of the narrator of the first novel, Christopher Cazenove.
The second point was that the author moved from a macabre fantasy motif to a steampunk mystery motif. A very interesting setting and premise, but didn't draw me in as much as the first.
I think the author, Jonathan L. Howard, has an incredible command of rich prose - but it seems to lend itself much better to the lighthearted, skullduggery-filled, mischievous, and fantastic atmosphere of the first novel. And it also seems to depend highly on delivery, something the narrator Cazenove so admirably provided in the the first book.
I'll put it concisely: this was just a boring story. The first novel seemed a nonstop cadence of one creative character or event after another. This book lacks the creative supernatural flair, instead hinging upon the author's development of the main character's persona...which is not enough to drag the story through a series of events and settings that can best be described as stale and claustrophobic.
While I did miss a little of the Dark Carnival of Necromancer, Cabal's foray (mostly) out of the arcane and into international intrigue was just as entertaining.
The quality of writing has improved greatly. Although I enjoyed Necromancer, I found it a bit episodic. The storytelling in Detective is much tighter and the author does just a great job ending this book. The epilogue alone is nearly worth the price of admission.
If you read the first and liked it, enjoy anti-heroes (consider a sociopathic Allan Quatermain), or have an appreciation for a dry sense of humor, I absolutely recommend this book.
pros and cons
I very much enjoyed Johannes Cabal, Necromancer. This was a fun follow-up with many of the same insightful and humorous quips that were the hallmark of the first book. However, it doesn't feel quite as fresh, new, lively, insightful, and exciting as the first did. I could not wait to start this book. However, about half-way through, I found my mind wandering and looking forward to what I would listen to next.
I have not read the print version.
The story is clever and fun. Howard's sarcasm and pointed quips are brilliant.
I loved Johannes Cabal: Necromancer so much better, but only because Christopher Cazenove is a much more enthusiastic reader, who knows exactly how to get Howard's idiom across. Robin Sachs seems to be much less interested in the story, and the bits of sarcastic undertones are not expressed the way, I believe, Howard means them to be.
Mr. Sachs is a wonderful reader, but not for this book. I hope that Howard's third book, "Fear Institute," brings back Christopher Cazenove.
I found myself laughing aloud as I did with the first book -- something I rarely do.
I was thoroughly delighted with these two books, and I am looking forward to reading the third.
I enjoyed this very much. The mystery is compelling, the narration is superb, and Johannes is...well...Johannes. He gets a few chinks in his armor and it's just enough to keep him human, barely. And yet he remains a sympathetic character you can't help but root for. There's a wonderful short story at the end of this novel, too. Just a warning- it could be considered a bit slow for those used to quick-paced action, but I absolutely love the use of language in this novel- it's part of its charm.
Software Designer & Armchair Philosopher
Do not be deceived by the title--it is actually mostly a detective story. :) Okay, I jest a bit, but after Book 1, I expected I suppose more supernatural twists.. more fantastical stuff. As it was, we were treated to a bit in the beginning and a bit at the end, but most of the book was a steampunk detective story.
Parts of the book were slow, but Howard keeps it going with interesting turns here and there. What's interesting is that while my wife doesn't really appreciate a book along the lines of the first one, I was able to recommend this one to her (she loves detective stories). She's in the midst of it now, just getting to the detective bits.
Anyways, in terms of characters, Cabal is Cabal--the 'bad' guy you've come to know and.. enjoy reading about. I like the mild interweaving of some of the story from the first book; but it's not enough so that you have to read it first (hence my wife can listen w/o doing so).
By far, for me, the most enjoyable part of the book was the last bit. Was it the prologue? I don't remember how it was framed, but it was fun--more Cabal style. That's what I look for in Cabal books.
Sachs is a different reader than the first book, but he manages a close enough continuity in voice that Cabal is still Cabal. He does the various accents quite well; I think I detected some intentional hiding and showing of a mild German accent for Cabal, which was masterful. Very well done; I look forward to more books read by Sachs. I think he is a reader on par with/comparable Guidall and Dale, which I think are masters.
Overall, I did enjoy it and if you like either detective stories or steampunk or antiheroes, you might enjoy it, too.
As Neil Gaimen once said that it comes down to just four words "...and then what happened?" that make you want to keep reading.
This book will make you wonder "and then what happened" each time you have to take a break from listening. Interestingly, Cabal seems to become much more human and less scientific in this.
As usual, the narration is suburb. Will most certainly buy the sequel.
Great second book. Maintained the excellent writing from the first book, with a very different story. Johannes takes on the role of Hercule Poirot and we learn a little more about his past. Narration not as good as the first, but still enjoyable. Highly recommend.
A witty, funny book that kept me interested and amused. I had not heard the first Cabal book, but that didn't matter - this story stands on its own. Very nicely read, with a great range of characterizations.
I will certainly get the Necromancer one next.
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