Johannes Cabal The Necromancer

Narrated by: Christopher Cazenove
Series: Johannes Cabal, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,854 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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, 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.

©2009 Jonathan L. Howard (P)2009 Random House

What listeners say about Johannes Cabal The Necromancer

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely wonderful narrator

The narrator was just the best that could be for this story. His accents were great, all of them. The story has a solid pace, somewhat like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, you either like it or you don't.The humour is as dry as an autumn leaf, and thinly served up, so as not to overwhelm. A very good listen.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Masterpiece Comedy

This isn't just a book that has many moments that made me laugh out loud. It's well told narrative with suspense and twists.

If it was just a comedy I wouldn't give this five stars. But it's clever, passionate, well narrated and beautifully sarcastic.

I had as much fun listening to this as I had 30 years ago reading Bored of the Rings or in the 80's and 90's reading Good Omens or the first few Xanth novels by Piers Anthony. Also, if you like passionately fun novels like Infected/Contagious you also might like this, too.

39 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Methadone your Gaiman or Pratchett fix

Yes, I'm one of those. Gaiman and Pratchett can't write them fast enough and Adams is currently dead (for tax reasons, I believe). Howard isn't as funny, but he's got dark and ironic down--which is more than enough to stave off the withdraw shakes for another day. And, in all fairness, this is a better showing for an early work than most of Pratchett's first several books. As far as audio goes, Christopher Cazenove does a superb job talking us through this freak show.

29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Most Excellent Story and Reader

One of my favorite books, the best I have 'read' in a long time.
Solid plot, A book you can't put down, suspense and sarcasam with a bit of British Humor. A sort of Monty Phyton meets Satan kind of humor, yet dark enough to make you keep the lights on at night !

And Christopher Cazenove is an outstanding reader.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The Necromancer as Diabolic Showman

Johannes Cabal once sold his soul to the devil in return for necromantic knowledge that would propel him towards his goal in the dark arts, only to discover that his soullessness always skews the results of his black scientific experiments. Therefore, he makes a wager with Satan: if he can get 100 people to sign their souls over to the devil within one year, Satan will return Cabal's soul to him. To "help" Cabal, Satan gives him the use of an infernal traveling carnival and a ball of Satanic blood with which to conjure up workers and attractions. The penalty for failure is Cabal's death and damnation.

Thus begins Jonathan L. Howard's macabre, humorous, and strangely moving novel Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. Howard's fresh takes on hellish horror tropes like vampires, ghosts, demons, warlocks, imps, zombies, and Lovecraftian cults, is entertaining. His similes are often funny and original, as when the smoke from the infernal train engine rises up to the sky like the pyres of witches or martyrs. I liked much of the social satire, about, for instance, the insanity of war or men who beat women. Sometimes Howard's jokes and allusions are a bit too contemporary or cheap, as in revealing that Satan created lawyers or as in having Al Capone misspell "venereal" on the form he's trying to fill in to enter hell. But Cabal is a fascinating anti-hero protagonist, his relationship with his big brother Horst is compelling, and his mysterious reason for being a necromancer is intriguing. And the climax and resolution of the novel are suspenseful and satisfying (though I could have done with a little less of Layla the Latex Lady).

Christopher Cazenove marvelously reads the novel (as he does with The Merry Adventures of Robinhood and Peter Pan), with perfect rhythm and clear enunciation and varied voices for different characters, from Cabal's stiff, cold, and slightly Germanic accent through Bones' ingratiating Americanisms and Satan's infernal humor and silk and rage. Fans of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman ought to enjoy this book.

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

"Don't Be Fatuous!"

Witty from start to finish, with some of the sharpest, most literate dialog in any fantasy. The titular directive not to be fatuous is but one of many erudite retorts from this steampunk smartmouth.
Johannes Cabal is compelling, mordantly funny, and a generally despicable asshat. He also raises and manipulates The Dead, and understandably mistrusts all of creation.
Affronted by the earthly fallout from selling his soul to Satan, the arrogant Cabal talks the Devil into a do-over. He then must achieve Lucifer's new ends by operating a janky traveling Carnival, with the marginal assistance of imps, ghouls and freaks. Cognizant of his utter ineptitude at any enterprise close to hospitality, Cabal humbles himself a bit less than the bare minimum required to enlist the aid of the story's unexpected moralist. And we all board his crazy carny train.
Jonathan Howard manages to keep Cabal a selfish jerk who gets himself out of jams using esoteric texts, mad science skills and an enormous Webley handgun. His wit is decidedly British, with a gloomy, Teutonic pall and creepy, forensic coruscations. If you're well read in fiction, religion (including apocrypha,) science and fantasy, you'll delight in the myriad allusions. There's a lot to love here.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent narrator, some issues with the plot

The narrator is really excellent, though he does occasionally stumble. He's got a pleasant singing voice (though he doesn't overestimate how pleasant, which is a plus), and good about doing different voices for characters - it's always really easy to tell who's talking. He really sells the book's humor, too, and how he delivers dialogue really spices up several scenes.

(mild)SPOILERS



I was 100% with Howard until the last hour-ish of the book. I felt like the ending was sort of slapdash, like he had to break characterization to make the end happen like it did. As far as character redemptions go, it was not only half-assed, but supremely unnecessary to the story and character.

That said, the rest of the book makes it worth it, in my opinion. Howard has a side-spliting sense of humor that goes from slap-stick to jokes about mildly obscure artistic movements from the mid 20th century at the drop of a hat, and his similes are to die for. In any case, he was funny enough that I'm planning on continuing the series, lackluster ending or no.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Completely Captivated

I have now heard all the books in this series and the only criticism I have is that the narrator changes through the series. Although Christopher Cazenove is the best of them, fortunately, all are quite competent. And, since Jonathan L. Howard does not follow the current overly used trend of first person, his third person narrative is not really harmed by the change in narration.

It is hard to describe this book or this series that is a fantasy turn on alternate reality with a bit of steampunk, but I found myself completely captivated, thoroughly entertained, and desperate for more. Howard's writing is witty, wry, sardonic, and very clever and his characterizations are brilliant - odd and strangely sympathetic. One reviewer aptly compared the tone to "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell", but this is much more fast paced with characters that are ultimately more likable as bits and pieces of the backstory fill in the gaps. This is my favorite type of series - each of the books delivers a satisfying resolution to the immediate conflict with an overarching goal that ties the series together so each book is a credit-worthy experience.

Dark and delicious - I can't wait to forget the plot points in the series so I can enjoy it again!

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Deathly entertaining

Howard has created some very memorable character in this unique story of morals on earth and below. A race against time, brotherly competition and love are all entertainingly intertwined. Listen deeply or on the surface...you'll find whatever you are looking for.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Humorous Faustian Tale with Memorable Moments

Non-spoilery summary: A necromancer runs Satan's carnival to recover his soul.

This was a weird one for me. I can't say that I liked it, but I certainly liked parts of it. And, for what it's worth, I am tempted to read another one in the series.

As a horror book, it's undermined by some goofy humor and clunky Lovecraft references. As a humor book, it's undermined by playing it straight too often. And while some readers in our book club didn't mind the way the book played fast and loose with its setting (time and place), the numerous contradictions along that line really bothered me. But the characters are very interesting and there are a few passages that show real brilliance.

If you like tongue-in-cheek, gothic/weird horror, this might be one for you. It's definitely interesting. Because of its unevenness, however, I can't quite recommend it.

4 people found this helpful

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  • connor
  • 10-06-17

Get past the first hour I beg you

Every book in this series has a dry start to it don't expect you can just skip through sections unfortunately. But get past that and it's a fantastic read Johannes is not a hero more a anti hero cold logical but kind in his own distant way.dangerously smart and always has a plan every book is different with only the characters as a constant in this series one day he running a carnival next he is solving murders on a blimp.the modernism can leave you scratching your head but does not affect the story as a whole .

1 person found this helpful