‘Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer’ (Howard, Jonathan L. 2009.)

The 2nd book in this series, The Detective, is our Mithlond selection for february, but i hate reading a 2nd book if i haven’t read the 1st book.  Others in our book group assured me that the 2nd could easily be read without the 1st, and that the 1st really wasn’t as good as the 2nd anyway.  Psh.  Like that‘s going to dissuade a completist like me.

I’ll be curious to hear why others in book group didn’t like The Necromancer, because i’m wondering if their objections match my own.

Some reasons not to read this book (yes, big whopping “spoiler” for the end of the book in the 4th bullet point):

  • Pretty much everyone’s white.
  • Except Bones.  And if you’re bothered in the 1st place that pretty much everyone’s white (and if you’re not, maybe you should think about that), then you’re really going to be bothered by Bones.  He’s the Infernally-summoned 2nd in command of the Infernal carnival.  He’s sassy.  He calls the main character “boss.”
  • Oh, and pretty much everyone’s male.
  • Except the main character’s dead love whom he keeps in suspended animation in his secret underground laboratory.  I am not even joking about a single iota of that sentence.  This is the big “spoiler” from the end of the book, but i put “spoiler” in quotation marks because you look like a savvy reader, so i’m sure as you read this book you’re going to be irritated by just how far in advance the dead love is telegraphed.

The only 3 reasons i kept reading are:

  1. I kind of like the world this is set in.  Steampunkish, yet still distinctly modern (electricity is commonplace, for example).
  2. The narrative and dialogue are quite witty in exactly the way i like (tho’, admittedly, the writing does have a by-the-numbers, first novel sort of feel to it).  One of my favorite examples:
  3. “I used to like Lapsang Souchong in my adolescence.”  He looked Barrow straight in the eye, and Barrow almost expected him to add, “And now you know my secret, you must die.”

  4. This novel is the 1st time ever, in my 3 decades of reading, that i’ve had this sort of reaction to a story and main character, and i had to keep reading to see why i was having this particular reaction and how long the reaction would last and if, in the end, i still had this particular reaction.  Which is this:

From the moment i met Johannes Cabal, the necromancer of the title, to the very end of the book, i had the persistent, nagging thought that this character should be a woman. And from beginning to end — yes, even including the dead woman in the refrigerator — i still kept thinking, This character should be a woman.  There’s just no reason for this character not to be a woman.  How did the author get the gender of his main character so very, very wrong??

I almost want to get an editable text version of the novel so i can tweak it myself to turn Johannes into Johanna Cabal.  (And to also fix the problems with Bones.  Yeesh.)  How amazing would this book have been if the main character were a totally hardened, amoral, badass woman?  Who’s ruthless and unfeeling in her pursuit of a cure for death so she can successfully resurrect her dead lesbian love?

Now that’s a book i’d recommend.  Damn, i gots to find me some fic.

2 thoughts on “‘Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer’ (Howard, Jonathan L. 2009.)”

  1. Wait, #4 is the big reveal? That’s standard operating procedure for characters with dead loves! It can’t be a “reveal” if everyone does it!
    The acceptable options in fiction when your love dies are either:
    1) go all evil and
        a) try to bring them back,
        b) destroy the world because it’s not worth living and everyone needs to suffer with you
    2) go all heroic
        a) in order to make sure it neverhappensagain,
        b) bring them back in a non-evil way.

    1. I KNOW RIGHT??

      You’re just going to laugh yourself silly when you get to the part where Ex-Detective Inspector Barrow asserts that Johannes was struck senseless at the sight of Leonie Barrow because it was “love at first sight.”

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