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The Necromancer (Johannes Cabal #1)

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,702 Ratings  ·  1,140 Reviews
Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind. There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on middling terms with demons.

His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spirituall
ebook, 288 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Elaine While never specifically stated, the book refers to a war and that Al Capone is dead (he died in 1947), so I assume perhaps in the 1950s or 60s.

Community Reviews

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Alternate title: Something Wicked This Way Comes, the Carnie Version

Johannes Cabal is sorely vexed. Some time ago, he traded his soul to the Devil, as it was proving an impediment in his studies of necromancy. Alas, he acted too hastily–after much research, he’s realized that his soul is needed for his research to be have meaning. He might also have an ulterior motive. The epitome of the logistician, the obsessive scientist, Cabal is a hysterical straight man to the absurd humor of those around
Dan Schwent
In a bid to win back his soul, necromancer and scientist Johannes Cabal runs a demonic carnival in order to win the souls of a hundred people to exchange for his own. With the help of his vampire brother, can he find one hundred people willing to sell their souls?

This is one of those books that I'm having a hard time verbalizing my opinion on. I'll give it a shot, though.

The Necromancer is a funny tale about a man trying to win back his soul. I found the dark British humor right up my alley. Joh
⊱ Irena ⊰

I loved this book.

I loved its weird characters.

I loved Johannes Cabal even at his worst. I should be worried, I know.

Johannes Cabal

I loved the beginning, the plot, the ending.

I would admit that Johannes Cabal is an acquired taste. There are things here that might make some people squirm (not in a good way, but there are those too) and make them feel uncomfortable at best, horrified at worst. The first half of the book is a bit lighter than the second.

If you thought Something Wicked This Way Comes was too
Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast)
"The darkest souls are not those which choose to exist within the hell of the abyss, but those which choose to break free from the abyss and move silently among us."

Although the above quote is from the movie Halloween, it sums up this book almost perfectly. Because even though The Necromancer may at first dazzle readers with its sharp wit and cleverness, it has a dark heart, mostly due to its eponymous leading man, Johannes Cabal.

Cabal has a problem, you see. A while ago, he sold his soul to Sa
Nov 10, 2015 MLE rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steam-punk
I really liked this book. The writing is dense, but darkly smart and clever. The characters are well drawn, and complex, and I love how the author used the language they spoke to help define them. I also loved the difficult relationship between Johannes and Horst. The secondary cast was interesting, and added a lot to the story. I appreciated their insight into the story, and the characters. Having views other than Johannes' helped me to understand Johannes, and how he is perceived. The plot was ...more
I tried. Oh how I tried. The premise for this book had me at hello. The audiobook starts out very charming and engaging with a winsome scene of Hell's bureaucracy. The dialogue is crisp, witty and very British. Narrator Christopher Cazenove reminded me of Alan Rickman, which is made of win for me.

Then there's the confrontation with Lucifer that's just as delightful and intriguing. Johannes Cabal is a Necromancer who traded his soul to the Devil. But now he needs it back. However, known neither
This book was just what I needed after coming out of my Mockingjay funk. Mockingjay was brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it also sucked my will to live in 7 loaded hours. I was in a daze for, like, two days. I think I could only move on to other books because my mom started reading it after I finished, preventing me from a re-read, and I got to meet up with my best friend to discuss and have group therapy over our very similar, life-ending experiences.

So yes, dry British humor was what I need
David Katzman
Apr 08, 2012 David Katzman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Dreadful. I knew I was going to throw in the towel after about 30 pages, but I kept going until page 65 because I wanted to give it a reasonable chance. I was in the mood for some gothic wit, some charming amorality, and some evocative darkness. Fail, on all accounts. It wasn’t witty. The plot was contrived. The writing was forced and awkward. And the main character was neither charming nor witty. In fact, he was stiff and boring. Here is the dead-on insight I had about this book:
Sometimes while
May 17, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2014
4 Stars

The Necromancer book one of the Johannes Cabal series by Jonathan L Howard is a dark urban fantasy done right. Johannes Cabal is not a good man heck, he is not even a nice man. He literally sold his soul to the devil and has now decided that he wants it back.

The book moves along briskly with plenty of action, dialogue, and great settings. This story really does travel to Hell and back. I really enjoyed the writing style of Howard. He is big on painting a dark and dirty picture and he is b
4.0 to 4.5 stars. An excellent debut novel with a wonderful "tone" and smart writing. Excellent plot and wonderful characters (especially the main character and his brother). Overall, a very satisfying read. Highly recommended!!
That bit with Horst in the last third made me so mad that I don't even want to write a review at the moment. What happened was fine, but how is some nonsense. (view spoiler) ...more
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile

So, I liked this book well enough, but I had high hopes for it and just wanted to like it more than I did.

Part of it is that I think, before I started reading it, I was expecting it to have more of a period feel to it - which it sort of achieves, in that it didn't feel quite modern, but didn't quite manage to immerse me fully.

But, that aside, when I first started reading it I was generally enjoying it. I really like the little bits of wry wit and references, but as the story progressed it too
Peter Darbyshire
The sort of book Tim Burton would write, if he wanted to write a book about a necromancer who's bet his soul on a wager with the devil and then travels the country side with a hellish fair. So, really, Burton should adapt this book.
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
Johannes Cabal is a wicked dark comedy. Johannes sold his soul to learn the laws of necromancy and makes a wager with Satan so that he may win it back - one year to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls. A travelling circus is an aid to his task. Horst, a charismatic vampire and brother of Johannes joins as the carnival's barker on the diabolical romp through the English countryside.
May 14, 2012 Tfitoby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantastical, funny
The Johannes Cabal series from the creator of that awesome 90's point & click game Broken Sword is an interesting if not very unique idea. The tone is very much one of deliberate attempts at humour that made me cringe more often than not.

I was reading stuff like this ten years ago and enjoying it so perhaps this is just another example of needing the 'right place right time' dynamic in my life to really enjoy something; sadly instead of finding it funny and clever this just made me compare H
Jun 28, 2015 Stacia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Overall, I enjoyed it & it's what I would term a light read even though the material itself is quite dark. (It is necromancy after all.) I think the first half is stronger than the second & I probably liked the first half more because it was wittier & more acid, imo. By the halfway mark, it felt like the story got a little more predictable (often my problem with books that are part of a series) & I feel like there were some chapters there just to fill the 'quota' & move the s ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Johannes Cabal is a necromancer who lives in the 1800's. Or maybe it's the 1900's. Or maybe it's 2011. Or maybe it's the 1950's?


Johannes Cabal is a necromancer who lives in some sort of time period that's a mish-mash of everything ever for the past 300 years. He's arrogant, intelligent and ruthless... and he has a plan. He's decided that he needs his soul back, which is easier said than done when the only way to do that is to visit hell. Making a pact with the devil should have been a lo

For me, this book was the perfect example of how important it is to read a book at the right time -- the last time I tried reading it, I distinctly remember thinking it was kind of . . . dull. I was so disappointed that it wasn't nearly as good as I thought it would be, and I put it down, not really sure I'd try it again in future.

At the urging of a GR friend, I decided to give it another try -- and it was like reading an entirely different book. I'm not really sure why I found it so dull last t
Mar 20, 2013 Rui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rui by: Rafaela
Shelves: favorites
So... Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer... what to say about this book?

Let me put it like this, when I started I was expecting an enjoyable read, when I finished I was absolutely in love with this, its characters, its concept, its writing style, its universe... everything!

This book, for a start, is marvellously well written; it manages to be funny, dark, clever (very), sad and surprising, every scene hitting exactly the emotion it is aiming at. That is no small feat.
I found myself laughing out la
Jan 21, 2013 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan L. Howard's writing is rich, wry, and creepy as fuck.

Admittedly, I had trouble getting into this book. I don't really understand why, honestly.
Purgatory as a bureaucratic nightmare? A vampiric crypt-dwelling brother? A carnival of death, chaos, and latex ladies? Totally my style. So, the story inevitably grabbed me, especially as Cabal started collecting souls to exchange with Satan for his own lost soul, and Howard's imagination was given the chance to shine. An abusive boyfriend is
Jan 31, 2016 Melora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much as I've enjoyed the Johannes Cabal short stories I've read, this, the first of the full length books, is even better. More space for the story to develop, obviously, but also... Horst! The presence of Johannes's older brother brings out elements of his character, both positive and negative, which, while not making him any less the cold, sarcastic, cynical scientist I've come to enjoy so much, serve to humanize him and offer some hints as to motivations. Despite Johannes's chosen career and ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Liam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2015, luna-reads
Was originally a buddy read with a friend of mine but extended hiatus later, I'm sick of seeing this in my Currently Reading list.

Pretty meh. Occasionally gave me a chuckle but for the most part the witticisms and humour were painful, a few neat ideas, the two main characters are fun and the whole Hell being a huge, idiotic beureaocracy has something nicely Douglas Adamsy about it, but yeah overall fairly forgettable.
Dec 30, 2012 Juliet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reclusive scientist Johannes Cabal wants his soul back. He travels to Hell, where a bored Satan proposes a wager: Cabal has a year to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls. If he fails, he'll lose his own soul forever.

Cabal raises a crew of dead, enlists his own undead brother to help out, and proceeds to seek his hundred signatures. He has not expected to be doing so while running a travelling carnival, but that's the way things work out, and the weirdness of the Cabal Brothers'
Matthew DeCostanza
Awful, worthless shit.

Cabal wins the award for most unrealistic and stupidly one-dimensional character, hands down; he blunders through the half-realized Goethe-via-Christopher Paolini landscapes like a retarded tax collector, blindly following instructions without voicing his opinions or even doing so much as to emote at all. However, Meursault he is not; the apathy and neutrality are replaced by obliviousness and irrationality. The rest of the characters, while not as offputting as the hero, a
Feb 09, 2010 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Johannes Cabal, a brilliant scientist and notorious snob, is obsessed with raising the dead. Tormented by a dark and harrowing secret, he travels to the fiery pits of hell to retrieve his soul, long ago sold to the Devil. Satan, incredibly bored and hungry for a challenge, proposes a little wager: Johannes has one year to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will lose his forever. To keep things interesting, Satan generously throws in a traveling carnival to help Johannes c ...more
Dec 29, 2010 Karissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got this book on loan from a friend. It sounded right up my alley, a darkly humorous book about a necromancer. It was a wonderful book; creative and intriguing, with just the right touch of dark humor combined with thoughtfulness to give it a darkly ironic, yet meaningful feel.

Johannes Cabal sold his soul to Satan in return for the knowledge of Necromancy. Now he finds that not having a soul is causing problems with his research and he wants his soul back. He makes a deal with Satan...if he ca
Lou Harper
Dec 12, 2015 Lou Harper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I have a new addiction.
Very disappointing though readable; probably it is just not for me though I spent an hour fast reading it since I had high expectations.

The humor fell mostly flat and the book does not work as other than a parody.
Karen Wellsbury
Feb 10, 2016 Karen Wellsbury rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, clever, intriguing.

Thoroughly enjoyable
Kagama-the Literaturevixen
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Jonathan L Howard is a game designer, scriptwriter, and a veteran of the computer games industry since the early 1990s, with titles such as the 'Broken Sword' series to his credit.

After publishing two short stories featuring Johannes Cabal (Johannes Cabal and the Blustery Day and Exeunt Demon King) in H. P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer was published in 2009 as his
More about Jonathan L. Howard...

Other Books in the Series

Johannes Cabal (5 books)
  • The Detective (Johannes Cabal, #2)
  • The Fear Institute (Johannes Cabal, #3)
  • The Brothers Cabal (Johannes Cabal, #4)
  • The Fall of the House of Cabal (Johannes Cabal, #5)

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“Not entirely fair?" His voice became that of the inferno: a rushing, booming howl of icy evil that flew around the great cavern, as swift and cold as the Wendigo on skates. "I am Satan, also called Lucifer the Light Bearer..."
Cabal winced. What was it about devils that they always had to give you their whole family history?
"I was cast down from the presence of God himself into this dark, sulfurous pit and condemned to spend eternity here-"
"Have you tried saying sorry?" interrupted Cabal.
"No, I haven't! I was sent down for a sin of pride. It rather undermines my position if I say 'sorry'!”
“Lo!" cried the demon. "I am here! What dost thou seek of me? Why dost thou disturb my repose? Smite me no more with that dread rod!" He looked at Cabal. "Where's your dread rod?"
"I left it at home," replied Cabal. "Didn't think I really needed it."
"You can't summon me without a dread rod!" said Lucifuge, appalled.
"You're here, aren't you?"
"Well, yes, but under false pretences. You haven't got a goatskin or two vervain crowns or two candles of virgin wax made by a virgin girl and duly blessed. Have you got the stone called Ematille?"
"I don't even know what Ematille is."
Neither did the demon. He dropped the subject and moved on. "Four nails from the coffin of a dead child?"
"Don't be fatuous."
"Half a bottle of brandy?"
"I don't drink brandy."
"It's not for you."
"I have a hip flask," said Cabal, and threw it to him. The demon caught it and took a dram.
"Cheers," said Lucifuge, and threw it back. They regarded each other for a long moment. "This really is a shambles," the demon added finally. "What did you summon me for, anyway?”
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