As you might imagine from the cover image to the left, both books are about a gentleman by the name of Johannes Cabal, and he is a notorious, unscrupulous, and irritable necromancer. They are both also completely lovely examples of how it is indeed possible to make fantasy humor work without resorting to puns, or–even worse–wisecracking stock fantasy characters like dwarves or goblins.
The first in the series, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (2009) chronicles a year in the life of Johannes Cabal as he co-runs a demonic carnival. It is written in a style that I can only really describe as “wouldn’t it be awesome if The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels dealt with demons and vampires instead of spaceships? Yes.” The plot is well-conceived, the writing is excellent, and the characters are amazing. Johannes Cabal himself is deliciously nasty, socially inept, and utterly unscrupulous according to our meagre standards of what it means to have scruples. He does the things lesser men fear to do–if you’ve ever imagined, for example, snatching the iPhone out of the hand of that man on the plane who keeps waving away the flight attendant as she asks him time and again to power down his device so you can take off, and then braining him with it, sitting down, and wishing that the flight attendant would stop gawping at you and just bring over your little plastic cup of orange juice because you’re a bit thirsty, then this book will likely appeal to you. My only complaint with the entire endeavor is the pacing, which I felt faltered briefly in the third act–that said, the novel recovered completely in the fourth, and the ending left me all misty-eyed and deeply grateful that I had the sequel to comfort me in my distress at having to shut the book because it was over.
Johannes Cabal the Detective is somehow even better than Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. It is a masterpiece of silliness and good times, and I enjoyed every single moment I spent reading it. I can’t say anything about it, because I would hate to rob people other than my husband and my two best friends, who have spent the last week being very understanding of me chuckling to myself and occasionally spoiling bits of the plot, of the experience of discovering just what’s up with this book. Just go read it.
So yeah. Watch this space for more Johannes Cabal craziness, as there’s something fun in the works, let me tell you–I, however, must nip off and find the two Johannes Cabal short stories available in issues 1 and 3 of H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror. It’ll help me deal with the sense of loss that I shan’t hear anything new of Herr Cabal until I get ahold of The Way of the Wizard, which I’ve heard contains an all new Johannes Cabal adventure called “The Ereshkigal Working.” Huzzah!