Johannes Cabal, the Detective
Written by Jonathan L. Howard
Review by Jarad Johnson
I reviewed and loved the first book in this series – check it out here. The protagonist, for whom these books are named is a man named Johannes Cabal, a necromancer and antihero. He’s diabolical in an endearing way, he’s sarcastic, and has a general dislike of people (I wonder why I like him so much?). He describes himself as a scientist on a mission to abolish death.
The first book was beautifully written; the character was fully developed and engaging throughout. The plot was also handled well. This second installment, still featuring Cabal as the main character, didn’t land as well for me; in fact, I almost didn’t finish it. Let me start with the story itself. It begins with Cabal stealing a book and getting caught and subsequently arrested in a foreign, made up country called Mirkarvia. While there, Cabal resurrects a dead emperor, gets in a swordfight with a general, and impersonates a civil servant to get on a plane out of the country. And did I mention that the entire country is on the brink of revolution?
This is where my issues start. The entire premise of Mirkarvia felt underdeveloped and rushed. The book is only a couple of hundred pages long, and there was not enough time spent developing a plot for the story. There’s far too much going on, and none of those elements are particularly realistic. Actually, I’ve read books that were adapted from video games before, and that’s exactly what it felt like. Jumping from one adventure to the other, and none of them ever finished or resolved. In contrast, the first book had a centralized theme, a broader plot that overarched the smaller subplots that were occurring, as you would expect from a novel. This book was all subplot but no broader theme. I think it really was a disservice to an otherwise great character.
Cabal himself was different in this book. In the last book, he had a gravitas about him that I found lacking here. He was a villain in some ways, an antihero as I said, but here those elements of his character seemed vacant. If I didn’t know better, I’d say these books were written by two different authors, because the tone and overall feel of the book is completely different. To be fair, Cabal was missing a soul in the last book, but once he got it back, I think maybe the story should have ended. Perhaps this could have been published as a group of short stories centered around Cabal, but sometimes you don’t need a sequel. Also, his necromantic skills were barely mentioned in this book. Actually, there are only two instances in the book where that occurs, definitely a bit of a lost opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong, there are elements of the book that I liked. There’s a sort of murder mystery as part of the plot that I found somewhat compelling. I say somewhat because it was more readable than the previous section, but, like the rest of the book, it was somewhat lacking in depth. It was the most cohesive, the section that was the most thought out, and had the most interesting characters. Books, like flower arrangements, need a focus and this should have been the focus of the book.
So overall, I’m really disappointed by this book. It felt like a bunch of little plots crammed together to make a novel, with none of them being developed properly. I really wanted to like it, but now I think the author should’ve stopped with the first book. As I said, sometimes you don’t need a sequel, and I think this is an instance of that. For me, nothing was added to the character by this book; in fact, the opposite occurred. I was put off by this book, and I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll read the third book.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!