The Fall of the House of Cabal: A Novel (Johannes Cabal Novels)
If you throw a dart at my list of book reviews, odds are good you’ll land on one of my odes to Jonathan Howard’s books and short stories. “The Fall of the House of Cabal” is no exception.
“The Fall of the House of Cabal” is the latest, perhaps the last, book in the Johannes Cabal, Necromancer series. I suppose you could read this book without reading the others, but why would you want to? It is such a joy getting to know Johannes Cabal, whose lifelong quest it is to reverse death; his smooth, vampire brother Horst; and the other host of recurring characters. Zarenyia, the devil-woman found in the short story “The Long Spoon” makes a triumphant return in this book. I love every murderous bit of Zarenyia. She’s charming, even as she kills and eats her victims.
And that’s the great thing about Johannes Cabal and, therefore, his creator Jonathan Howard. Cabal not exactly a hero – his morals are questionable at best, he’s a misanthrope, and an elitist snob with precious little empathy. And yet you love him. You want him to meet his unethical goals and succeed in the end. To be able to turn such a potentially unlikeable character into someone I want to visit again and again and who is so three dimensional I’m not convinced he’s entirely fictional – that’s a literary coup.
And there’s plenty to think about in the end. Can legend become so powerful it becomes real? Is faith in something enough to make it take shape? If so, I hope my belief that I’d like to have dinner with Johannes Cabal is strong enough that he may ask to join me sometime soon.
Jonathan Howard is one of those writers who has such a unique voice. He strings words together in ways I haven’t seen before. In beautiful, hilarious, dark, thoughtful ways. I have this habit of marking pages with lines I want to read again by putting a small fold in the bottom corner. I had to quit doing it with this book, because I found myself marking every page. Some examples:
From the first paragraph of the preface: “ You, at least, are in the happy position of not being in any personal peril during this tale, despite my suggestion to the publisher that one in a thousand copies should be impregnated with dimethylmercury just to give a frisson to book purchasing. ‘You can’t just go around killing readers,’ they said. ‘Not until you’re selling more units, anyway,’ they added.
“Horst said it with the easy duplicity of a man whose success with women was equaled by his competence at not having seven shades beaten out of him by their attendant fathers, brothers, and occasionally husbands.”
“Cabal commented that this did not surprise him at all[.] Miss Smith fell into an aggrieved silence of her own, leaving Cabal to enjoy the subsequent quietude, untroubled by people airing opinions that did not tally with his own and that were therefore merely noise.”
And, the Acknowledgements: “I acknowledge nothing but the burnished shine of my own golden genius.”
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.