Log in

No account? Create an account
02 August 2014 @ 10:16 pm
Book Review: The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard  
Post-defending my proposal, I've done a lot of sleeping and eating and some reading. I did some writing as well but while I set out to write more MCU fic that finally had Steve and Bucky say more than two lines each, I somehow ended up writing what looks to be another ficlet starring Zola and his daemon, Acantha. I get the uncomfortable feeling that Zola is becoming my rock when writing in the MCU verse.

Anyway, in between all of that, I read an advance copy of the newest installment in the Johannes Cabal series. I'd read and reviewed the first book in the series, Johannes Cabal, Necromancer (spoilers in the comments section) and thought at the time it was like a warped version of Hrothbert of Bainbridge. However, now I feel like I envision Johannes as the awful lovechild between Bainbridge and Sherlock. *shudder*

I gave up on the 2nd book of the series as I found it rather dull but did read the 3rd one, Johannes Cabal and the Fear Institute which was okay. I probably would have stopped there but the title of the latest book promised the return of my favorite character from the first novel, Johannes' older brother, Horst. While Johannes may be a lot like Sherlock (obsessive, genius, dismissive, impatient, rather sociopathic), Horst is most definitely not like Mycroft. While Horst is a vampire (there was a mishap thanks to Johannes), he's a pretty affable fellow. Very polite, socially deft, and who at heart is a good person which has long stopped him from ever killing anyone. At the start of the novel, he and Johannes are reunited after Horst is resurrected from his death in book 1 (he's still a vampire, though) by some shady group who wants Horst's help with some oncoming evil. In order to fulfill his mission, Horst needs his brother who is more of an expert on things related to evil.

As I said, I would have been fine never returning to the Cabal series except Horst was my favorite character in book 1 and his interactions with Johannes were about the only times I liked the main character. In that sense, Horst is like the John Watson of the series. He humanizes Johannes who is so hellbent on achieving the secret to cheating death that he does some pretty terrible things with nary a regretful thought. Yes, Johannes saves some lives here or there but those tend to be side outcomes of some other major goal he was trying to accomplish. The only times Johannes shows a shred of true affection for anyone it's toward Horst whom he clearly loves with all his whatever passes for a heart in his case. So you can imagine how tough it was to deal with him in books 2 and 3 when Horst was a pile of ashes.

However, now the Cabal brothers are reunited and on a mission of sorts. Unfortunately, more than half of this book is us finding out what Horst has been up to since being resurrected and before reuniting with Johannes. And while Horst is a charming character by himself, this format robbed the book of its greatest asset which is having the brothers interact. Both characters are at their best when juxtaposed against one another, especially since the last time they were together, Johannes has grudgingly slid a little closer to becoming a better person while Horst has slid closer to becoming the bloodthirsty monster everyone keeps expecting him to be. I was really hoping the novel would focus more on this along with some more in depth information regarding the Cabal family. But instead we got a lot of plot. And while plot isn't ever a bad thing, it can start to feel tedious when there isn't even characterization to balance it out and when the writer isn't quite good enough to make the plot rise above "eh, okay."

I can't really recommend the series at this point (clearly) and while there are some very good one liners throughout the novel, I feel you can probably just find those online rather than having to commit to the book. I did enjoy seeing a little bit of the Cabal sibling dynamics again. Particularly how despite his reputation of being a rather frightening necromancer, Horst still treats Johannes like a little brother. While the 4th installment closed with clearly an opening for a follow up, I think with my disappointment with this novel I'll finally say farewell to Johannes Cabal, necromancer.