Never before has a deal with the devil been such rollicking good fun!
Howard’s portrayal of Johannes, and his vampire brother (Horst), makes for a hilariously dark read that takes you from graveyards, from town to town, and directly into the pits of hell itself. Johannes is a scientist who previously made a deal with the devil to learn the art of necromancy. Now, he wants his soul back and makes a second deal with the devil in order to win it back. One that involves a dark carnival (read as inspired by “Something Wicked this Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury) in which Johannes must get one hundred souls signed over to the devil in order to win his soul back.
You will see just how far over the line Johannes is willing to step as far as getting evil/corrupt people to sign over their souls (people who are arguably damned anyway) vs. tricking innocent souls into signing their lives away. It makes for an interesting ponder over what you might be capable of doing to others if it meant saving yourself or someone you loved. Would you damn an innocent in order to save yourself? If you say that you wouldn’t, I bet when push came to shove, you would. The fight for self-preservation in order to live is very strong, and is an ingrained instinct that would be hard to change, even if you wanted to.
The writing is full of wit, and the darkness of the subject matter is balanced with the humor of both the situations themselves, and by the dialogue between the characters.
I loved it! We learn at the end of this book exactly why necromancy is so important to Johannes. He doesn’t want to create a zombie army to do his evil bidding, nothing like that. The point isn’t that he wants a bunch of animated corpses to provide free labor to work in his lab. He has a reason for wanting what he wants that isn’t based on an evil desire to harm the world, and this reason is what makes him a sympathetic character.
This is the first book of a series, and I have already ordered the remaining books, with the exception of the fifth (because it hasn’t been released yet).