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The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard

The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard
4.5
Book Name: The Brothers Cabal
Author: Jonathan L. Howard
Publisher(s): Thomas Dunne Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Steampunk
Release Date: September 30, 2014

This review contains spoilers. Please read with caution if you have yet to finish the book.

Cabal looked at the man, and he was astonished, and yet so profoundly relieved that when he spoke, the first word was almost a sob. “You,” he said, his voice thin and weak from illness and disuse. “It’s you.”

“But…you’re dead…”

There was no way to avoid spoilers in this article, so if you want to be surprised when picking up the fourth book, read no further.

Horst is back!

The Brothers Cabal by Johnathan Howard starts where the third book left off, with Cabal deathly ill and a mysterious stranger nursing him back to health. The title of the novel gives away that this stranger is Horst Cabal, Johannes’ older brother. Twice returned from the dead, Horst is still a vampire, and it’s been two years since they last saw each other at the end of the first novel.

Horst’s resurrection came at the hands of an occult organization known as the Ministerium Tenebrae. They want to carve out a corner of the world from humanity’s control and create a safe-haven for monsters of all sorts, where necromancy and vampires would be welcome. But when Horst discovers that their true design may lean more towards world domination than peaceful co-existence, he realizes he’s going to need help to put a stop to their plans. And what’s scarier than an army of werewolves, zombies, and eldritch horrors?

One necromancer: Johannes Cabal.

The first half of the novel is told from Horst’s point of view, and the events take place concurrently with Cabal’s trip to the Dreamlands in the third novel. After being resurrected, Horst is taken to the Ministerium’s headquarters, an appropriately gothic castle. Much to his dismay, the Ministerium don’t want just one vampire, but an army of them, and they expect Horst to deliver. Horst’s tale of escaping from the castle, meeting spies and daredevil pilots who help fight zombies and werewolves is the most action-packed part of the novel. I like that we get these events from Horst’s point of view, since he’s closer to a dashing hero archetype than Cabal is.

The second half of the novel returns to Cabal’s point of view, when things become dire and the novel becomes a bit darker. Cabal’s point of view is a big part of what makes the previous novels work; he’s a fun character to follow and while it was a lot of fun getting inside Horst’s head for a bit, it’s great to return to the snarky necromancer.

Horst doesn’t intend for him and his brother to fight the Ministerium all on their own, and this is where the novel’s minor characters come in. The spy who helps Horst escape the castle, Alisha Bartos, is part of the Dee Society, an occult group dedicated to protecting humanity from evil. Once they realize just how dangerous the Ministerium is, she sends out for reinforcements from like-minded organizations. Of course, most of these societies consider the Cabal brothers monsters, and Johannes would be on the top of their to-do lists if he hadn’t saved the world a couple of times. This allegiance of necessity creates some very amusing scenes in the novel, as well as adding some depth to the series’ setting.

Many of the minor characters in this novel are woman, including the previously mentioned pilots, an all-female group of entomopter pilots (think steampunk helicopters). They’re each memorable character, and actually do things in the story. I especially liked Alisha Bartos, more so upon re-reading the novel, since at first glance she seems to just be a pretty woman for Horst to focus his affections on.

Unlike the previous three books, which could be read in any order without being confusing, this one requires the reading of all three previous Cabal books if you really want to get the most out of it. The Brothers Cabal ties together events from the previous books, and most importantly uses the character development that occurred in those novels to further the plot in this one.

In previous reviews I treated the other Cabal novels as stand-alone, because while they were connected, they didn’t feel part of a series as compared to something like Lord of the Rings, where all three books are obviously part of the same, huge story. The Brothers Cabal is the first time I’ve felt I was reading a connected series of books. There was a sort of “Ah Ha!” moment, that this is what it’s all been leading up to. While normally it would be bad to need three novels to set up what appears to be the main plot of the series, because those three novels stand strong on their own, I don’t think that’s a problem here.

The Brothers Cabal also ties up its own loose ends while still giving us a peek at the trouble yet to come.

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Rating: 9.8/10 (5 votes cast)
The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard, 9.8 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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One Comment

  1. […] My review of the most recent Johannes Cabal novel is up on Fantasy Faction. It’s an excellent book, but know there are spoilers ahead! […]

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