My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Fear Institute (TFI) is the third book in the Johannes Cabal series by Jonathan L. Howard. These books are all about the crooked misadventures of a professional necromancer with about as much value for life as pond scum, and so far, they have been fantastic. TFI takes a step into the bizarre, even for books about raising the dead, and takes Cabal into the land of dreams. Between bloodthirsty pirates, murderous wooden automatons, and hyper-intelligent ghouls, this book has a bit of everything I didn’t know I needed more of.
While I wasn’t as big a fan of Book 2, this third entry in Cabal’s journey puts things right back on track and is on par with the first. Seeing a pragmatic, calculating, man embedded in the world of dreamer’s, poets, and other such artists is a fantastic dichotomy. Cabal is constantly at odds with the world he is in, and yet is still forced to play by its rules. The fluid nature of dreams leads to some spectacular fights and locations that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Howard did an incredible job capturing the feel of the incoherency/fuzzy nature of dreams, while keeping the story moving at a consistent pace.
Overall, I have very few complaints about this book. If anything, the language can be a bit heady at times, but it fits with the characters, and hell, I learned a few unfamiliar words, so no harm there. Cabal’s third adventure is easily as good as his first and far outstrips the second. I can’t wait to read books four and five, and I’ll probably pick up the short stories along the way. If you’re a fan of anti-heroes like John Constantine (Hellblazer), Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files), or even House (House?), I highly recommend giving this a read. The writing can feel a little dense at first, but it’s worth your time.
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