The Fear Institute (Johannes Cabal, #3)

The Fear Institute (Johannes Cabal, #3) - Jonathan L. Howard (I got an ARC of this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

I've only read the first novel in the "Johannes Cabal" series, and hope I haven't missed on too much by tackling #3 without knowledge of the events in #2. But from what I saw, "The Institute of Fear" does well enough as a standalone book, with the occasional hints at Cabal's past adventure(s) being easy enough to understand.

The crossover with H.P. Lovecraft's worlds and creations was nicely done in my opinion—here, too, prior knowledge isn't absolutely necessary, although the regular winks are, of course, best enjoyed when you know what they're about. It is also a cause for a lot of deadpan humour, which is something I like. Johannes Cabal is the voice of cold, unfazed logics in a place (the Dreamlands) that is all but rational, and where everything is shaped according to people's deeply rooted unconscious beliefs. For instance, cats. If enough people believe that cats are intelligent, cunning creatures, then cats in the Dreamlands are exactly that, and have to be treaded around carefully. Well, this is what happens at several moments, and the hapless three travellers who've come to seek Cabal as their guide are reminded of such facts on a regular basis.

The necromancer's point of view is definitely one of sarcasm and dark humour: a protection for his charges, but also his own way of keeping fear at bay, for Fear (or rather, its physical incarnation) is what the adventurers are seeking here, in order to destroy it. Their journey is impeded by the strange, changing geography, monsters, dead beings, and various other elements pertaining either concepts of dreams or the lovecraftian corpus. It's full of interesting ideas (the dreffs, the Moon slavers), and it seems there's always something new to discover... and dread.

If anything, I'd say the pacing was a little unequal in places. But the tone of the narrative definitely made up for this in my opinion.