I love that Steve Diamond wrote this book. I am a huge fan of Elitist Book Reviews so this was a must read for me. Overall I would recommend it without hesitation. That said it’s not without it’s faults. Those faults, I think, stem from having two main characters being written seemingly random first and third person perspectives. While that does lead to some stumbles along the way I think that, in the end, Diamond does well and really finds his path.
The magic/supernatural system is intriguing but I felt it was underdeveloped. I would have liked to see more of the inner workings of Helix dropped in, even if it increased the page count. I felt it could have been done without taking away from the thriller aspects of the story. However the way this book wrapped up promises more development of the world in the next volume, which I am unabashedly looking forward to reading. This is one area where I think Diamond shines even with having admitted I’d like more detail because his use of of powers here, and I’m trying not include spoilers, is anything but a trope. Well done, Mr. Diamond, well done.
Jack Bishop is our male lead here and I think he’s written very well. The trope of unsuspecting, normal teenager tossed in to the world of the supernatural is well played and I think the fact that, at the end of the book, Jack is still not alright with everything going on, and hasn’t become a superhero is refreshing, at least based on the YA that I read.
The character of Alexandra Courtney is where I think most of the stumbles come from. She is written in the third person, mostly, and the switches between perspectives are a bit jarring at times and the way backstory is inserted can seem clunky at times. However as far as the character goes I think that by the end of the book Diamond really does recover from the minor stumbles along the way and gives a strong female lead.
The big reveal in this one isn’t foreshadowed much, which is absolutely fine, but I guessed it along the way. Not the actual reveal but close enough that I felt vindicated for thinking what I thought. I don’t mind that sort of thing at all. It’s fun to guess and it’s even more fun when you’re right.
The one area in which I didn’t think Mr. Diamond did really well by the end of the book was Helix and their actions. Some of them just seem like they are there to further the story or make you hate Helix even more. I hope to see this piece better written in the next book. This one point is why I gave the book three stars instead of four. Yes, it’s a first book and yes, I do give allowances for first books and this could have been four stars even with the stumbles I’ve pointed out, however, the Helix acts wasn’t well done or smooth and didn’t get cleaned up by the end of the book. I reserve the right to revisit this view in light of whatever happens in the second book.
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If you haven’t read any of the other Johannes Cabal books then this isn’t the place to start. A Long Spoon is much more whimsical than the rest of the series but in a dark and disturbing manner. A trip in to Hell with a Devil? Sure, why not?
In short Cabal summons a Devil to help get in to Pandemonium by way of The Abyss. The Devil, Zarenyia, isn’t at all what he bargained for and honestly the rest of the story is overshadowed by their interaction which is masterfully done. Zarenyia really takes the cake in this one (but not the fishcake) and I’d really like to see more of her and luckily Howard leaves this possibility open. Hell I’d like to see a story or two involving her and different summoners.
As far as short stories go this one is really is a really fun romp. Hell it may be a novella because I can’t really tell the difference but whatever it is I really enjoyed it. You don’t have to know anything about the series to read this and enjoy it so it’d make a good starting point to Howard’s writing if nothing else.