Book review: Barnaby The Wanderer by Raymond St. Elmo


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Raymond St. Elmo is a programmer of artificial intelligence and virtual realities, who has no time for literary fabrications of fictitious characters and world-building. And yes, that was meant to be ironic. 

A degree in Spanish Literature gave him a love of Magic Realism. Programming gave him a job. The job introduced him to artificial intelligence and virtual realities; as close to magic as reality is likely to get outside the covers of a book. And yes, that was meant to be cynical.

The author of several first-person comic accounts of strange quests for mysterious manuscripts, mysterious girls in cloaks whose face appears SUDDENLY IN THE FLASH OF LIGHTNING. And yes, that was meant to be dramatic.

Publisher: St. Elmo Literary Labs (July 15, 2023) Page count: 801 pages Formats: ebook, paperback

I’m a huge fan of Raymond St. Elmo’s writing. I love his unique stories that blend fantasy and magical realism with witty prose and sharp observations. His newest book is quite different; it offers a unique take on Epic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery tropes. The page count is daunting (800+), but the story is entertaining. Occasionally, it may lack focus and feel somewhat meandering, but overall, it proves to be a fun journey.

The story revolves around Barnaby, a miller’s son and the somewhat village fool, who embarks on a journey. Soon, he is joined by intriguing companions—a cat tutor and a brooding ghost—who follow him on his adventures. Together, they face challenges like fighting a giant rat that writes bad poetry. As the tale progresses, it becomes more complex and introduces additional characters. In the second part of the story, the focus shifts from Barnaby to the entire team as they undertake their epic quest that includes the cursed tower.
As expected, I loved the writing and the author’s vivid imagination. St. Elmo’s voice is instantly recognizable and distinct. However, there is a flipside to the way he plays with language—sometimes, it feels like the storytelling takes a backseat to the manner of telling the story and numerous asides. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, except in a book that counts 800 pages it makes readers feel it’s 800 pages. 
Other than that, though, Barnaby The Wanderer tells an engaging story and its characters are instantly likable. Take Barnaby, whose (naive) curiosity, empathy, and innocence are quite endearing. Or his cat tutor challenging Dark Michael:

“Few things walk the earth as dangerous, as terrifying, as lethal in power as the instructional knowledge held in my little kitty head, you wispy pointless remainder of a thuggish noble.”

All characters are distinct and memorable, and all develop nicely throughout the story.
Overall, Barnaby The Wanderer captivated me with its imaginative storytelling, witty writing, and emotional depth. It’s a long book, and it could be tighter and more focused. Despite this, it offers an old-school vibe that some readers yearn for in their tales. Well worth a shot, folks! 🙂

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