A review by rawketstarling
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes


This was the second time I attempted to get into this book, but it kept coming up in my suggestions (gothic, fantasy) and it seemed similar to other titles I've really enjoyed, such as The Thirteenth Tale, The Historian, etc. Expecting it to be along those same lines, I read past the first chapter and pushed on, even though, at times, I found the whole thing a bit....sludgy.
The problem with this book is not in character development or exposition (of which there is a mediocre amount) but rather in the plot holes of the characters themselves. A prime example is the man who experiences Time differently than the rest of us, or the Somnambulist himself. The titular character who, remarkably enough, does NOTHING remarkable to warrant the book being named for him. The entire time you're sure there's something more to the Somnambulist--there must be some explanation or revelation of his true nature and purpose. But then he disappears from the book, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why the book is named for him. There is a hint that the two main characters are what they claim to be (conjurers), and I was excited to explore this idea--only for it to never be mentioned again.
The book had me in it's grips, eventually, due to all the heavy foreshadowing and confusing reveals--I was convinced there would be some massive intelligent payoff. With all the build-up and "clues" and every question answered by five more, I was certain the ending would be much more spectacular than it was. Sure, there was a surprise twist, but then it seemed the author himself had no idea what was going on. It was as if his ten year old had finished writing the book for him--wildly stabbing at an ending that would tie everything together, leaving so many tantalizing ends open--not on purpose, it seems, but just because it seemed easier to not have to think up some ridiculous finale. He should have written several books, instead of trying to cram so many half-completed thoughts into one.