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First, I really want to thank the author for sharing this story with all of us. I really did appreciate the ride and opportunity to review this work. Second, I want to note that I am writing this review as the book exists on April 7, 2022. Please understand that there could have been vast changes made to the story since this review was written. I encourage others to give the story a read and see how much it's changed since the writing of this review--especially since this is only one person's opinion. So, with that out of the way, here is my review of the Gourmet Gladiator:
Plot 4 Stars: The plot is quite strong. The story is about a teenage boy named Toby who was bullied by his peers and neglected by his parents, all for the simple "crime" of being overweight. On his 16th birthday, he eats a table and obtains a unique and very powerful ability. This should have been where things take a turn for the awesome. Instead, emotional pain and turmoil from his past keeps him from making good decisions, snowballing into a series of consequences that end on a cliffhanger. In fact, I would say that this is a tale of "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" as Toby becomes progressively arrogant and violent throughout the book, and he eventually pays for that aggression and violence at the end of it. Overall, this has the feel of a coming of age story in which Toby has to recognize the wrongs he's committed in order to make things right. At least, that is my hope.
Writing Style 3 Stars: I think the author did an excellent job of putting us in the mind of a 16-year-old boy. I took off two stars because word choice and paragraph & sentence structure was awkward in many places.
Grammar & Punctuation 2 Stars: The book was readable and coherent. I was able to follow along with the story without any real problems. However, the book definitely needs heavy editing work.
Overall 3 Stars: The plot is very strong and compels the reader to keep reading to see how Toby learns and grows. The action scenes are solid and encourage the reader to keep reading to see how they resolve themselves. The writing style very definitely conveys the idea that we are in the mind of a teenage boy who is hurting a great deal. This story has a lot of great potential! So. Why three stars instead of four or five?
I am a lover of character development and world building, and I felt that the story rushed over two these elements to get to the action.
With regards to character development, I really needed a good idea of who Toby was before the transformation to be better able to gauge who he was after the transformation. This in turn would have allowed me to become truly and genuinely invested in Toby and cheer for him as he went through his trials. But all I knew of Toby was that he was overweight, bullied, and neglected. No one deserves bullying and neglect, so I naturally felt bad for him. But that was all I felt for him. The only time I got to see a hint of who Toby was, was when he made clear the fact that he didn't like a girl until after her transformation, as she now conformed to popular and conventional ideas of feminine beauty. This told me he was a typical teenage boy with typical teenage hormones. Sure, I was disappointed to discover that this was the case, but I wasn't surprised, either. I don't expect the protag to be a perfect angel. I expect them to have their flaws and blind spots. So I chalked this up to this being his flaw and blind spot. And I wanted more of this. I wanted more peeks into who Toby was before the change so I could compare it to who he is after the change, as much of the conflict in the first third of the book arises from the fact that he's become changed and different from who he was before the transformation, and that change wasn't for the better. I couldn't say one way or the other whether this was true, because I didn't get to see a lot of Toby in the beginning.
Every character, whether a minor, 2-dimensional character or a major 3-dimensional character, contributes to the nature of the story, giving us more insight into who the main character is through interactions with the main character. Hence, I wanted to see more of certain characters that seem to play some key significant roles in Toby's development as a character. Randol, for instance, needed more development. Randol plays one of the pivotal roles in Toby's development, so care and attention in building up Randol into a fleshed out person was needed for me to see how he relates to Toby. The same goes for Rebecca and George. These two characters appear again and again, and Rebecca, in particular, is also pivotal in Toby's development. I would have liked to have these characters fleshed out and developed so that their actions and words made more sense later on in the story. As it stands, I'm left scratching my head at the things these characters do and say.
Word building is also important to the story. I know only a few things about the world, which tends to leave me confused when certain things happen in the story. For instance, is the world a dystopian type world where things are just so bleak? Or is this meant to be a world where things are like they are now, just with people who have superpowers. I can't really tell, and these questions leave me with a question mark as to whether or not certain things are normal for the setting, or if it's not and I'm supposed to feel suspicious when it goes against what I know of it. Right now, I'm thinking that this might be some kind of dystopian world where even its heroes tend more towards True or Chaotic Neutral rather than Good-aligned. Which is fine, but I would like to be more certain of my assessment of the world so I have a better idea of who the main character is in relation to this world. Right now, I see Toby as rather Chaotic Neutral in the way he handles situations in a Chaotic Neutral world, but I'm not quite sure that's what the author intended.