Great idea, enthralling plot
At the time of writing this review, I have read about half the book.
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'The Gourmet Gladiator' has a unique premise where eating foods at specific dinner grants a person power. Our protagonist Toby, is the one who eats the entire table and gets a unique power (that I will omit due to spoilers). Toby, a boy once bullied, now possessing great power takes the reader on a journey of conflicting emotions and tragic events that make you sympathize with him as a protagonist.
The plot is action-packed with several chapters in a row sometimes having fights back-to-back. The action is engaging and early on showcases Toby and several side characters' powers. The novel also does a great job of integrating the power system into daily life including ways people abuse or enhance their powers. Sometimes, however, the pacing does feel too rushed and the author tells more than he shows. I'm not entirely against telling (there is room for that) but showing is far more effective and allows the reader to have a connection. The 'telling' parts of the story are most prevalent in the initial chapters which make the prologue read like a very big exposition dump. Past that, the road smoothens out and the author finds his stride in showing his story unfold.
Toby's character is an example of a victim who is given power and the opportunity to use it. The psychology of Toby is one that highlights the nature vs nurture argument subtly and makes him shift between a dangerous, daring, and confident teenager and the old timid, vulnerable, and nervous teenager. The character is one the reader can get behind and root for and that is really important in a story.
The side characters play their part to further the plot and Toby's character but are in no way the highlight of the novel. His relationships with them however highlight facets of his personality and how they grow over time.
Given that this is part of a trilogy and I've read half of the first book, I won't judge the plot or pacing too harshly nor will I judge the character growth. It's all fleshed out and the story is engaging. The world that has been partially built has some gaps missing in it and I'm hoping the world shapes up nicely on a larger scale than just a school and a gang. Other than some minor complaints I have about the power scaling of the protagonist with regards to his powers, I thoroughly enjoy the chapters I read.
Unfortunately, the biggest criticism I have for the novel is the writing style and grammar (though this can easily be fixed with some editing). The structure has overly long paragraphs that sometimes can be a turn-off for readers or make them lose interest. To be honest, I am often guilty of this mistake as well and often need to re-edit many of my chapters.
Overall, this story has a unique premise and thus sparks an interesting plot. To those who enjoy a refreshing book that pulls you away from the tropes of action, drama, and fantasy, this book is for you particularly. It boasts a strong protagonist that is well-written and grounded as well as an intriguing world with limitless possibilities.
I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
The Reaper sends his regards.