Coal has been branded as a Flesh Eater and is on the run from the palace guard who, if they caught him, would guarantee he spent the rest of his life laboring in prison alongside others who have been accused of the same deplorable crime. Unable to stay in one place for long or maintain a regular job, Coal has fallen into doing odd jobs for a local crime lord, despite being uncomfortable with violence. This situation is not sustainable forever, so when he learns of a spiderback race with a grand prize large enough to erase his record and turn his life around, he has no choice but to enter. Of course, the prize has dredged up some stiff competition, which is enough of a problem, not to mention that he doesn't even own a spider yet and hasn't raced in years.
Flesh Eater was a fun and comforting read. I love how Riddle takes his time with the story, allowing you to settle in with the characters and world and truly feel like you are there with them. Rather than just skipping to the next important event, he takes you along on Coal's walks through the city and describes his meals in detail (which sound absolutely delicious, despite consisting of a lot of bugs). He includes conversations about music and art and the characters' memories. To me, this makes the novel delightful to read and the characters and world all the more real. That's not to say, however, that Riddle can't deliver on epic moments and action scenes. Quite the opposite, in fact. Flesh Eater includes several thrilling action scenes, culminating in a suspenseful race that will keep you on the edge of your seat for pages at a time.
Something I wasn't expecting from this story, but was pleasantly surprised by, is an absolutely adorable romance. (Honestly, it's tooth-erodingly sweet.) To avoid spoilers, I'm not going to go into much detail, but I loved how naturally it developed, and the love interest is such an amazing character. Speaking of which, Coal himself is quite unassuming at first, but the more I got to know him and his past, the more I appreciated his consistency and practical outlook. I'm excited to see more of his growth over the course of the series!
Flesh Eater is an excellent start to a new adventure fantasy with lovable characters, exceptional world-building, and wonderful storytelling. Beware of the giant spiders and other creepy creatures, but if that isn't going to be a problem for you, I absolutely recommend picking this one up!
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.