SPFBO4 Review: Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz

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Tonya is a newly graduated high school student who is living at home with her parents. Her family is a part of the Purist faction of magic users, which means that although they have magical abilities they don’t approve of spell use and live as though they have no magic. Trads are those who openly use magic and are proud of it, predictably the two factions don’t get along well and the Old Families get into feuds all the time which fuels the resentment running deep on both sides. Mundanes are being kept ignorant on purpose, and they aren’t aware that magic even exists.

Tonya is supposed to be heading off to college soon, she wants to go to Toronto University but her parents keep telling her that’s not an option because it’s “unsafe”, they only offer vague and unconvincing reasons why they feel that way leaving Tonya frustrated. Tonya eventually loses the argument and is enrolled into the local Loon Lake college.

When she arrives at school she makes a friend named Priya who’s sort of a free spirit, she’s an artist and likes doing spooky art installations. She also has a rather hellish roommate, she’s the self-absorbed type that takes a lot of mental energy just to be around.  Soon after she arrives at school though, her parents go missing. They aren’t answering her calls or her emails and she thinks something is wrong. She heads over to her parent’s house and finds them missing, and not only that, they had sold their family home without telling her. She calls her aunt Helen, her aunt is the black sheep in the family since she uses magic, but Tonya believes that she should at least know what’s going on. Except, her aunt Helen isn’t answering either, leaving Priya in the dark.

Trying not to panic, she continues to go to school and live as normally as possible. Her friend Priya wants to make an art installation in time for the Halloween parties and wants to do it in the cemetery. Tonya knows this is a horrible idea, she’s been warned about that cemetery so she has a vague but very strong sense to stay away from it. What she doesn’t know, but the audience knows, is that there’s an Entity trapped underneath the cemetery and is slowly working his way out. Gravedigger fungi grow in the neural pathways of the dead allowing the dead to whisper from the grave, people will hear voices if they stay for long enough. It’s not thought to be deadly, but the fungus found its way into a very evil person who begins to whisper subconscious thoughts into the surrounding area. People all over campus start to eat far too much, at first it’s almost unnoticeable, people start gaining a little weight and eating a bit more than usual. After a while though, people go into an almost zombie-like state where all they can think about is food. The shuffle around mumbling about food, they’re slow, they don’t think clearly, and start gorging themselves whenever they can. The city gets quarantined and it’s up to Tonya and her friends to stop what’s going down.

Tonya is insecure in herself for most of the book, she’s been teased about her weight for most of her childhood and it continues as she goes into college. She’s inspired by Priya since she puts such little thought into what others think about her. She can be loyal to her friends and her family and deals with stress pretty well. She gets kidnapped, tries to stop an evil Entity from rising again, and has to fight back against people who want her dead.

There were a bunch of different POV’s in this, Tonya is the main character but along with her there are villain POV’s and many of her friends get POV’s too and it leads to some characters being more developed than others. The writing was mostly upbeat, this wasn’t the gory kind of book I had been anticipating. The title is suggestive of zombies, in a way there were zombies, but the students were stumbling around mumbling about “pancakes” instead of “brains”.

There wasn’t much magic use until about 50-60% through the book, and when it did show up it was mysterious and unpredictable. Magic can be used to throw fireballs, or stop said fireballs, make lightning bolts, take life energy from other living things, etc. There are rough guidelines though, magic takes energy out of you and it requires time to recharge itself so there’s only so much magic one person can do at a time. “The Entity” is left vague and mysterious as well, all you really know is that it would benefit no one if he’s allowed to escape.

There were some problems I had with the book, some of it just personal taste. There was a lot of bullying and general immaturity going on at college that felt a little out of place, the dialogue and insults used made it feel kind of more like middle school. There were also passages where characters didn’t understand what I consider to be pretty basic science concepts. Ie: one character said “neural pathways” and the response from the other character was “The nurr-huh?” I don’t know why that kind of thing bothers me, but it does. I had some world building questions as well, like how it was possible the Mundanes don’t know about magic yet since Tonya has told some of her friends about her abilities, she certainly couldn’t be the only one sharing secrets. In the modern day, something like that would be hard to keep under wraps if there weren’t some kind of enforceable laws in place by the magical community. I would have liked to have seen the ‘why’ behind many of the world-building aspects, like why the Purists don’t like using magic.

There were parts of the book I liked and others that just didn’t work for me, but there’s definitely a target audience here for people who like upbeat writing, a bit of humor, low violence, and urban fantasy. There were a few twists at the end, and it was left open and ready for a sequel so this is not a stand-alone.

Ratings:

  • Plot: 9/15
  • Characters: 9/15
  • World Building: 9/15
  • Writing: 10/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 5.5/10

Final Score: 64.5/100 or 3.25/5 stars on Goodreads.

 

 

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