Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
It all started with a board game. But what was supposed to be an evening of friends, fun, and games, becomes a night of danger, drama, and obsessive love. Because when Jenny and her friends try to play the Game, it comes to life. Suddenly they are in a dark world where Julian, the gorgeous guy who sold Jenny the game, rules as Prince of the Shadows. Julian is in charge, making their darkest nightmares reality. And he will do anything to claim the beautiful Jenny as his prize. The Game is real, and these friends must play through - and the only way to win is to face their most secret fears. To lose the Game is to lose your life. And that is only the beginning...
I may or may not be a little bit biased when it comes to L.J. Smith books. They were the first books I read for fun (after Twilight), and I bought and devoured nearly all of them, so they give me very nostalgic feelings. I dubbed The Forbidden Game my favourite series of hers back then, and after re-reading it now, I still stand by that. This series is amazing! It’s very exciting and thrilling and it has a lot of strong characters, as well as a sexy villain and an intriguing world. I read this very quickly.
“Mystery,” he said. His voice caught Jenny halfway across the room. She hesitated in spite of herself. What on earth did he mean?
“Danger. Seduction. Fear.” Jenny turned back to face him, staring. There was something almost mesmerizing about his voice – it was full of elemental music, like water running over rock. “Secrets revealed. Desires unveiled.” He smiled at her and pronounced the last word distinctly: “Temptation.”
16-year-old Jenny Thornton is throwing a birthday party for her boyfriend Tom. Only it’s too cold for her usual pool parties, so she decides to go into the creepy part of town to find an exciting game. A mysterious boy in an even stranger store sells her ‘the Game’. It’s just a white cardboard box, but it rattles, and everyone who touches it is instantly mesmerised. The party starts, and the seven teenagers find a dollhouse in the box. The instructions are simple – build the dollhouse, draw your face on the cardboard dolls, put one doll in every room, and create a drawing of your worst nightmare. All of a sudden, everything comes to life. The boy from the store turns out to be Julian, a Shadow Man, and he’s the game master. The prize? Jenny’s heart, body, and soul.
Let the Game begin.
In this trilogy, the characters are forced to play three games in total – one for every book. A race against the clock in The Hunter, a cat and mouse game in The Chase, and a quest in The Kill. While the first game set the pace very nicely, my favourite game is the last one, where they go on a treasure hunt in a Shadow World version of an amusement park. There’s just something incredibly creepy about abandoned fairs and amusement parks, and I think the story really put that aspect to good use.
The main characters, all good friends, were incredible, and they grew a lot as the story progressed. Jenny, innocent Jenny, with her perfect boyfriend Tom who initially takes her for granted and turns out to be not-so-perfect. They really come together towards the end. Jenny’s best friend Dee, a tough and badass girl who gets her philosophy from kung fu movies, and is quite possibly my favourite character. Beautiful and fashionable Audrey, who had to learn to get her hands dirty in these games, and learned that real beauty is on the inside. Her chubby boyfriend Michael, who’s a little goofy, but very intelligent. Jenny’s cousin Zach, the strange and silent type, who sees the world through a camera. And finally: small, sweet Summer, who’ll have to learn to conquer her fears.
As a villain, Julian was great. Initially, he really showed his true Shadow Man side, the side of him that’s evil, calculating, and capricious. He’s willing to kill Jenny’s friends in order to get to her, and if he can’t get her, then nobody can. His way of showing he’s a “nice guy” is to give them a (small) chance to win the games, but in the end, he’s still willing to cheat a bit and force Jenny to stay with him. But then we learn that he’s genuinely loved Jenny for a really long time, in his own twisted way, and the reader starts to sympathise with the guy, even though we should. Even though we know that Jenny and Julian could and should never be together. Even Jenny starts to sympathise and finds it difficult to resist. That’s when she must face her own dark side.
If you’re looking for an L.J. Smith series to read, I won’t be recommending The Vampire Diaries to you. It’s her most popular series, but not her best, in my opinion. Instead, pick up The Forbidden Game. It has a bit of a love triangle, but the general epicness of the trilogy definitely makes up for its small faults. My paperback copy already looks battered because I lent it out to so many people, which adds to the wonderful feeling of nostalgia.