It was Julian’s last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton’s boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: “If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there’s the devil to pay.”
Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee have burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They’re lost in an amusement park of nightmares, at Julian’s mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny’s only clue is a gold coin, Julian’s gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride . . . (book back blurb)
I really hate the ‘make her his bride’ part. Because it’s less about that now and I think Julian just wants to finally win a game against Jenny. Odds aren’t in his favor here since she’s got two out of three, but points for perseverance.
THE KILL is probably my favorite book out of the whole series. I thought it was the best written, had the most heart, the best character development, and it was certainly the creepiest. An amusement park of nightmares? Yes, please. You had me at amusement park.
I like THE KILL because the characters have real consequences for their actions. People aren’t unscathed as they go through all of this. There are repercussions to things. They’re not just coasting through, trying to hit certain tasks and getting out of tight spots through a series of conveniences. For how unrealistic the story it, this only works to ground it more in reality.
The setting is killer. I love me a good creepy amusement park. I think they’re sinister anyway but to have this mock up of one in the Shadow World is just perfect. I especially liked the museum arcade with all the really old arcade games with creepy clowns and dolls in them that made all these weird clanking, grinding sounds when you used them. There’s a place in San Francisco that it reminded me of, Musee Mecanique, that’s also a penny arcade that doubles as a museum with really creepy dolls that repel and fascinating at the same time.
Jenny’s morphed into total BAMF territory and is so fed up with Julian’s crap that she just barrels through this world with only thoughts of Tom and Zach driving her. She stands firmly on her own two feet and I love how it’s the woman rescuing the men. Michael is actually the only man in the rescue party and he’s effectively worthless (still). So it’s Jenny, leading a charge of angry women into Julian’s world to take back what’s theirs. And Smith’s othering of Dee has been brought back down to a minimum. It’s still there but nowhere near as pervasive and cringe-worthy as it was in the last book.
My recap will be going up on 11/23 over at The Devil’s Elbow so be sure to check that out when it posts! The Forbidden Game is an excellent series that I think with just some small tweaks would stand up in today’s market. It’s creepy and empowering and unlike many series it actually gets better as it progresses. Love that.