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.
My recap for book number two in LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series, THE CHASE, is now up over at The Devil’s Elbow! Stakes are high when evil Shadow Man Julian comes out of his world and into Jenny’s, threatening her safety, her comfort, and her friends as he kidnaps them one by one in order to force Jenny to comply with her promise to him. The dick. Don’t miss it!
Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker , a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own? (book back blurb)
I reviewed the first book a while ago and my recap for it just went up last month at The Devil’s Elbow. This month I’m recapping THE CHASE and having never read it before, of course it needed to be reviewed here too. Oh such Labyrinth-y goodness.
Granted I was a bit torn with THE CHASE. The pacing was a little all over the place and the first sentence in that blurb is really misleading. Jenny doesn’t have dudes falling all over her now. One guy asked her to the prom who wasn’t Tom. The blurb could have started with the second sentence and have been fine. Anyway, pacing. It lingers on minutiae in this book where it didn’t in the last, giving me drawn out scenes when they were postering (as in handing out posters with Summer’s face on it because everyone thinks she’s just missing) that didn’t really advance the plot at all, or the whole thing with this guy pursuing Jenny, which really wasn’t much of a thing. There’s a fair amount of cigarette lighting in the book and things don’t really start to get rolling until a little more than halfway into the book, which is far. I often felt like telling Smith to get on with it up to that point.
However, I did like the total mindfuck going on up to Game #2. They were just spaced far enough apart in that first half that they didn’t connect too well and too much time passed between them to really maintain interest. Plus Smith likes to drag on with unnecessary physical details and expounding a little too much on what’s going on in people’s heads so that slowed the plot down too. But the mindfucking was good. I wish she spent more time there.
About a third of the way through the book I started having real issues with the type of focus Smith was giving Dee, her Aba, and then a Polynesian woman. It seemed like every POC that popped up in her books were in some way otherworldly and deserving of this . . . other type of description that no one else got. Then I remembered Wing from DE mentioning not liking Smith’s othering of Dee. Not sure what that meant I looked it up. Yup. That’s it. That’s what was really bothering me. It’s almost like Smith’s overcompensating by making all of the POC in her book mystical and gorgeous and unreachable . . . except that just plays into typecasting, doesn’t it? Dee, the angry but beautiful black girl who’s regularly described as having lioness and panther-like qualities, who wants to fight constantly, and who is regularly described as having a savage or barbaric smile (OMG NO). Aba, the mystical black grandma offering pearls of wisdom to help the children along. And the Polynesian women, a cop and there for a second, was described as being model beautiful. It was just so glaring and off-putting.
Meanwhile Michael has some variety of spaniel eyes, Audrey has spiky lashes and bangs, and everyone else kinds of blends in. Smith has a real bad habit of using rather unique descriptors repeatedly. They stand out “nicely.”
Anyway, I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and horror and THE CHASE fits better into that arena than anything else. I really, really liked the mind games Julian played, wearing the group down before taking them one by one. Truly, it’s perfect. But then we get sort of a repeat ending from book one and I want to say it’s lazy but it also plays into Julian’s character so I’m not sure which way to sway on that one. But I like that Smith went with the brain game with book two. Considering how mentally mangled those kids would be after what they went through, and with losing Summer (I have a feeling she’s not actually dead . . .) their brains would be ripe for poking. And Julian did just that. It’s demented and dark and it made me like the story even more. Jenny is standing more on her own two feet and barreling headfirst into things. Tom is no longer her crutch. Instead she stands on her own and that’s kind of awesome.
I’m looking forward to working my way through book 3 next month. Be sure to check out my recap going up at The Devil’s Elbow on the 23rd!
My recap of the first book in LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series, THE HUNTER, just went live at The Devil’s Elbow! Come see just how much Smith was inspired by Labyrinth and if she wasn’t I’ll eat my shoe. Not to mention, in the grander scheme of shitty YA horror from the 90s, THE HUNTER is probably one of the least shittiest. I actually enjoyed this story in all its twisted horror and Labyrinth love and Smith kept the crappy characters to a minimum. Considering the proliferation of teens-as-caricatures in 90s YA horror, I’ll take what I can get.
So come check out my recap of THE HUNTER at The Devil’s Elbow now!
I have the glorious honor of being a guest recapper at The Devil’s Elbow, a site dedicated to recapping and reliving all the glorious cheese that is Point Horror, Goosebumps, Fear Street, and all manner of 80s and 90s YA horror. Guys, I’ve found my people. I’ve been reviewing cheese going back to early 2011 when I had my resurgence of 90s YA horror love and started hoarding all those books again. It’s been a stunning love/hate relationship ever since.
And then I find this place run by, of all people, two of my fellow original members of the Lost Boys fandom from way back in the mailing list days. Life is full of circles, people! Full of them. So now I’m contributing recaps. First one up is Carmen Adams’s THE BAND:
Leather-clad creatures of the night who call themselves “The Band” are constantly on the lookout for new recruits to play music with them and to follow them into the darkness. (goodreads.com)
I have already reviewed this book here if you want to dig through the archives or check out the review on my Goodreads page. Coming up is Carmen Adams’s SONG OF THE VAMPIRE (which this and THE BAND are filled with so much Lost Boys love I can’t even take it) and then into the fall I’ll be recapping LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series (which is filled with Labyrinth love, can you tell why I adore these books???).
So be sure to bookmark pointhorror.com to follow along not only with my recaps but everyone else’s as they snarkily wade through some of the dredge that spawned during this early time for YA horror (and YA in general). Some books end up loved. More often than not they’re skewered and left to roast. And stay tuned because I’m getting slated as a guest on their podcast as well. Download those if you haven’t already. They’re rather awesome. Oh I can’t wait to chat cheese!