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The Forbidden Game #1-3

The Forbidden Game

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When Jenny buys a game for her boyfriend, Tom, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the guy behind the counter. There is something mysteriously alluring about Julian's pale eyes and bleached-blond hair. And when he places the Game into her hands, she knows their connection is something deeper.

But as Jenny and her six friends begin to play the Game at Tom's birthday celebration, a night of friends and fun quickly turns into a night of terror and obsessive love. Because the Game isn't just a game - it's the seven friends' new reality, where Julian reigns as the Prince of the Shadows.

One by one the friends must confront their phobias to win the Game. To lose the Game is to lose their lives. And that is only the beginning...

750 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 1997

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About the author

L.J. Smith

280 books111k followers
I have a new blog about my Vampire Diaries fanfic.

L.J. SMITH, Lisa Jane Smith, is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, The Forbidden Game, Dark Visions, Wildworld and Night World series. She has written over two dozen books for children and young adults, and has enjoyed writing every one of them. She lives in the Bay Area of California, with a backyard that is full of flowers, which she adores, especially with many different shades of roses.

She loves to visit a friend's little cabin in the Point Reyes National Seashore area, which has lots of trees, lots of animals, lots of beaches to walk on, and lots of places to hike. Once, while hiking, she saw a snow-white buck which allowed her to follow it nearly half a mile. She also likes to collect things: angels (they remind her of her late mother), tiny boxes from different countries or of fanciful shape, nineteenth century children's literature, and books about quantum physics--especially about the mystery of the dark energy in the universe. A militant optimist, she is also part of the Velociraptor Sisterhood (a fancy way of saying that she likes to read, write and discuss books with strong female characters), and she has traveled extensively in Europe and the Far East. The two countries she loves to visit most are Great Britain, with its historic monuments and amazing country landscapes, and Japan, with its bustling urban life and exquisite mountain scenery.

Her favorite current writer is Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series, for its wild and witty satires on life, death, war, love, assassins, coppers, and Australia. Her favorite classical writer is Jane Austen. Her favorite poets are Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Her favorite movies are The Seven Samurai and Avatar (analyze that!). She doesn't have a favorite TV show, because she doesn't have time to watch TV (and only owns one for playing movies).

Her favorite people are her readers, each of whom she cherishes with deep and lasting affection.

Note: L. J. Smith wrote books 1-7 of The Vampire Diaries series. After that, a ghostwriter took over the rest of the series. L. J. wrote books 1-3 of The Secret Circle series. After that, a ghostwriter took over the rest of the series. L. J. did not write any of the Originals or Stefan's Diaries. These were written by Kevin Williamson and/or various ghostwritters.

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10,967 (50%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,099 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,399 reviews11.7k followers
April 30, 2009
I came across L.J. Smith's name on one of the Twilight forums. Her books were regarded very highly, so I decided to give one of her series a try. My first available book happened to be The Forbidden Game trilogy. A little bit about each of three books.

The Hunter
In a few words, this is a story about Jenny, an ordinary good girl, and Julian, a "Dark Prince" who is in love with her. To lure Jenny in his world, Julian tricks her and 6 of her friends to play The Game, where all of them have to face their most horrific nightmares. If they win, they are free to go. If they lose, Jenny has to stay with Julian forever.

This is a very well written book, characters are very real and relatable. Like many other reviewers, I found Julian extremely attractive in a dangerous way.

The Chase
Julian is out and lures Jenny into another Game - "Lambs and Monsters," in which her friends are caught one by one by the Snake and the Wolf. Jenny has to find the Shadow Man's base in order to free her friends and to be released from the promise she has given Julian in the previous game.

I found this book less entertaining than "The Hunter." It took almost half of the book for Julian to appear, the game itself was much weaker, we didn't learn anything new about the Shadow World, and there was too little interaction between Jenny and Julian.

The Kill
Seriously, what a comeback after a snoozer the second book was!

Jenny, Dee, Michael and Audrey are playing the final game to save their friends. Only this time they have to find an entrance to the Shadow World to be able to play.

This book is everything I expected and more. We find out more about the Shadow World, about Julian and experience emotional growth of all characters.

The book is scary, intense, and romantic at the same time. The ending is sad but you know it couldn't have ended any other way...

Overall, a great YA fantasy series which I would highly recommend.
Profile Image for Lindsey.
142 reviews
February 7, 2009
I read this in 7th grade, in just a few days. I remember sneaking it into school and reading it during English class, feeling like such a nerd rebel. Now that I'm older, it kind of reminds me of Labyrinth, with David Bowie. A chick and all her friends get swept up into a deadly game because some hot evil magic guy has fallen in love with her and wants to make her his "Queen of Shadows" and will do anything to win her. Why that's such a problem is beyond me...

Summary is kind of stupid, but the book is so good. This was actually a triology, but I got the onmibus edition with the three books in one, so I've always considered it one big book. I've read it so much over the years that the binding is coming loose. After I finished this the first time, my tween self was like, "This is the HOTTEST thing I've ever read! Sigh..." I was sad to finish. Even today, it brings about school girl giddy feelings in me.
December 9, 2014
I cannot resist an excuse to buddy-read with the oh-so-lovely Heather .... start date TBD December 1.

AND, I do what I want ;)

This is another L.J. Smith 3-in-1, like Dark Visions, and I feel like lump reviewing these books is kind of unfair! Ergo, I will do a 3-in-1 review as I go! Because ......^^.... that's right I do what I want.

The Hunter:

3.5 Stars

Right from the beginning of this series Smith engages me.... opening on a scene of Jenny, our MC, being followed by two men down a dark street in a bad part of town. While trying to evade her pursuers she winds up in a game shop. Enter Julian:

Completely evil - and completely in love with her

(I may get some crap for that casting choice, sorry Heather!, but Bradley James is probably the closest to the visual I get when I think of Julian)

he looked - charming, sinister, and slightly mad. A demon prince with the face of an angel

Later that evening a party assembles for Jenny's boyfriend *bleh* Tom's birthday and The Game begins.....

I really hate Tom! He is everything a girl SHOULDN'T want in a boyfriend, he is sexist, inconsiderate, entirely self-involved and just plain mean! And while Jenny can be VERY obtuse, she definitely deserves better than him. That is my "love-interest" rant!

The ending of this book REALLY irritates me! I'm very happy it isn't a standalone.

"Reality," Julian said, flashing a smile, "has teeth and claws. And since that's true, wouldn't you rather be one of the hunters than one of the hunted?"

The Chase

3 Stars

There is a lot of world building and character development in this one. We get to experience how The Game has affected our characters, for the better or worse.

And, yup, I HATE Tom. HATE! For me he just gets worse in this one, and Jenny’s excuses for him just get more bogus and annoying.

If Tom Locke the Flawless had a flaw, this was it. He was used to always winning, and winning easily. Tom didn’t do anything he couldn’t do right the first time. He wouldn’t try if he thought he was going to fail.

That’s a pretty HUGE flaw in my opinion!!! Gigantic, even! And while I will forgive any, and all, these characters for varying youthful mistakes and misunderstandings I find it so difficult to understand how Tom goes from one extreme side of poor behaviour to another, also extreme, side of poor behaviour so entirely. It’s rather psychotic to be honest.

I love how monstrous Julian becomes in this Game. It paints a far more interesting picture of his Shadow man history. He’s such a fascinating character.

Smith’s writing is easy and digestible but remains interesting! I devour her words Om, nom nom!

The Kill

4 Stars

The FINAL Game. This one is MY favourite!!

I love the development in this one! The way the entire book is sequenced and executed is just wonderful! The setting is perfect for the events that unfold, and the characters play so well off each other.

This is the story that really brings The Phantom of the Opera to mind for me. Eric and Julian are such similar characters. They are both such beautiful, damaged souls with an undeniable LOVE for the light to their dark.

Love can be as much of a curse and it can be a blessing. And while love for love’s sake can be illuminating it can also be incredibly unfair. Just because you love someone AND they love you doesn’t mean there isn’t a fundamental barrier that will keep the two of you apart.

And she had never really found the right description for the color of his eyes. At times it had seemed close to this color of that color, but when you got down to it, words really failed. It wasn’t like anything except itself

Profile Image for Briar's Reviews.
1,823 reviews507 followers
April 22, 2020
The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith is my favourite series of books by this author.

I was heartbroken when I ran out of LJ Smith books to read - LJ Smith has been one of my favourite YA novelists in my lifetime, and it's always hard to put her novels down. I'm addicting to her style of writing (even as an adult).

This book was definitely your typical YA series all wrapped up in one - teenage characters with teenage problems, but are the special people that have to deal with this specific problem, "The Game". The final book in this series does tie up most of the questions with in this book, but I still wanted more! While the characters might not grow much within this series, there was definitely room for more antics and character development for this intriguing cast. Especially our villain, who was the character I liked the most (even though he was a baddy...).

Overall, this series is an engaging YA read that holds up over time (I believe it was released in the 90s and it still hits it out of the park for me!!!).

Five out of five stars.
Profile Image for Mav.
336 reviews51 followers
October 20, 2016
What is amazing about this series is how easy it would be for L.j .Smith to have given into fans and just let Julian have Jenny and turn her into a prop. Instead, Jenny grew stronger as a character - something that the feminist in me loves. Her friends are not merely props to make Jenny look better, in fact, they have their own subtext and growth. Tom, the boyfriend, isn't made to look like some abusive boyfriend, but learns to appreciate Jenny.

And then, there's Julian, who is evil and yet proves he is not. The explanation for his attitude towards life, and his love for Jenny is exemplary. I'm not surprised to see everyone rooting for Julian.

Definitely a recommended read.
Profile Image for Heather *sad DNF queen*.
Author 19 books461 followers
February 19, 2015
Buddy re-read with the beautiful Karly! Late November-ish December 1.

Julian rules. FYI.


All right, here's the thing. I love this series SO MUCH. I've loved it for at least sixteen years. I will never not love it.

I can't write a proper review for this; it would just be me gushing about how awesome it is (and how much I hate Tom). Although I am sure this series has faults (haha, no it doesn't), I am fully able to ignore them and enjoy the story time and time again. I will always give The Forbidden Game five stars.

Since I'm not writing a proper review, I'm going to share a story that hopefully illustrates my love for this series.

I took ceramics in college; it was a required class for art majors. I made all kinds of things in that class, such as a box with a calla lily on top of it and two giant ugly vases that currently sit outside my front door. I also made a teapot themed after The Forbidden Game.

There was a door on the lid, and a profusion of pertinent runes (uruz, gebo, etc.). All the runes were individually made, of course. The Creeper was the handle, and the Lurker was the spout. The pot was black, with the eyes of the Shadow Men painted all around. You had to turn it practically upside down to get anything to come out of it. Can you imagine having to explain this thing to my classmates during the critique? I'll tell you one thing: It was effing awkward.

I know what you're thinking. Yes, my teapot was the most awesome teapot that has ever existed. No, I don't have a picture of it. Actually, it was really ugly, so I had no qualms giving it away to a friend who was equally obsessed with TFG (I was responsible for that obsession, of course). Clay is not my medium.

Anyway. My story doesn't stop there, my friends. Oh, no.

A couple semesters later, I was taking sculpture, which turned out to be one of the hardest art classes I ever took. Wire and wood are not my mediums either. I can't glue anything neatly. Also, the hippie/biker instructor hated me in a weirdly good-natured way for some unknown reason.

So. The wood project. We had to make a toy. Obviously (?), I turned again to TFG and decided to base my toy on the nine Norse worlds, as described in Volume III: The Kill. Fortunately, I still own this masterpiece, and I do have a picture.

I made this thing with power tools, you guys. (And twine. Lots of twine for Yggdrasil, which isn't mentioned in the series, but I thought it necessary.)

As you can see, this is not just any toy. It's a metaphysical toy you would use to travel back and forth between the worlds at will. While my classmates presented actual toys, I came up with this. No wonder the instructor hated me.

It got a good reception, however. "Wow!" my classmates said. "It looks like you could buy it in a craft store!"

"Yes," the instructor said, friendly yet slightly sinister. "Almost as if she works in a craft store." (HOW DARE HE. I will have you know, Aaron Brothers is NOT a craft store.)

This concludes my story! Honestly, I thought it would be shorter. Do you get how much I love this series (and L.J. Smith in general)? I was in my twenties, basing college projects off a YA series before it was cool to like YA, without a single concern for my dignity. And here I am, sharing the story of my dorkiness for the world to read.

At least I managed to ace those classes.

Before I go, here is my Julian. (Karly, I hope you approve!)

Profile Image for Kay.
197 reviews362 followers
August 25, 2016
Finally finished the entire trilogy, and overall, 4 STARS. I must say, this is one of the better YA novels that I've read. I would recommend this read for younger teens for optimal enjoyment, but don't let that stop you if you're an adult.

This one volume contains three books, each with its own plot and story. Here my reactions for each book as I finish:

The Hunter

This story begins when Jenny stumbles into a shop to buy a game for her boyfriend's birthday. She is greeted by an inhumanly beautiful boy, who sells her a game to lure her into the shadow world where she and her friends must face their darkest fears. If they win, they get to leave. If they lose, Jenny must stay with the dark price who has fallen in love with her.

The story was intriguing. The concept of the Game reminded me a lot of the movie Labyrinth. But instead of fuzzy muppets, we get actual nightmarish creatures. While the nightmares did get repetitive and formulaic after a while, what really struck me was how well the author wrote Julian. He's a charming, handsome, dangerous Grade A serial stalker...and yet, despite his psychopathic tendencies, it's hard to ignore his charisma and appeal. The interactions between Julian and Jenny are balancing acts that teeter between fear and intrigue.

Story rating: 3.5+ stars, but not quite 4 stars

The Chase

This story has two main parts: pre-Game and post-Game. The first part of the book focused on the remaining six players dealing with , while frantically trying to locate the thieves who may or may not have released Julian once more. Of course, he comes back, and he's hell bent on making Jenny fulfill her promise. His method: Another Game.

I liked the character development in this story. Circumstances force Jenny to stand on her own and become a stronger woman. I also related to Jenny's confusion about herself and how that led to changes in her relationship with Tom. Though Julian didn't make an appearance until the middle of the book, the interactions between him and Jenny that followed were electric. The beginning was a bit slow, but the story really picked up pace after prom.

Story rating: 3.5 to 4 stars

The Kill

This was the best story out of the three. Jenny and her friends jump into action as soon as the book starts. We get to know about the Shadow World, Julian, and the Shadow Men.

Jenny at the end of this book is a very different from the person in the first. She's stronger, independent, and truly becomes a heroine. We also get to see a side of Julian that transforms him from villain to anti-hero. The ending was beautiful and sad.

Story rating: 4 stars

Overall, 4 STARS for this entire volume and highly recommended for younger teens.
Profile Image for Emma.
252 reviews9 followers
September 26, 2012
Alright. Here goes. I liked this book, but I also did not like it. I have so much to say about this book. Coming into this book, I expected too much. My friends kept telling me how amazing this book is, and how much I had to read it. I finally caved in, and bought the book. So this book is kind of a bind up of three books in one. All from the same story, just seperated into three other books. the hunter, the chase, the kill. As I was reading the hunter, I was telling myself, "oh hey this is pretty good!" But when I got to the chase, I was wondering when this book would end. When you tell yourself that, you know that the book really isn't a hit for you. When I read a book, I want a book that is so good that it makes you want to read the book at night, under the covers of your bed, with a flashlight. As for the plot, I thought the idea of the book was really good, but how L.J smith executed the story was not very good. I did not like the writing. Especially that it was in 3rd person. And for the characters, I didn't like any of them except for Julian. That's it. Everyone else was whiny and annoying. Especially Tom. He was the most annoying of all. The ending of the book was definetaly NOT a hit. Although I didn't like it, it doesn't mean that whoever's reading this won't like it either. Everyone is different, and has a different taste in books.
Profile Image for Stephanie Tibbs.
155 reviews
October 25, 2012
I've been sitting here staring at the screen for over an hour trying to decide how to put how I feel right now in words; I'll try my best.

I have read a lot of books and given 5 stars for several of them... After reading this, I think I need to go back and change all those books to 3 stars. Nothing I've read so far can compare, nothing. Reading all 750 pages in less than 24 hours is proof of that. Yes, I have bags under my eyes from lack of sleep but it was so worth it.

Everything this book had to offer was so original, so refreshing --- the books weren't just fixated on some silly love triangle. No, all three of these books had substance. They were sexy, intriguing, heart-wrenching, creepy, scary even...

After I read the Secret Circle (which I loved), I thought I'd give another L.J. Smith series a chance. She is truly a gifted writer. It's amazing.

After I read the last sentence I sat there staring at my Kindle and just broke down in tears... I didn't want to believe the ending. I got on here and was glad to know I wasn't the only one who cried so much over this. I was heartbroken, truly. I wanted to throw my Kindle out the window, this was NOT how I wanted it to end!!

However... as much as it breaks/broke my heart, deep down I know that this ending was the only way. As much as I hate it, I think the ending is what gave the book so much impact.

Quick notes:

-Like I said, I think the book played out how it needed to. However, I still want to be like F**** it! and going along with that eff it mentality (hehe) here are a few thoughts:

*Jenny, if I were you I would've given in in a heartbeat. I fell in love with Julian from the beginning, but after the 3rd book, after the cave scene... Dear God, so help me, I would've jumped his bones right there haha

*Tom, Tom, Tom...--- In the first book I hated him, and I hated Jenny for praising him so much. She wears her hair up because that's how Tom likes it? In the second book when she is going to wear the gold dress and says something along the lines of "Tom didn't let me wear this"... um excuse me.... LET you!?! a;sdkfjaslj;a ARGH. But I guess all of the characters developed in their own right and over time I began to like him. I never loved his character and honestly I still don't know why Jenny held him up so high.

*The stuff with Zach---am I the only one weirded out by that? They're cousins!!

I could go on and on, but I'll probably start crying again. So on that note... Do yourself a favor and go read this. NOW. :)

Profile Image for Victoria.
148 reviews33 followers
October 18, 2011
I’ll give the reviews for each book individually first then later, sum up everything.

The Hunter

I liked this book a lot. I never once found it dry and the Game was absolutely riveting. I must admit though, there were times at the beginning that I got kinda freaked out. I mean, it was just kinda scary about them facing their worst nightmares. I can’t say too much without giving away the plot of the book, but for me, every page I read just got me more and more engrossed in the book. I especially loved the ending. Read it, you’ll know what I mean. It was absolutely ingenious of Jenny, who is the main heroine of the book. And I know Julian, who is the main hero of the book, is evil, but he’s so hot! I can’t explain it though, but I must say, if I were Jenny, I would have chosen to go with him! Ah well, there’s just something about bad guys! : )

Jenny was a very interesting character. I have to say, I didn’t really like her in the beginning. But as I witnessed how she bravely fought on with her friends and how she tried her best to fight Julian, I admired her more and more. I especially loved it when she managed to solve the riddle. I couldn’t believe the answer when it was revealed. It was something so incongruous, something I never even imagined. But after she solved the riddle, I changed my mind about her being an empty-headed bimbo. I have no idea why I thought of her that way, I just did. And as she went along, figuring out the rules of the Game and doing her very best to win it, I admired her more and more. Imagine being there, surrounded by fear and yet somehow managing to figure out so much. To have the courage to stand up to your own worst nightmares. I dunno, to me, it just seems so awesome. I did predict who was the one who probably wouldn’t make it.

The Chase

Omg. I was completely freaked out throughout the book. Literally. I felt like I was right there with them and I was experiencing what they were which completely sucked. The first third of the book wasn’t very good and I felt that it was just a filler. But when the Game started, I was completely hooked. All I can say is wow. It was really scary but then that simply means that the descriptions were so good.

The events that transpired right before the Game were to me the most scary. None of them knew what was happening to them. I won’t say any more, but just know that I was literally cowering in my bed as I read.

My admiration for Jenny also grew. She’s not exactly smart, but she can piece information together pretty quickly. I dunno, I wouldn’t say I love her, but I certainly admire her. Before, I used to like Julian. Now, I think he’s just plain crazy. Insane. Mad. What more do I need to say? Sadistic. Evil. I love it when Jenny beats him at his own Game. It really makes my day when I see him outwitted by her. He fell for tricks twice already and because of that, she won the Game. I’m gonna read the 3rd book now, and let’s see if he falls for her tricks again.

Tom was exceedingly brave. I must say, I didn’t have the best impression of him cos I felt he was rather spineless in a sense. I mean, giving up the girl you love just cos of some supernatural being staking a claim on her? How then can he say he loves her? But when he went to the mountains alone (to do what I shall not say), what I thought about him completely changed. Honestly, that was one of the bravest things to do. And I did feel it proved his love for her. Of course, right at the end, the choice he made to walk with her, though he didn’t truly believe, was the perfect example of his love for her. I mean, he literally walked through fire with her, just so that she wouldn’t have to go alone.

The Kill

One word. Amazing. This book wasn’t as scary as the 2nd. But just for the ending alone, I give this book 5 stars. Ok let me start from the beginning. So it started off well enough, a little bit of scares here and there but nothing really worth mentioning. For me, the main story started when they were in the Shadow World. Now that part was scary. Especially the mine part. I dunno, I can’t explain it but I was just so frightened for them. So when Jenny got separated from the rest and almost died, Julian saved her. Now that part, made me fall in love with Julian. I dunno, before, I felt his love for her was more of an obsession. But because of that scene there, I saw the depth of his love for her. It really touched my heart. And I believed Jen did grow to love him. Perhaps not how she felt for Tom, but a part of her definitely loved him.

So they went on to rescue Tom and Zach. Surprises happen along the way, some are pretty scary, I might add. But another thing that Julian did, just made me love him.
But my absolute favourite part came at the ending.

This may be a spoiler

So they managed to rescue Tom and Zach. But of course, they couldn’t escape, due to reasons which I will not say. But what Julian did, just made my heart melt. No matter how much he said he was evil and all, that action of his, just disproved it.

Then came the ending. It was a bittersweet feeling I had after I read it. I loved it yes, but at the same time, I hated it. I hated it cos I felt that it wasn’t a happy ending and I love books with happy endings. But I loved it so much because of what Julian said to Jenny. I won’t say anything about it, but all I know is that I wept after reading that part. I literally sobbed my heart out. It was so amazingly sweet and beautiful. After the book ended, I put it down and screamed at it. I didn’t want that sort of ending, I wanted them to end up together. Why did it have to happen the way it happened?

I really really really wanted Jenny and Julian to get together. She could have changed him, I know she could. Besides, he wasn’t truly evil. To me, Tom isn’t good enough for her. Yes, he’s sweet and all, but he can never compare with Julian. Jenny grew to love Julian in the end, I’m sure of that. And I’m so sure that he was the perfect one for her. What a pity they couldn’t be together.

All in all, I can only say what a good trilogy this was. It brought me on a roller-coaster of emotions. Excitement, fear, happiness, love, and sadness were all portrayed to its very best to me. I couldn’t help but love it. Yet, at the same time, this trilogy was made perfect by the ending. Without that ending, it wouldn’t have been right, but with it, it just made me sad. Still, I felt that the ending was one of the best I’ve ever read. And certainly, it’s the only ending to make me cry so much.

Yes, the plot was rather hard to believe. With all the different worlds and all, I was a bit lost at times. But this was so small it didn't really matter to me. The characters were all awesome and i felt her clique really grew up over time. Yes, I didn't really like most of them at first, but I have to say, as the book progressed, I liked them all after seeing how they matured and faced their fears bravely. Honestly though, I dunno how Jenny resisted Julian for so long or why she even did. Can't she see that he's way better than Tom? However, this does show that she truly loves Tom. Because, to me, to pick Tom over Julian is just plain stupid. But that's just me.

This book is definitely a must-read. I picked it up, not expecting much. In the end, I was brought into a whole new world. Throughout it, I experienced a maelstrom of emotions. Its not everyday I can pick up a book that can make me feel so much. Thus, I can only say this book is simply amazing. And even if you don’t really like the story, just stick through with it for the ending. To me, the ending is worth reading all 3 books just to see it. I read it 3 times continuously. I cried every time. I wiped away my tears, read it again and cried. I can’t explain it, its simply indescribable. All I can say is wow. This is certainly a trilogy that I’ll be reading again. Simply amazing.

Profile Image for Hanna.
960 reviews29 followers
January 8, 2015
I hate this book so much that I love it. Who in their right mind would make Jenny like Tom and not Julian?!? Julian is fantastic while Tom comes off as a strange chauvinistic pig. I love Julian. He's like a small, cute child who keeps getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Profile Image for Bird.
781 reviews26 followers
June 15, 2010
I originally read this during my L.J. Smith phase when I was a teenager. Rereading books from your childhood is always problematic, and this book emphasized that for me. I remember adoring this, but during my most recent reading? Eh, not so much.

First up, it reminds me strongly (especially Book 1) of David Bowie's Labyrinth...Man with long white hair and blue eyes kidnaps the girl he's obsessed with and takes her into his dream/shadow world where she has a limited amount of time to get out and rescue someone (in the movie it's her baby brother, here it's her friends), and if she doesn't do it before time runs out she'll be stuck with him forever. Said man shows up throughout her time there to torment her, and a clock's chimes marks times throughout the adventures.

What sticks out about the book? Strangely, it's character descriptions.
Jenny: hair like honey, eyes as green as pine needles, straight eyebrows like two decisive brush strokes
Dee: long arms as strong as a boy's
Audrey: spiky, copper colored bangs
Zach: cool gray eyes
Tom: dark brown hair and a rakish smile
Summer: lots of flower comparisons, including her cornflower blue eyes
Michael: warm brown Spaniel eyes

Note that many of those are actual quotes from the book, that I can recall from memory. No, I don't have a photographic memory, and no, I didn't reread descriptive passages. The reason I can recall those things so clearly is that L.J. Smith repeats herself. A lot. The same descriptors are used over and over throughout each of the three books. And there is constant mention of what the characters looks like. Audrey can't just raise her eyebrows in surprise. Instead she has to "raise her eyebrows in surprise until they touched her spiky copper-colored bangs." I know there are quite a few main characters to keep straight, but beating the reader over the head with descriptions is not the way to prevent confusion.

Having read a number of more recently published YA novels, this one seems like a dowdy younger cousin in comparison. The writing is certainly less polished and sophisticated, and many topics were skirted around rather than being dealt with directly.

I read quite a bit of adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and I think that colors my expectations when I sit down to read YA paranormals. This was certainly the case here. Julian was so sexy, but things didn't play out the way they would have in an adult novel. (See spoilers for more info!)

Overall, the book was just OK. I got a nice dose of nostalgia from reading it, but it's not something I will likely be returning to.

I wanted the relationship between Jenny and Julian to be more developed. Jenny's emotions toward him weren't very believable, either. If it had been an adult paranormal, it's likely they would have ended up together in the end, with Jenny being the only one able to reach through to him and help him conquer his dark side. (And engage in hot sex. Grin.)

Instead, the ending has a decidedly Disney-after-school-special feel to it. In the end, evil has been defeated, and Julian had to sacrifice himself to save the sweet, innocent girl he loves. Jenny's blossomed from a naive, dependent girl to a strong, capable young woman who can make decisions for herself. Audrey realizes looks aren't important. Zach discovers that real life can be more exciting than his art. Dee's figured out that she can be tough as well as smart, and wants to go to college. Tom now views Jenny as his equal, rather than someone who needs to be taken care of. Etc, etc. Essentially, the entire 750 page book was wrapped up in a neat little package with everyone having learned an important lesson that will carry them through their lives as better people. Gag. Oops, I mean, awwwww.

Don't get me wrong, I love happily-ever-afters as much as the next reader. But there's a difference between HEA and "here's the lesson we learned from all this," which is how the novel felt to me at the end.

My perfect ending would have been Jenny getting a hold of the rune stave and stabbing out all the other Shadow Men's runes, leaving Julian as the only one. Then she would have brought him into her world and loved him until all the darkness from his soul was gone. See? Happily ever after, no lessons needed!
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,165 followers
June 17, 2012
Rating: 4.5 Stars

In The Forbidden Game, L.J. Smith has created a world that is not only haunting and real, but also remarkably unique. In the genre of YA Fiction, unique is not a word we hear very often. Words like amazing character development, kick-ass heroine, and paramount themes are also not common words used to describe the majority of novels that have been released in YA in the past couple of years. Yet, these were all phrases that I used while writing my reviews of the individual novels that made up this trilogy. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Smith's work truly stands out as some of the best horror, paranormal, and entertaining fiction out there.

I think what truly struck me about Smith's work and made it so egregiously different from any other author was how well she knew each and every one of her characters. The personalities of Smith's characters change, not only from book to book, but sometimes from chapter to chapter as well. Human nature and personality is bound to change and evolve after traumatic or terrifying experiences, and Smith's characters are no exception. I cannot tell you how many novels or series I've read where the characters don't change at all from the beginning to the end, but I had no qualms about that in The Forbidden Game. Often times, the emotions that each character feels and experiences is hard to relate to, simply because their ordeals are so unreal, but I felt as if Smith managed to portray this all in a very realistic manner. Furthermore, even though The Game that these teenagers were forced to play was brutal and cruel, Smith always finds a silver lining in the cloud and through The Game, she transforms each of her characters into better, more stronger, more appreciating, and far more independent people than they were before. Even Jenny, who is seemingly perfect from the outside, has human flaws which Smith manages to convey and change throughout her books.

If I had to find a problem with this series, I don't think I would be able to. Julian, who is the sadistic villain of this story, is truly evil. Yet, Smith finds ultimate redemption for him too, and that too in an extremely believable setting. Jenny, who I once found myself being irritated with for being so perfect, really isn't perfect. Her friends all consider her to be the best of them and although that is true in some aspects, it is not true in all. Tom, Jenny's originally petulant boyfriend, learns the true value of what he has and transforms into a man who supports Jenny, not possesses her. Each and every one of Jenny's friends too change for the better. Although some of these changes are more profound in some characters opposed to others, they are all present. Truly, I can't find fault with Smith's writing, world-building, or character development. Each and every one of them is astounding, having been given the perfect amount of attention and time to make this story perfect.

L.J. Smith's The Forbidden Game is the first novel of hers that I have read, but it most certainly will not be my last. The world she has created, her writing style, and her characters are sure to stick with me long after the last pages of this book have been read. This is definitely one of the best trilogies I've had the pleasure to read in a really long time and I couldn't recommend it more. If you don't find yourself enjoying this, then you're definitely reading the wrong book, so pick up a copy of The Forbidden Game because it is one story that will never disappoint! :)

A HUGE thank you to my amazing friend Inge who recommended this series to me! I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and will be returning to read more L.J. Smith as soon as my TBR-Pile allows for it!(: <3
Profile Image for Gabrielle .
14 reviews
March 22, 2012
"The Forbidden Game" by Lisa Jane Smith is a modern fiction book, written with fast-paced, beautiful language. I've read four other of her series (which all seem to be bind-ups) and I definitely think this bests them all.

The main character, Jenny, was likable and courageable (at least, at the end). Throughout the book you could feel her personality developing. From the way it was written, I can say that Jenny was a highly realistic character, believable and someone you could feel emphatic towards.

The other characters were Jenny's friends, Summer, Dee, Audrey, Michael, Zach (her cousin)and Tom (her boyfriend).
Each friend was wound tightly into the story; you could understand how each of their and Jenny's relationships worked.

The "villain" is a "shadow man" called Julian, who plays a very important part in the book and in Jenny's own history. He himself was likeable, too, convinced that he is like all the other Shadow Men, the exact opposite of Jenny, the golden girl, loved by all. Later in the series, Julian learns that he isn't all that he thinks he is.

To conclude, I thought this book should be read by everyone who wants a good read - let it be out of boredom, enthusiasm or force - and that everyone will get captured by Smith's words, just like Jenny and her friends in the book (people who read it will understand).
Profile Image for harlequin {Stephanie}.
592 reviews28 followers
May 5, 2012
This would be a 5 star series if I didn't find all the characters so lame. The story, plot and how it all comes together is great to watch. Unfortunately it goes on and on with the same characters in the next books.

The one exception that got me to read the other two books was Julian. He is a little creepy lurker at times. (& honestly what does he see in Jenny. She annoys me to no end.)

My reaction to this series.

Gif Thanks
Conflicting. Yes I know.
Profile Image for Hannah Cassie.
395 reviews144 followers
May 27, 2016
MORE? MORE! @ P.S. I love that book!

I have found out about this book from Jen from The Bookavid blog and received my own omnibook copy while I was still in the UK. Therefore, once my bookshelves were up here in Germany it was the first book I picked up to read as it was a Trilogy and I had all three books in my omnibook.

The writing of L.J. Smith is just never disappointing. I did not know up until I started the first page how much I missed it! She is an amazing author!

THE WORLD: This trilogy was published in 1994 if I am not mistaken. Therefore, the technology is a little bit behind but other than that the one world is really like ours. Now the other world, The Shadow World is a completely different story. It is full of Shadow Men, very nasty boogeymen who take people and torture them. However we do not really get to know this world up till book three. In first book the setting is mainly based in the paper house which becomes real and it is just briefly mentioned that it stands in the Shadow World. The second book has a setting or ordinary world more or less and in the third book we finally get introduced into the shadow world. It is nasty magic but it is awesome when you thing about it!

CHARACTERS: The lead character of the trilogy is Jenny, she actually reminded me a lot of Elena. But not the TV Show Elena, the true Elena that was created by L.J. Smith in her The Vampire Diaries books. Jenny is the same pure and and beautiful and just incredibly good. Sometimes actually too good for me but I must admit, I never felt any hate towards her. She was just an incredible friend and I absolutely understand why she did the mistakes she did. I did not love Jenny but I did like her as character a lot. The evil lead character aka Damon look alike is Julian in this book. I have to say he did not appeal to me as very handsome, maybe I'm just out of that type of thing but I enjoyed his character very much as well. Especially in the third book of the trilogy where we got to know him better. He was great. There are also Jenny's sidekick friend: Dee, Audrey, Zack, Michael, Summer and her love forever Tom. I was very jumping between who I liked when it come to the friends and in the end I must admit that none of them seemed very special. Dee I eventually found annoying, Audrey maybe would be my favorite if I must choose and others were just well...they were just there. Tho I do not like Tom, I actually find him super annoying.

LOVE: I would like to say there was a love triangle in the trilogy among Jenny Tom and Julian but I would be not exactly on it. It was just never that strong between Jenny and Julian and just well always clear that Jenny loves her Tom. So if I tell you that I actually liked Jenny and Julian moment much more you most likely understand why the whole romance in the end for me looked blah.

PLUS: This book had a lot of magic and I absolutely love magic. Not the focus pocus type of magic. The nature type of magic. Plus it had runes and the myth of nine worlds. That was just great!

MORE? MORE! @ P.S. I love that book!
Profile Image for Eliza.
594 reviews1,374 followers
February 8, 2017
2 stars.

Well, I really shouldn't be rating this, since I only read the first 2 books and couldn't even get into the third...but here I am.

The idea of the whole "Game" was intriguing - and that's what kept me reading for the entirety of the first book. Unfortunately, the characters were so flat and immature that once I started the second book, I couldn't look past that. The only character that I somewhat liked was, Julian - and I'm not even supposed to like him. Cause he's supposed to be "evil" or something.... Goodness, and don't even start me on the writing. Maybe a 13 year old would be fine with how choppy and repetitive it was, but not me.

If I read another book where the character keeps saying, " Oh, my, God" every other page - it will be too soon. So yeah, I don't know If I'll ever get to the third book.
Profile Image for Maggie.
611 reviews1 follower
June 19, 2010
I recommend reading all three books in this trilogy right after each other in order to fully appreciate the story, which is exciting, creepy, and emotionally-charged. The first two books are very fast-paced (actually all three are) and end with cliffhangers, and the third book finally ties everything together. But it isn't until the third book that you get a better glimpse into the villain, who is juicy but also scary and it's hard to sympathize with him. I might even say that the plot is a bit too fast-paced and I would've liked more one-on-one time with Jenny and Julian.

This book has one of my favorite endings of any series.
Profile Image for Josie Le.
28 reviews
September 16, 2017
Rating: 2.5/5 stars to be precise.
Full review (or maybe a rant) will be updated as soon as school holiday starts.

Update as promised
Let's me start off with the prose of the three books. I don't like it. To me, the prose was just adequate, annoying at times, even. Upon reading the books, I found the style to be quite childish- I know that the trilogy is YA but it seems to me that it aims more towards tweens. When I was reading the book, it gave off a nostalgic vibe and kinda transported me back to my noisy Year 7 classroom. Which wouldn't have been so bad if Year 7 wasn't such a hell hole. Also, I think one of the reasons why the books' storytelling style was unbearable to me is the POV. In my opinion, the story would have been better suited to a first person instead of a third person POV.

Now onto the main characters. Julian is the end game for me, he's the protagonist. But Smith keeps insisting that Jenny is the main character and that Tom and Jenny the fool is meant to be. Whatever.

So, when I was first introduced to Jullian, I was hooked. He's powerful, seemingly evil, damnable good-looking, (slightly?) psychopathic and do not forget his hot bod. When he first appears in the book, I said a silent thank you to whoever had recommended the trilogy to me in the GoodReads discussion thread "What are other fictional males similar to Warner?" So by any chance, if you are reading my review right now: you rock.

Back to the first book, it was okay. It wasn't excellent or anything, but the scattered appearances of Julian spurs me to read on. I found that I dislike Jenny. I mean what drugs were you on gurlll??! Who the fuck turns down such a guy as Julian?! He loves her and knows that she deserves someone better than that scumbag who is her boyfriend and who obviously takes her for granted, has a trust issue and inhibits an inferiority complex. Jullian obviously would do anything to have Jenny (but I wouldn't say that he's very smart in his method of demonstrating it). Seriously, if a guy -who dares half as much what Julian dares for Jenny's love- admits his love for me. You bet that I will jump onto a carriage with him and disappear into the sunset, never to be bothered again by trivial matters such as school and maths exam and universities. No, I'm kidding, a girl gotta have priorities, mine is education and clothes. But still, I won't react like how Jenny does- whose ego is too big that it barricades her better judgment even when subconsciously she knows that Julian would be good for her and she would be good for him.

Alright, that's a lot of ranting (but I did warn you). Let's move onto the second installment The Hunt.
It was blah blah blah and more blah blah blah. Now, if it wasn't for Julian, I wouldn't bother to keep reading. Seriously, the book was a bored. I found myself skipping pages and only stopped to read the part where Jullian is mentioned. The things I did for you, Julian.

Now let us move onto the final book The Kill (the title is a foreshadow btw). Be warned that there are profanities ahead.

Alright, first of all WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCKETY FUCK??????
FUCK YOU JULIAN (literally)

The ending was just... I cried. Okay? I cried. Julian, Jenny doesn't deserve you

But that's the thing with loving villains, 9 out of 10 times you don't see them have a happy ending. Honestly, I don't even need a And they lived happily ever after, all I ask for is a .


And this is for you, Jenny:

Since you had chosen that cunt Tom over Julian and indirectly caused his death when you could have saved Julian from what happened, I hope you live a long and ordinary life. I hope that you and Tom get married. I hope that when Tom is complaining about how much work he has to do to feed you and your ten hungry children, you would remember a boy named Julian who promised to give you the Sun. I hope that when you catch Tom with another woman on your bed, you would remember a foolish lovesick boy who vowed to make you his Queen- his equal. I hope that you remember. I hope you realize what you could have had, what you had done to make it all impossible. I hope you're happy now.
Profile Image for Sarah.
347 reviews55 followers
November 18, 2014
The Hunter: This one probably had the best-organized plot, and a cool concept. Yes, I've seen movies where characters get sucked into boardgames, but nothing quite like this. This was scary and cool at the same time. L.J. Smith thrust her characters into all kinds of literal fears (Aliens, myths, sci-fi monsters...) and physiological fears (insanity, remembering...), and did a great job at it. As far as characters go, I really liked Jenny. Sure, I didn't think I'd like her at the beginning, but L.J. Smith proved me wrong. Much like the Vampire Diaries, the reader isn't supposed to particularly like Jenny in the beginning, but Jenny changes over the course of the novel. Smith has the undeniable talent to start with someone shallow and change her into someone better. I also really, really liked Dee, I liked Zach, Summer, Audrey, and Michael, and I liked Tom. In this book, I didn't see the appeal in Julian. Yes, he was dark and alluring, but he was also trying to kill them. But, judging by the good things I'd heard about this trilogy, I had high hopes for Jenny and Julian's interactions in the other books.

The Chase: This one scared the living daylights out of me at some points, because I was reading it in a silent house in the middle of the night (probably my own fault, but I couldn't stop reading). I kept expecting to get phone calls with someone whispering creepy things on the other end, or to start seeing things in the shadows. But, I did love this book. I really, really liked Jenny, because she'd changed into a better person, and I rode her emotions and fears as the book went along. I liked Dee, Audrey, Michael, and Zach better in this one too (maybe because I saw more of them), and I loveloveloved Tom. He'd changed too, and for the better. And, I finally saw the appeal in Julian. He was frightening, but had something underneath that was drawing Jenny (and me, for that matter) to him. The thing I probably liked most of all about The Chase was that it didn't suffer from middle-of-a-trilogy syndrome, like so many others have. It had a set plot (which so many middle-of-a-trilogies are missing), and the plot could stand on it's own if it had to.
Also, I don't think I'll ever look at nursery rhymes the same way again.

The Kill: Amazing. The best of them, which is so awesome because it ended on such a high note. And a lot of things I had been hoping to see (P.C. and Slug, Jenny's Grandfather, the other Shadow Men) were in this one. The characters grew even more (it's amazing that L.J. Smith still had her characters improving right up until the end). I liked Jenny even more, I loved Tom, and Julian. I was upset at the end, but it was the perfect end to the trilogy. It really couldn't have ended any other way.

But I wonder, will Julian be back?

Overall: I would say more, but I don't want to give anything more away. I could blabber on and on for hours about this book, and how brilliant it was. Did it scare the living daylights out of me at some points? Yes. Should you read it? Absolutely. It's a trilogy about games that can mess with your head, and your life. One interesting thing, I just realized, is that this is the first L.J. Smith book (that I've read) where it's another world altogether. Night World, Vampire Diaries, and Dark Visions were all paranormal/sci-fi things happening in a normal world, but in this one she took her characters and dropped them down in a world so much scarier than that. Surprisingly (because I usually don't enjoy being freaked out), I loved it. A must-read, especially for L.J. Smith fans. But I do warn you about loosing sleep to keep reading.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Aileen.
46 reviews12 followers
December 2, 2010
Jenny Thornton starts out being the typical YA heroine: magnetic, beautiful, and universally adored. If she giggled more, she might be Cher Horowitz. She has a jock boyfriend and a group of friends that could be models for a Gap ad. She throws a party for her boyfriend and buys a game from a beautiful, alien-like boy named Julian. As you may guess, Julian is a supernatural who is madly, deeply, insanely in love with her and has been since she was a child.

All of this may seem off-putting, but ignore that. I grew up reading the L.J. Smith collected works, and this is (by far) my favorite. Maybe because I read it with a good soundtrack on my Discman, but it stayed with me.

Jenny toes the line of being a perfect character. She is the glue that holds her group together and the peacemaker. Others tend to describe her in superlatives (prettiest, most popular, nicest, etc.), but Smith does well to bring her down with the rest of us.

Her conflict between her boyfriend, Tommy, and the compelling Julian is believable. It's like Twilight where the girl DOESN'T want to fall desperately in love with the weirdo supernatural kid and fights as hard as she can against it. It's good because she's better as a character in that she doesn't focus or rely on the boys in her predicament. Tommy and Julian try hard to be the reason for compelling her actions, and they fail. Jenny is at her best when she is on her own.

The plot itself is interesting in its inventiveness. Julian is able to recreate each character's worst nightmare, and the cultural/literary references behind them are awesome (oh Hi there, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle). I also enjoy when the action moves to Pittsburgh, my hometown.

If your interested is piqued by the Vampire Diaries, or the supernatural trend in general, I'd recommend giving this trio a try.
Profile Image for Jane Igharo.
Author 4 books742 followers
June 20, 2020
The concept of this book seemed interesting - not really my style but I was willing to give it a try based on reviews. However, I couldn't finish the book. I stopped somewhere before page 100. I really didn't appreciate the manner in which the author chose to describe the three black characters she had in her book. I was willing to forgive the first two but I soon lost my patience.

While the author didn't describe the skin tone of the white characters, she felt it necessary to constantly describe the skin colour of each black character - we get it they're black!!! Plus the way she chose to describe them was rather offensive to me and absolutely ridiculous. Here are a few examples.

"She was as beautiful as an African priestess" page 25 CANT SHE JUST BE BEAUTIFUL?! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO RELATE THE TWO?

"Dees teeth flashes white in her night-dark face" pg 27 NIGHT-DARK!!?! REALLY!?

"She looked strained and stern but very beautiful like a statue carved out of ebony" pg 77 ROLLING MY EYES!

"the room behind the door had golden-ocher walls. On one of them an African mask hung in primitive glory." Pg 79 PRIMITIVE???!

"Dee's perfect profile was tilted up towards the white spotlight above, looking exactly like an Egyptian carving." Pg 85

Seeing that I didn't reach pg 100, I'm sure that the book is filled with more of these ridiculous descriptions of black characters. I'm not sure why she chose to say the African mask was hanging in primitive glory. Could have just said the African mask was crafty or beautiful.

I wanted to forgive the author's ignorance because the book was originally published in the 90s and mindsets were different back then but I was reading the recently released version and it still had all that crap. It obviously needs to be re-edited because it's absolute nonsense and I'm surprised no has made these comments.

Anyways it might be a great book but I was too offended to carry on.

Profile Image for Usagi77777772003.
76 reviews13 followers
December 9, 2015
There is a reason why L.J. Smith was my favorite author growing up, esp. when it came to romance. She's what got me into the whole "villain falling for heroine" plotline. Really, this author knows how to write a sexy villain fixating over the heroine without turning him into a wimp.

So many other books attempt this idea and fail: Oftentimes, the "villain" is really a misguided hero and not all that bad.

Julian, up to the end of the trilogy, really is the main antagonist of this story and the fact that he happens to love Jenny so much makes him a rarity. I can't think of many books back in the 90s where the main villain's motive was to make the heroine stay with him forever instead of trying to take over the world. As a hopeless romantic, a well-written book with this theme is a godsend!

My two favorite scenes were when Julian impersonated as Jenny's cousin to trick her into making out with him and his heart-wrenching confession to her about his feelings in the third book. His love pained me so much that upon finishing the trilogy, I fell in love with the name, "Julian." I love the name because of this character -sexy doesn't even begin to describe him.
Profile Image for Shea.
3 reviews
February 6, 2011
my life is complete now that i have read this book.
My absolute favorite character was Julian, he brought an essence of scariness but hotness to it all.
Hated tom, and i wanted to slap Jenny every time she thought about him.
I bawled so freaking hard at the end of the book, (my mascara was running)
I wish Julian and Jenny could have been together.
This is my all time favorite book!
Profile Image for MHC.
384 reviews26 followers
August 21, 2017
Dang this was my JAM back in the day! Julian was hands down the best psycho/hero/villain/love interest teen fiction had to offer, and my younger self lapped it up. Really, is there even another character that can hold a flame next to him? (Maybe....just MAYBE Keiran from Fear Me, although he did piss me off sometimes).
Profile Image for Diana Braxton.
344 reviews
June 10, 2019
I don't know what there is to say except that L.J. Smith's works have aged amazingly well.

If you want high quality YA trash romance, she is the author to go to.
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