Written By: L.J. Smith
The Forbidden Game is another popular series by The Vampire Diaries author, L.J. Smith. I have to say it took me awhile to get in to The Hunter, the first novel in the series. The first 50 pages I was mostly disinterested, but wanted to give the book a chance. The biggest issue that held the beginning back were the characters. I didn’t dislike any of them, but most of them seemed kind of bland at first glance. I wasn’t sure if I really felt for them or could experience the story through their eyes the way I should. Once it got in to the game itself and the supernatural element kicked in, it became much more intriguing and exciting.
A young kind-hearted teenage girl, Jenny, buys a mysterious game from Julian, a painfully beautiful guy with the deepest blue eyes she has ever seen. The game is simply a white blank box, she really has no idea what it holds. Jenny’s having a party for her long time boyfriend, Tom, and all of their friends are eager to play the game. Jenny agrees even though she has a horrible feeling that it will only bring trouble.
Of course, she’s right. They all agree that they know the game is real and are putting their lives at risk by playing even though they don‘t truly believe this. Once they begin playing they are transformed in to the game itself. Each person has to face their worst nightmare. If they can get through each one they will be able to go back home, but if they die in the game they die in real life. There’s a time limit and if they don’t get through it in time they’ll be stranded in this house for eternity.
Julian is the shadow man, the one in control of this entirely different physical world. The shadow men are described as the worst of all monsters; vampires, werewolves, even evil elves (which are featured in one of the nightmares) being nothing but happy fairy tales in comparison. Julian fell in love with Jenny some time ago and has been studying her and her friends for years. He has set out to make her his for all eternity, whether she comes willingly or not. If she doesn’t win the game she is stuck with the shadow man that she believes to be the devil himself.
There is a good comtrast of good and evil between Jenny and Julian. Even to her friends, Jenny is really viewed as the vision of all that is good and pure. Julian is the exact opposite; evil itself. He sees glee in others pain and suffering, he is enticed by seeing his trickery played out, and he is possessive and self-righteous enough to believe that Jenny belongs to him no matter what she says about it. Jenny is overwhelmingly attracted to him and even in his most sinister and hurtful moments she has to remind herself of what he is, constantly fighting against the temptation. Julian longs for every hesitation, every moment he can steal away from her, not only because he knows he’s getting closer but because he has an irresistible power over her. The real significance in the opposite nature of their relationship is showing that nothing is completely black or white. Julian is supposed to be pure evil and while he does essentially torture the woman he claims to love so much, he still can’t bare the thought of something happening to her even if it means he can exert his power. Likewise, Jenny embodies fierceness in her, showing that she can play Julian’s game; possibly even better than him.
From the beginning I could tell Julian was going to be an enticing and thrilling character. While it took me longer to warm up to Jenny she proves to be very dynamic, determined, and intelligent, often exiting horrendous situations and beating the nightmares because she thinks her way out of it, figuring out how to face them head on. One of Jenny’s friends, Dee, was probably the strongest character aside from Julian. She is strong-willed, never giving up no matter the circumstances. Her attitude and drive is what keeps them going in many cases. Not all of the characters are strong. Most are well enough put together that they work, but the boyfriend, Tom, was probably one of the weakest. There’s not all that much to him and it makes it hard to believe that there is this love so strong between Jenny and him. Although, that probably only helps the reader wonder about what might happen if she were to give in to Julian.
What really drew me to the book was experimenting with the nightmare world. A Nightmare On Elm Street being my favorite movie, it’s no surprise that the line of fiction and reality represented in living out ones nightmares when it’s no longer “just a dream”, would attract me to it. Of course, the game itself is another line of fiction and reality connected to the nightmare world. Considering how disturbing ones worst nightmare can be, not only having to live through them and feel the pain that is inflicted on you, but also to face them head on, can be something hard to wrap your mind around. The nightmares were inventive, extremely diverse, and threw us in to a completely chilling environment. Through the nightmares we also got to know the characters, the varying things that scare people and how something so little can escalate in your mind and become the most terrifying thing imaginable. Everything that appears to them in the game, comes from their own mind subconsciously, their inner most thought used against them.