Forbidden Game by L J Smith

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Forbidden Game by L J Smith

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: L J Smith's new rerelease trilogy actually surpasses her incredible Dark Visions collection. The hugely entertaining story here will enthrall readers and give them goosebumps and thrills in equal measure. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 768 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1847387387

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While looking for a game to play for her boyfriend's birthday, Jenny Thorn comes across a strange shop she's never seen before. Going in, she talks to a handsome boy who sells her a mysterious game in a plain box. But when she and her friends open the game to play it, they're transported to a world where the boy is the Shadow Man, and the consequence of losing the game can be deadly. The group of teens are left fighting against their worst nightmares as they try to defeat the sinister Shadow Man and escape – but when some of them finally do get out, they realise that it's just the beginning of the nightmare for them.

There are mildly frightening books and there are really frightening books – this is neither. This is absolutely, mind-bendingly, heart-stoppingly, terrifying. The opening few chapters build the tension up to an incredible high, to the point where when the teens finally realise they're trapped in the menacing Shadow World it's almost a relief that they're finally able to figure out there's something wrong – at least until the nightmares start happening.

Jenny's a great central character, and I love the interplay between the group and the friendship that comes across, just as I did in Smith's Dark Visions. The most strongly written person though, is Julian, the Shadow Man himself, particularly in the second and third books, as he develops from a fairly standard villain to an extremely interesting personality. Similarly, Jenny's boyfriend Tom really changes as the books go on, as does her relationship with him as she realises that Julian wants her for a lover.

I love Smith's writing style – it's fast paced and action packed, but surprisingly deep at times, with the books drawing on lots of references to mythology of various cultures, particularly in the first of the trilogy as the friends face Julian's minions, who appear as dark elves from Germany, aliens, and other creatures. Her dialogue is also fantastic, especially the interplay between Jenny's friends Dee and Audrey, whose initial rivalry changes as the game goes on and they're forced to rely on each other at times.

Overall this would be a definite recommendation even if all three books were being sold separately at full price – considering how much value for money the edition offers just adds to the reasons to run out and buy it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading: Fans of this book would be well advised to seek out Elizabeth Chandler's brilliant Dark Secrets series, which also feature strong heroines in a similar mould to Jenny and some scary situations.

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