The Forbidden Game Trilogy: The Chase

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet read book one (The Hunter), grab your copy and get reading…

What’s going on?

We left Jenny and her friends, at the end of book one, missing a paper house, a friend and a certain promise ring. After confining Julian with a rune of constraint behind a door in his own game, they escape back into the real world, only to have the paper house stolen. The two guys who were following Jenny at the start of the book are under the Game’s spell, and they break into her house and make off with it.

The search for Summer, who died during the Game, begins. Jenny and her friends go back to school, and seem to be falling prey to strange hallucinations.

Eventually, they find the paper house – exploded as if something has burst out of it. The guys who stole the house have played their own Game, and they lost… after freeing Julian from his prison. Now he’s trying to hold Jenny to her oath: “All I refuse and thee I choose.”

Jenny agrees to play a new game: Lambs and Monsters. What she doesn’t realise until afterward is that everyone who survived the paper house is a player: Jenny, Tom, Dee, Michael, Audrey and Zach, against Julian the Shadow Man and his supernatural assistants, the Creeper and the Lurker.

Jenny and her friends have to find Julian’s ‘base’ before all the ‘lambs’ are captured, or Jenny will belong to him forever.

Why does it rock?

The thing I love about these books is that the characters grow and change because of what they’ve experienced. Tom is insecure about his future with Jenny, after seeing her reaction to Julian. Zach, a keen photographer, gets artist’s block on his return from the Game. Jenny herself is stronger and more confident, and attracts the unwanted, admiring attention of the school’s quarterback as a result.

The second game is set in the real world, and is possibly creepier than the first one because of it. Being hunted at school, at home or out on the street is far more chilling than being hunted in a fantasy world.

Julian plays by the rules, giving them obscure clues before abducting each ‘lamb’, but the advantage is on his side. The ways in which each of Jenny’s friends are captured are suited to each of them, which makes each loss more distressing to Jenny and to the reader.

This is just as fast-paced and intriguing a read as the first book, if not better. The Creeper and the Lurker were barely featured in The Hunter, but LJ Smith more than makes up for that here. And Julian is still seductively, ethereally cruel. Fans of sexy supernatural beings won’t be disappointed, and fans of traditional terror will be more than happy, too!

The Chase (The Forbidden Game Vol. 2) – L. J. Smith

Paperback, 768 pages (Trilogy)

June 8, 2010, by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

  • ISBN-10: 1416989404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416989400

  • This trilogy was first published in 1994, as part of the hugely successful Point Horror series of young adult horror fiction. I read it just after it came out – I was ten or eleven years old at the time. Perhaps for that reason, this is one of my favourite YA books.

    Whether or not nostalgia gives me rose-tinted glasses, I have no idea. What I do know is that this first book still manages to be far more original and exciting than most of the recent releases I’ve read, and it’s now seventeen years old!

    The Plot

    Jenny Thornton stumbles across a games store on the seedy side of town, while looking for something to keep guests occupied at her boyfriend’s birthday party. She buys a mysterious game in a plain white box from an enigmatic stranger, feeling drawn to it in a way she can’t explain.

    When she and her friends gather to play the game, it turns out to be a paper house. Once it’s constructed, each player colours in a paper doll to represent his- or herself, and draws their worst nightmare on a piece of paper, placing them in different rooms of the house. When they begin to play the game, however, they’re sucked into a nightmarish house that’s definitely not made of paper…

    Jenny and her friends must face their worst nightmares in order to get to the exit at the top of the house. Its occupant, the boy from the games store who sold Jenny the game, is actually a Shadow Man, and he wants Jenny. If they don’t reach the top of the house by dawn, they’ll all have to stay with Julian forever. And if you die in the game, you die for real.

    The Characters

    While Jenny is your classic innocent heroine, with a boyfriend she plans to marry one day and a complete lack of understanding of the effect she has on men, her friends are a lot more vivid and interesting.

    Audrey has moved all around the world with her diplomat father, and she has grown up in many cultures and learned many languages. As a result, she appears cosmopolitan and sophisticated, fashion-conscious and sexy. As her fear consumes her, we see behind the mask.

    Dee is an African-American athlete, skilled in kung fu and a lover of horror movies. She’s Jenny’s closest and oldest friend, and often serves as a grounding force for her.

    Michael is laid back, scruffy and the most prone to fear of the guys, and somehow he and Audrey are a couple. The unconventional relationship seems superficial at face value, but as time goes on we see that it’s deeper than it seems.

    Summer is the girl everyone wants to care for – petite, blonde and fragile. Jenny is protective of her, and Summer depends on her for her support, inside the Game and out.

    Zachary is Jenny’s cousin, a distant type with a strong artistic streak. Jenny often muses that he cares more for his photography than he does for people.

    Tom is Jenny’s boyfriend – the tall, dark and handsome jock. Jenny adores him, but as she progresses through the Game, Julian the Shadow Man is a constant barrier between she and Tom.

    As for Julian, the white-haired, blue-eyed Shadow Man… well, that would be telling! You’ll have to read to find out exactly how he and Jenny clash… and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be rooting for Jenny to go back to boring Tom by the end of the book!

    L.J. Smith The Forbidden Game Trilogy Vol. 1 “The Hunter”

    Paperback, 240 pages

    March1 , 1994 by Simon Pulse

  • ISBN-10: 0671874519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671874513

  • Amy Says

    Just in case you’re coming to this review without having read the previous two books in the Midnighters series, this is going to be pretty heavy on the spoilers for The Secret Hour and Touching Darkness. You have been warned!

    This is the fast-paced finale to the Midnighters trilogy, and it lives up to the first two books. The whole story arc takes place within a few months, but by book three, there’s a marked difference in every one of the characters compared to book one. By Blue Noon, the stakes are a lot higher than they were in The Secret Hour.

    So what’s the premise of this final chapter? Toward the start, the ‘blue time’ that marks the twenty-fifth hour descends… during first period at the high school. The whole school is frozen, and only Jessica, Jonathan, Dess, Melissa and Rex are able to move.

    Needless to say, this is a little unprecedented. The blue time doesn’t last a full hour, but during that brief period, the usual midnighter laws of physics apply – everything else stops moving, the darklings wake up, and Jonathan is no longer subject to normal gravity.

    Once the world goes back to normal, the midnighters realise that a regular human was sucked into the blue time… and their problems are only just beginning.

    Blue Noon turns the established laws of Westerfeld’s universe upside down. We as readers have no idea what’s going on, because neither do the midnighters. It’s also hard to predict the way some of them will behave.

    Jonathan almost seems to welcome the changes – he relishes his ability to fly, and any extra flying time is worth the extra darkling risk. This puts a strain on his relationship with Jessica, who has her own problems to deal with – her little sister, Beth, is close to finding out the truth about the twenty-fifth hour.

    Melissa is working on her mindcasting skills with Madeleine, the midnighter who’s been hiding in Bixby for her entire life, discovered by Dess during Touching Darkness. She’s arguably the most sane and stable midnighter now, a sharp reversal of her role in The Secret Hour.

    Rex, on the other hand, is having trouble with his darkling side. Now that he has an aversion to the number thirteen, modern technology and alloys, life as a midnighter is a little difficult. He also has trouble keeping his dark, predatory instincts in check – but in certain ways, he’s still Rex.

    As for Dess, her polymath powers really kick into gear in this instalment, and it’s down to her calculations that the midnighters come up with a plan to save the innocent citizens of Bixby. Jessica’s power as the light-bringer is also instrumental… with devastating consequences.

    I found myself skipping paragraphs during the final race against time – not because I was bored, because I was impatient to see what was going to happen. Maybe that makes me a book-nerd, but mostly I just think it makes Westerfeld an amazing writer. Once I knew that the world wasn’t going to end, then I went back and read the parts I’d skipped again… and they were great.

    I can’t recommend this series strongly enough. YA fiction is alive and well, thanks to some much-needed Westerfeld CPR. I have no idea what his other YA books are like, but I’m going to give them a shot!

    Blue Noon – Scott Westerfeld

    28 February, 2006 by HarperTeen

    Paperback, 384 pages

  • ISBN-10: 0060519576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060519575

  • A lot of the time, the second book in a trilogy has a tendency to stagnate. That’s not the case here – the second book in the Midnighters series speeds along nicely, throwing the spotlight on Melissa, Rex and Dess rather than Jessica and Jonathan.

    Of all the midnighter talents, Melissa’s mindcasting is the most intriguing. Throughout the first book, The Secret Hour, Melissa needs to wear headphones during the school day to avoid being driven completely insane by the babble of minds she’s unable to shut out. The second book sees her begin to work on this, and her relationship with Rex develops as a result.

    Dess, meanwhile, has found her father’s GPS coordinate-recording device, and using her polymath skills she discovers another midnighter – one older, wiser and more fearful than the five main characters.

    Jessica’s main issue in the second book is one common to a lot of YA readers – her little sister, Beth, is becoming more and more suspicious of Jessica’s after-dark antics. This goes on to become a major problem in the last book of the trilogy, but for now it’s just an amusing look at the irritation caused by younger siblings.

    Jessica’s sister isn’t the only family member we meet – it’s revealed that Rex’s father is very mentally handicapped as a result of an ‘accident’. We don’t learn for quite a while what that accident was, but it turns out to be another intriguing facet to the midnighters’ world.

    The main plot of Touching Darkness revolves around Rex. After Jonathan and Jessica notice a man frozen at midnight, in the middle of taking photographs of her bedroom window, Rex utilises Melissa’s mindcasting powers to track him down. They discover that the darklings are communicating with certain humans by use of the runes used in midnighter lore – the runes that Rex, as a seer, knows how to read.

    The story takes a very dark turn, and one that I inadvertently spoiled myself for, while double-checking something for my review of the first book on Wikipedia (damn you, all-knowing Internet!). Even so, when I got to that part of the book, it prompted me to say aloud, “Dude, that’s awesome!” Yes. I was talking to a book. And yes, I’m English, and therefore should never say the word ‘dude’. And potentially not ‘awesome’, either. Anyway… I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s not something your average midnighter would be happy witnessing or experiencing…

    The involvement of normal humans in the secrets of the twenty-fifth hour didn’t seem at first to be too threatening. When that hour falls, every non-midnighter human is frozen solid and unaware of what’s going on, after all. However, when you take into account that the darklings are using the humans to reach the midnighters in ‘normal’ time, things get a little more serious. And when Rex is kidnapped, things get very serious indeed.

    I mentioned in my review of the first book that I was a bit underwhelmed by Jessica’s unique midnighter talent. It seems to make a bit more sense in Touching Darkness, and comes in useful when it comes to rescuing Rex, but it still feels a little lacking. Having already finished the third book, I can tell you to keep suspending that disbelief, though. The payoff is worth it.

    Touching Darkness – Scott Westerfeld

    1 March, 2005, by Harper Teen

    Paperback, 336 Pages

  • ISBN-10: 190423383X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904233831

  • 5) Malinda Lo – Ash

    A fresh, interesting take on the classic Cinderella fairytale.

    4) Melissa Marr – Wicked Lovely

    A deftly-spun tale of one girl’s struggle against the allure of the faerie kingdom.

    3) Michelle Zink – Prophecy of the Sisters

    A unique, compelling story of the battle of wills between two sisters, set in the late 19th century.

    2) Scott Westerfeld – The Midnighters Trilogy

    Fantastic, dark series about the twenty-fifth hour, which is only perceptible to those born at midnight.

    1) Kelley Armstrong – The Darkest Powers Trilogy

    Set in the author’s established Otherworld universe, this teen trilogy stands alone, and stands out for me as the best YA of 2010.

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