Series: #1, #2 & #3 of The Forbidden Game
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publishing date: June 8th, 2010 (first published in 1994)
Summary: To capture the love of Jenny Thorton, Julian--a visitor from a dark world--draws Jenny and her friends into forbidden games; the contest for a human soul. The prize is Jenny's freedom. The stakes are all of their lives. Jenny's friends are determined to help her win. But Julian is the master of the Game. Jenny's most desperate fight will be with him, this eerily handsome boy with electric blue eyes. He knows her deepest secrets, her darkest fears. He has almost infinite power. And the only thing he wants is for Jenny to surrender to him--body and soul.
Rating: 5 stars
Finishing this series gave me that satisfied and sad feeling you get when you close an amazing book and think "there's no more". I stumbled upon it completely randomly, and I'm so, so glad I gave it a chance. The premise seemed really intriguing and after seeing a lot of positive reviews, I decided to dive in. And what a journey.
Because that's what this trilogy is: a journey in another world made of shadows, nightmares and secrets. The first book's atmosphere is secretive, sensual and creepy. Smith's prose is really good, not in an obvious way like Laini Taylor's, but more subtly, like a story that creeps under your skin and makes you remember the monsters and uncertainties of your childhood. Book after book, the author weaves a fast-paced plot packed with adventure and mystery, with a side of delicious romance and heart-warming friendship.
About the main love interest: I don't want to give away too much, but I thought the romance was very, very well done. Smith somehow manages to make us both hate and root for Julian, while still keeping a healthy and lovable boyfriend. No weak alternative here. Oh, and Julian... Sigh. He's both irresistible and impossible, with this dark, calculating edge tinged with softness and a hint of something not quite good, but promising. It draws you in and leaves you begging for more. He's a very well-developed character and I'm really happy we got to know more about him and his side of the story in book 3.
Also, I adore the female lead. She's not particularly strong at the beginning of the book, but she's not the weak damsel in distress type by any means. You watch her blossom and evolve during the whole story and it's a beautiful thing. She's so relatable and lovely and she has this little something, this innocent brightness about her... I can completely understand what Julian/Tom/everyone sees in her. I want her to be my best friend. Someone point her to me in real life, please (this is the moment you can tell Lamia has lost her mind, which is further proven by the fact that she's talking about herself in the third person).
While this trilogy is mainly about paranormal adventures, it's also a very good coming of age story. Every character has their own traits and are useful to the storyline. I know each and every one of them, which is definitely not something I can say for most YA series (empty best friend syndrome, anyone?). As the plot moves along, you witness the characters getting closer, falling apart and putting themselves back together again. You get more insight into their personality and as relationships are made and unmade, you watch them grow and mature, and close the last book with a satisfied sigh and a sense of pride. You feel close to them. It's wonderful. This book is amazing, plain and simple.
In case you couldn't tell, I'd highly recommend this trilogy to anyone. It's a page-turner and all the books are short and succinct, very easy to read. What are you waiting for?