Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Available On: Amazon (I’ve linked to the reprint omnibus of the series here, my copies are the original Point Horrors, which you can still get second hand if you want that nostalgic feel!)

L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game trilogy culminates in The Kill, a gripping tale that merges the surreal landscapes of a nightmarish dream with the tangible emotions of love, fear, and hope.

Set against the backdrop of a shadow world, Smith doesn’t merely craft an environment; she sculpts an entire universe. The shadow realm is palpable, haunting, and as unpredictable as the game’s master, Julian. As Jenny and her friends traverse this intricate world, each challenge they face is not just a physical or mental trial but also a deep, emotional confrontation. These trials provide readers with a richer understanding of each character’s psyche, revealing insecurities, past traumas, and hidden desires.

The exploration of love remains central to the story. While many young adult novels delve into romantic love triangles, Smith’s approach is unique. Jenny’s feelings for Julian are tangled in a web of intrigue, danger, and genuine affection. It’s an attraction born from the thrill of the forbidden, juxtaposed against the familiar warmth and history she shares with Tom. This dynamic keeps readers teetering on the edge, questioning where alliances should lie.

Julian’s character is the crowning jewel of the series. Smith moves beyond the trope of the enigmatic anti-hero to create a multi-dimensional character. His motivations oscillate between possessiveness, love, and a desperate need for belonging. While he’s the orchestrator of the dangerous games, there are moments of vulnerability that humanise him, evoking empathy and making him one of the most memorable characters in young adult literature.

Furthermore, the thematic elements Smith incorporates resonate deeply. The narrative touches upon the idea of confronting one’s inner demons, understanding the dual nature of humanity, and the grey areas that lie between love and obsession. The philosophical undercurrents of the story give readers ample material for introspection.

If there’s any critique to offer, it might be that the pacing occasionally feels rushed, especially as the trilogy reaches its climax. Certain resolutions could benefit from being more drawn out, allowing for a deeper emotional payoff.

The Kill is a masterclass in storytelling. L.J. Smith has not just penned a tale but crafted a masterpiece that melds the supernatural with profound human emotions. A captivating read, it’s a fitting finale to a series that has consistently delivered on all fronts.

How L.J. Smith Perfected The Enemies To Lovers Trope

A romance trope that has gained immense popularity in literature, especially within the young adult genre, is the enemies to lovers dynamic. It’s a theme that draws readers in with its magnetic pull, feeding off the tension and electricity between two characters. In The Kill, L.J. Smith not only utilises this trope but elevates it to new heights.

From the outset of the trilogy, Jenny’s relationship with Julian is framed as antagonistic. He’s the dangerous game master, orchestrating challenges that threaten Jenny and her loved ones. Julian’s allure is dark and unpredictable. Every move he makes, even if it’s driven by his infatuation for Jenny, pushes her into perilous situations. This setup is the quintessential ‘enemy’ foundation.

However, as the narrative unfolds, so does Julian’s character. While many stories that employ this trope often rely on misunderstandings or external factors to create the initial enmity, The Kill digs deeper. The animosity between Julian and Jenny is real and tangible, born from genuine threats and emotional manipulation.

Yet, it’s the gradual unveiling of Julian’s layers that sets this story apart. Beneath the veneer of the antagonist lies a character riddled with complexities. His actions, while inexcusable, stem from a profound sense of loneliness and a desperate yearning for connection. Jenny, initially his captive in a twisted game, becomes the object of this yearning. Her strength, compassion, and resilience captivate him.

The transformation of their relationship is organic. It’s not a hasty switch triggered by a single event. Instead, it’s a series of shared experiences, dangerous encounters, and emotional revelations that shift the dynamics. Moments of vulnerability, especially from Julian, act as turning points. They challenge Jenny’s perceptions and force her to see beyond the game master facade.

By the time genuine affection blooms between the two, readers are invested. The journey from adversaries to potential lovers feels earned. It’s a dance of push and pull, underscored by a potent mix of fear, intrigue, and genuine connection. This intricate and authentic portrayal makes their relationship one of the most compelling iterations of the enemies to lovers trope.

What Genre Is The Kill?

The Kill and the entire The Forbidden Game trilogy  by L.J. Smith falls under the Young Adult (YA) banner, in general. Within this broader category, the series blends elements of supernatural fantasy, romance, and horror. The presence of a mysterious game master, shadow worlds, challenges based on personal fears, and romantic tensions place the trilogy at the intersection of these sub-genres, providing a multi-dimensional reading experience for fans of supernatural tales and romantic dramas alike.

How Spicy Is The Novel?

Spice Rating: 🌶️🌶️

There are elements of romantic tension and attraction, especially between Jenny and Julian throughout the novel (and the whole series). However, it’s important to note that while there’s undeniable chemistry and emotional depth, the series is written for a Young Adult (YA) audience. So any spicy moments are typically more suggestive or emotionally charged than explicitly graphic.

L.J. Smith effectively uses tension, suspense, and emotional depth to build the romance and attraction in her novels, ensuring that they’re suitable for the intended age group. The spiciness in the novel is more about the emotional and psychological tension between characters rather than detailed romantic or physical interludes. On the spiciness scale it’s a 2, at most. The series leans more towards emotional tension and suggestive moments rather than explicit romantic content. 

What Romance Tropes Are in The Book?

Trope Count: 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

The Forbidden Game trilogy, and especially The Kill is rich in its exploration of various romantic tropes in addition to the enemies to lovers dynamic. Here are some other notable romance tropes present in the series:

Love Triangle

Jenny’s feelings for both Tom and Julian create a classic love triangle. Tom represents safety, familiarity, and shared history, while Julian offers danger, intrigue, and an undeniable pull.

Captivity Romance

Julian’s role as the game master and his initial capture of Jenny and her friends puts a twist on this trope. Jenny’s interactions with Julian are initially against her will, but over time, a complex relationship develops between them.

Forbidden Love

Julian’s nature and intentions make any feelings Jenny might have for him inherently dangerous and taboo. This adds layers of tension and allure to their relationship.

Protective Lover

Both Tom and Julian, in their own ways, show a strong desire to protect Jenny. Tom’s protection stems from his love and history with Jenny, while Julian’s protective instincts often blur with his possessiveness.

Star-Crossed Lovers

The relationship between Jenny and Julian is filled with obstacles, from Julian’s role as the game master to the inherent dangers of the shadow world. Their relationship is fraught with challenges, making their moments of connection even more poignant.

The Reformed Bad Boy

As the series progresses, Julian’s character undergoes significant development. While he doesn’t become a typical ‘hero’, there are moments of vulnerability and depth that hint at a potential for change or redemption, especially in his interactions with Jenny.

These tropes, combined with Smith’s deft storytelling, create a rich tapestry of romance and tension throughout the trilogy. The nuanced portrayal of each trope adds depth and layers to the narrative, making it a compelling read for fans of romantic fantasy.