Recap #108: The Forbidden Game #3: The Kill by LJ Smith
L.J. Smith, who finally ditched the ridiculous descriptions and probably realized what she did with Dee in the last book was a bit much so she toned it down a ton in THE KILL. The othering is still there, but it’s minimal in comparison. [Wing: Third time’s the charm, I guess.]
It was Julian’s last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton’s boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: “If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there’s the devil to pay.”
Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee have burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They’re lost in an amusement park nightmare, at Julian’s mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny’s only clue it a gold coin, Julian’s gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride . . .
At this point the kids are like, “Best of seven?” And Julian’s like
Because dude. You lost twice already. Just take your toys and go home.
A little bit in Jenny’s grandfather’s house but mostly in an amusement park of nightmares. BE STILL MY HEART. [Wing: I am so damn excited. Best location yet.]
And then there were four. And Julian.
Jenny – Who’s gone all BAMF and isn’t taking shit lying down and is [mostly] not having any of Julian’s crap and GODDAMNIT GIVE HER BACK HER MENS.
Dee – Who has largely stopped being othered (largely) but her personality changes pretty heavily in this book. I guess the amusement park really gets to her.
Audrey – Is basically looking like a crisped out Tri Pi from Sorority Boys hanging out in a life raft at this point. She’s frazzled, unkempt, and so incredibly over this shit.
Michael – Still a useless coward and I’m not even really sure what he’s doing in the story. He’s effectively dead weight.
Julian – Also looking like a haggard Tri Pi because Jenny’s beaten his ass twice and he doesn’t know when to fuck right on off.
Tom and Zach don’t show up until the end and as if you couldn’t see it coming, Summer shows up too.
The book starts off with Audrey having her spiky lashes, Dee looking like Nefertiti (and also a night princess, not sure WTF that is), and Jenny describing herself looking at her reflection in a window and she has her hair the color of honey in sunlight again. Smith pretty much gets this out of the way in the beginning, thank god. Because we don’t really come back to these horrid descriptions again.
The paragraph summarizing the last two books is rather awkward but less so than in the last book at least. Jenny thinks a lot to herself while on the plane about the brief note she left for her parents and what she could have written, the could-have-written being the summary of the last two books. Jenny, considering it’s the story you told the police, your parents should expect the ridiculous truth. Your dad may want to test you for acid again, though.
I guess the way they all funded their trip back east to get to Jenny’s grandfather’s house to get into the Shadow World was by stealing their parents ATM cards and skimming $200 a day from them. I get there was no internet and people weren’t monitoring their accounts then like they do now, but shouldn’t someone at the bank have notified the cardholders of this kind of activity? Seems like it should have sent up some kind of red flag or something.
But their plan was to skim this money from their parents and buy tickets to Pittsburgh and get to Jenny’s grandfather’s house, the only place she knows with a door to the Shadow World. I mean not a bad idea but it seems like they probably shouldn’t have gotten as far as they did. But what do I know?
Dee, Audrey, Michael, and Jenny are on the plane and they all pass out at the same time and wake up at the same time, all having some kind of Julian dream. Then the plane drops due to turbulence, a number of buttholes clench, and I imagine one of my worst fears while reading a book. Fantastic.
For all the planning Jenny did to actually get them to the house she didn’t do jack to find out anything about the house. Like whether it was even still in the family, who could be living there, who’s taking care of it. Nothing. So they wing it, practically breaking in before they see the ADT-type sign on the lawn and think better of it.
Jenny remembers the name of the caretaker so they walk a half mile or so to the local dairy bar (I’m guessing an ice cream shop? Soda fountain?) to use the phone. Turns out the woman’s out all day and it’s just past dawn so they all have some time to kill. So Jenny drags them all onto a bus to go to the local amusement park to while away the hours. [Wing: When you’ve already stolen enough money for the trip, might as well blow it having fun before you go rescue your friends.]
Enter the best setting ever. The park is run down with only a handful of updated rides so it gives off this vibe of dilapidation. Of course the place gives her the creeps the entire time she’s there and when they’re playing a fishing game Jenny ends up fishing Julian’s ring out of the water and she realizes (yet again) that he’s always watching. How could she forget this? This is literally every book and she has to be reminded she has some kind of fairy stalker on her ass.
They leave and head to the caretaker’s house to get the key, giving her some lame excuse that prompts the intelligent woman to have Jenny’s parents call her in the morning, leaving them on a short fuse to get their shit done.
So they let themselves into Jenny’s grandfather’s house and immediately set to work, rooting through all the crap he has in the basement, giving Audrey something to do with all that culture she’s collected as she points out what everything is in his creepy sorcerer’s room. Then they find the old man’s journals and start reading in shifts so they can get some sleep but keep working.
The original closet door that Jenny’s grandfather got sucked into turned out to be just an empty closet now so once they found the runes they decided to go that route and carved up the basement door itself. Jenny has a foreshadowing moment when they get to the rune Gebo and she has a feeling something bad is going to happen associated to that rune, the rune of sacrifice. What would a cheesy 90s YA horror novel be without such obvious foreshadowing?
Jenny conveniently accidentally cuts her thumb, drawing the blood they need to trace the carved runes. [Wing: Accidental blood drawing is always so convenient in 90s supernatural stories. BtVS, I’m looking at you.] Before they actually speak them, though, they go and get prepared for the journey and Jenny’s preparations are the shit. She looks like she just rolled out of a LL Bean catalogue with her boots and her fanny pack filled with provisions, including a yard of toilet paper. That just amuses me so much that she thought to bring a yard of toilet paper into the Shadow World. Because shit happens and you have to be prepared. So many people forget their toilet paper. [Wing: Jenny is the greatest.]
I also like how they’re not necessarily being off-the-handle assholes about all of this. A more common trend now especially is for characters to just run tits first into any situation without an ounce of thought about anything. While these kids kind of did that, they also planned the shit out of it. They committed identity theft to fund their trip. They actually thought about what could be on the other side of the door and prepared for it with provisions (she even has food in that pack!) and weapons and lights. It’s like someone FINALLY paid attention in Girl Scouts. Thank god.
Jenny says [the right] words, activates the runes, and turns the door into an EDM club for a second before the strobe lights fade, leaving the circle of runes turned from their original position, like a clock ticking. She reaches out to open the door and finds nothing on the other side. No stairs, no frozen wasteland. Just absolute blackness. And Jenny’s like let’s do this.
I love her “fuck with me and I’ll end you” attitude that she’s developed. The navel-gazing “how have I changed?” is gone and replaced with this cold resolve that puts her on a track with no possibility of derailment. Julian’s dragged her through the muck and the mud and now he’s fucking with her Tom and her Zach and she’s about to Hulk smash some shit to get them back. Go, Jenny!
Smith’s ability to paint a scene really shines in THE KILL. I’m a total sucker for amusement park settings anyway (and I’ve read some shit books just because they had amusement park settings, just didn’t know they were shit going into it, unfortunately), but she describes it in this sinister, dark shadows sort of way that makes me feel Julian’s eyes on the back of my neck. And the creepy abandoned lodge sort of feel at the grandfather’s house? Felt it there too. Shit getting’s really creepy and Smith’s painting a picture of impending evil and doom really well. Considering the park itself is a character in this story, she would have to or it would all fall flat.
And the one time I agree with Michael, when he says, “Nothing creepier than a closed amusement park.” Yes. That’s correct. That’s where horror is born.
It’s weird, though, because when they all walk through the door they’re not sure whether the amusement park is actually the Shadow World or not. Uh . . . why wouldn’t they? They all just cracked open a supernatural rune door that they walked through that started in a house and ended up in an amusement park. What part of that is questionable? Did they think they just discovered a way to teleport? It’s a moment of duh for the sake of duh. And she drags it on too. I imagine for tension but it only works to show how obtuse the characters are being for the sake of plot. [Wing: I don’t understand why she thought she needed this tension here. It’s already tense! The description is working! The stakes for Jenny are high! We don’t need forced tension like this.]
And now a moment for a little bit of Dee othering, including mentioning that she’s always threatening physical violence and her arms were slim but “as hard as a boy’s.” I’m just going to go roll my eyes so hard I give myself a brain scan now.
They walk into Joyland Park, the amusement park they were in earlier, [Wing: If the park has to tell you it’s a land of joy, it’s probably a land of murder in reality.] and after they spend way too much time mulling over their existential crisis Dee notices a fishing pole in the little game booth they were at earlier and wants to try fishing. Michael gets all whiny about Dee putting them all in danger with her rash decisions. That’s not untrue but Michael’s a whiny little shit so I’m just going to ignore him.
A headless zombie pops out of the water and attacks Dee. Jenny throws herself into the fray to protect her all the while thinking she’s not a fighter. Yet barreling tits first to save her friend anyway. So there’s that.
They just barely save Dee and then Jenny realizes that bloated, headless corpse was familiar . . . Because it’s Slug, which is horrifying and terrifying and just amped up the creep in this story tenfold. They get cleaned up in a bathroom before heading over to the mine ride to get themselves some picks for weapons since Jenny’s Swiss Army knife won’t cut it against headless zombies. Literally.
On the way they all discover they’ve all had amusement park nightmares at some point in their lives and this whole shit show is going to be a smorgasbord of Julian using that to fuck with them. Hooray! [Wing: HOW CONVENIENT. And wonderful.]
So the mine ride, which exists in the “real” park that Jenny’s been to, is a thing that depicts miners being buried alive in a cave-in. Just as a reminder, this is set in western Pennsylvania, which is nearly ground zero for mine country. Uh . . . Little tactless? Maybe? [Wing: Wait, the real mine ride in the story depicts that too? I’ve seen mine rides, but never ones actually about miners being buried alive. I must have read this as Julian’s version, but damn.]
Enter another Smith adverb: bounced bruisingly. No. Just . . . No.
They get into the mine ride, get their weapons, and on the way back out things start going haywire. The tracks split where they didn’t split before and instead of being smart about it and backtracking they just keep plunging forward, following Jenny and her poor decision-making as they bury themselves further and further into this hell ride. Granted I’m sure they would have buried themselves regardless of who was making the decisions because it’s the Shadow World and everything’s changing but whatever.
When Dee admits that she had a nightmare once about being in a mine during a cave-in the shaft changes from the ride to something real, with real dirt and damp, and she curls into herself more. They reach a cavern and the earth crumbles, dropping Jenny down another shaft and tumbling into darkness alone where she sat panicked about what could be around her in the dark. Then a voice spoke to her through the rock.
Of course it’s Julian talking to her and he ignites a torch for her to see. She’s in an oubliette (basically) and he’s taunting her but she’s so fired up she doesn’t care. When she walked through the fire in the last book she felt it cleanse her. It washed away the draw she used to have toward Julian and now she mocked and taunted him back only to hoist herself by her own petard.
The new game he has set out for her is getting to Treasure Island. It was set up in the park earlier with a couple of kids trying to find gold doubloons. If you collect all three you get onto the island. So Julian uses that. He gives her one coin and leaves her in the dark to get out and find the rest. But before he leaves he claims the Shadow Park is ten years old and created for something else completely, which she’ll find out about eventually. [Wing: Is it murder? Because my guess is it was created for murder.]
She’s groping along the oubliette (let’s just call it what it is) and finds the flashlight, which is dying. Before it does she sees eyes in the stone — other Shadow Men. Then the room stars to flood when the eyes disappear. She thinks they’re doing this without Julian knowing because he wouldn’t actually want her dead. He disagreed with them before when she was five and opened the door. Now that she’s entirely in their world, not Julian’s doll house, she’s exposed and for the taking.
As the room is nearly full she thinks of the runes and successfully uses one to turn the waterfall into ice, which stops the flooding but starts her freezing. The chapter ends with her losing consciousness and sliding under water without getting out.
Julian’s running theme here is that light kills shadows. But that’s dumb. Light actually creates shadows. We wouldn’t have shadows without light. Shadows don’t actually exist in the dark. It’s just dark. They only exist where there’s light.
Julian pulls Jenny from the water and warms her back to consciousness. When she comes to she sees him shaking over her, truly fearful about having nearly lost her. He silently confirms to her, when she asks, that he did not send the water.
Then they have a moment and Jenny’s wall to Julian breaks down after seeing his raw emotion. Part of my brain tells me she needs to be stronger, but a bigger part of me is applauding about how incredibly human this makes her look. In this one moment Julian is showing true feelings and it rattles her and makes her question everything. But just for a moment until she starts thinking about Tom again.
Once she does she pulls herself up by her bootstraps and pushes Julian away but not before having another kiss where she truly considers what her life with Julian would have been like had he just asked instead of forcing her and threatening Tom. [Wing: Seriously, Julian, perhaps next time you will start with the wooing via asking and not with the wooing via SUCKING THEM INTO A TERRIFYING GAME OH MY GOD.] And since Tom is part of her DNA she can’t live without him. So it’s not like any of that would be an option anyway. Blah.
Julian’s Ice King persona turns back on when Jenny makes up her mind and she realizes he’s taken back the gold coin he originally gave her. This infuriates her, he calls no takesies backsies, and lets her out of the cavern so she can have a chance of collecting the coins and getting to Tom on Treasure Island.
Jenny gets to a door and is yanked through it by Dee and they’re joined by Audrey and Michael. After the cave-in the three ran back the way they came as it all collapsed behind them. When they turned around to look it was all back to being a ride again, all made of fiberglass, and Jenny wasn’t with them. Dee wanted to go back but the other two stopped her. It was two hours before Jenny came out of the emergency exit.
Jenny told them what happened but left out the part about the Shadow Men and nearly dying but told them about Julian and the new game. Eventually they find themselves in front of one of the Leo the Lion trash cans except when it talks it’s all gravely and sinister and it looks like there’s something gold stuck in its throat. I guess Audrey had hands small enough so she stuck her hand in and the lion started morphing, turning into some kind of cyber creature with fangs that started to devour Audrey’s arm. It was up to her shoulder before Dee was able to pry the jaws open with her pick axe and Michael pulled Audrey out. She was gouged up a little but otherwise okay and holding a doubloon that Jenny tucked into a pocket.
To narrow down their search for the other two they decided that since the lion was on and working they should look for things that are working. So they ended up at the penny arcade and it’s how Jenny remembered it, with old school mechanical games from the turn of the century. How it was when they were in the park was all modern and plastic and had lost its charm. The descriptions remind me of the Musee Mecanique on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Same exact concept with these neat old timey games that are really innocent and totally creepy at the same time.
They eat some candy and check out the games. Jenny finds one about a wizard that predicts your future by giving you a card (totally Zoltar in Big right there) so she sticks in a dime.
The wizard turns on and starts doing its thing and Jenny notices how much disrepair it’s in and it makes her sad. Then things start getting familiar, like the eyes and the hair, and she realizes it’s her grandfather. The machine spits out a card that says HELP ME. She freaks out and the others come rushing over. At first they don’t believe her until it spits out another card that points them to a black cabinet. When they go over they see a spirit box where you ask it yes or no questions and a skeleton head is supposed to pop up and answer it. Only when Michael puts his money in the heads of PC and Slug light up in the window and more freaking out ensues. [Wing: BECAUSE THAT IS CREEPY AS SHIT!] The machine spits out a card that directs them to the fun house while the heads nod to confirm.
Jenny contemplates breaking the wizard doll out of the glass case to free her grandfather but tells him she’ll come back. It’s then she realizes the park was built 10 years ago for him.
How horrifying. To have your soul stuck in this amusement park purgatory Zoltar machine forever.
They head over to the fun house and at first it’s not on but then it slowly starts to light up and come to life like some deadly clown nightmare. They walk in and work their way through the maze, searching every corner for doubloons with Jenny thinking she’s going to see Summer stuck in something like her grandfather. They run into a Laughing Sal (called a Laughing Lizzie in the book) and Jenny looks for Summer in that face but finds nothing.
They may only look slightly creepy but they’re motion-activated and it’s one of the most horrifying laughs I’ve ever heard. The one on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz is life-sized too. [Wing: I hate this thing so much.]
They all walk into a room filled with torture devices and wax figures posed in the devices themselves and Dee admits this is her nightmare (another one). She was scared shitless by a similar exhibit at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco (coincidentally) and it gave her nightmares. She’s so rattled that she has to repeat a mantra to herself in order to keep from throwing up or fainting. This freaks Jenny out even more to see Dee, the rock, so destroyed.
Makes me wonder whether Julian has a thing for Dee. It seems to be a lot of her more serious nightmares that Julian’s pulling from. Or they’re the most gruesome out of the group so why not use those?
Michael mentions the color blue and when Jenny turns around she sees Summer’s blue dress she was wearing the last time they saw her on a table with sandals and blonde hair, but her face was turned away. Jenny was afraid of the wax figures coming to life (not an outlandish fear, all things considered) but this was so much worse.
A beam broke above the table Summer was on and Jenny dove for her at the same time Dee kicked the beam out of the way. Summer came to in Jenny’s arms and at first no one believed it, but it really was Summer. She’d been asleep and she woke up thinking they were still in the first game. They decided to update her when they got out of the fun house. [Wing: SUMMER!]
Summer wanted to stop for candy in a machine. Dee was the one to get it and the thing ended up spitting out another doubloon along with some M&Ms. Yet another convenience, Summer’s two month hunger.
They leave via the iron rotating door for an exit. Jenny pushes Summer through first but when she goes next she’s taken to another room with Julian in it. He’s hardened and aloof and she’s convinced he’s playing a part now that he knows he is capable of change and it’s totally evil. He admits he didn’t kill PC and Slug and the Shadow Men couldn’t touch Summer because she was his and he was saving her to use against Jenny.
Jenny’s infuriated by Julian’s shifting moods but she’s drawn to him again and kisses him. Only this time he pushes her away with the same resolve she had with him in the mine chamber. He’s clinging to his nature that he’s supposed to have and almost angry at Jenny for shattering that image. He threatened bad things to come, telling her to wait and see just what he can do before sending her on her way and disappearing.
Everyone meets back up and Dee climbs up a lamp post to get a look at the rest of the park. The only portion that’s lit up is the tunnel of love. When they walk over Jenny notices how different Dee is, how unlike herself, and doesn’t get an answer why when she tries to push for more information.
The ride sign has an extra word on it that Jenny assumes says death but it’s covered in ivy so she can’t see it. They get into the swan boat waiting for them and it takes them into the tunnel. The farther they get the dimmer their flashlights get until they go out completely and leave them in darkness.
They sit there in the dark for a while until Julian comes out of some light and starts making fun of them and needling them. He starts with Dee, telling her her personality is all an act to cover up her failings with her mother. How she’s not smart enough. Jenny helps her through it by repeating her mantra to her, which Julian tries to throw back in her face and fails. Then he works on Michael, throwing him and Audrey against each other as he throws out things she said a long time ago. Only she promptly apologizes and breaks down sobbing, telling Michael she loves him. He accepts and whispers in her ear as Julian tries verbally attacking her and she successfully blocks him out. When he rounds on Summer, who immediately crumples, Jenny storms out of the boat, through the water, and confronts Julian head on. It wasn’t the tunnel of love and death, but love and despair.
Julian’s trying so hard to be cruel like the other Shadow Men but Jenny’s not having it. She says she cares for him and she does in some weird way. Maybe she even loves him, but Tom’s still her number one. She’s saying all this, throwing his despair back at him, and he disappears, leaving the final doubloon behind for her. Jenny grabs it and they leave.
Before heading to the island they go back to the arcade so Jenny can release her grandfather. She realizes this is where (she thinks) her Gebo comes in and he wants release instead of living in this half life. And it works as she gets a thank you card out of the machine when she’s done. Then the heads of PC and Slug want the same and she’s sobbing as she’s carving up the runes, but they get attacked by another headless body before she finishes. Dee heads it off [Wing: Rim shot.] and Michael helps her finish to send the two on their way to finally being dead.
When they do finish all the games spring to life, creating a terrible racket, and Jenny realizes the Shadow Men are pissed with what she’s doing. No duh.
They get to the island and pay the three doubloon toll and cross the bridge to make their way over. Jenny is terrified of heights and it’s a real problem for her to get over the ever-expanding bridge. A mist flows up and surrounds them and the bridge ends up infinitely higher than it should have been, showing them the nine worlds they’re operating in. [Wing: I read nine worlds, I immediately think: I’m not a queen, or a monster. I’m the goddess of death. What were you the god of again?] Jenny effectively brain fucks herself as she gets over the bridge, thinking she’s going to faint, knowing she will faint, thinking about jumping off the bridge. Then her inner Dee turns on and browbeats her strength back into her to move one foot in front of the other to get across.
When they do get across it’s just the island from the park with a mini golf set up there and in a couple little dinghies are Tom and Zach. They’re tied up but otherwise fine and Jenny’s overjoyed to see them both. Tom mentions they were most scared of the eyes that watched them and Jenny knew he was talking about the other Shadow Men. They know the game’s done now. They should be able to walk away. Julian should have showed up but he didn’t. Until he spoke.
Julian’s turned into some brooding, self-pitying turd who just yells at everyone to leave. Jenny realizes she wants to fix him (eye roll) and tries talking to him but he won’t have it. He throws out more threats but then ice overwhelms them along with horrible monsters. They’re the true forms of the Shadow Men that have been scuttling around the park after them the whole time. Julian says that’s what he’ll become eventually. It’s inevitable.
Because Jenny released her grandfather, Slug, and PC, she traded their lives for hers and the Shadow Men can claim her. Her friends tried dragging her out when she wanted to talk to Julian and now they scream as a black mist engulfs her and takes her away while Julian stands off to the side, impassive and detached.
But no one would let her go. Everyone volunteered to go in her place when the Shadow Men offered it, and Jenny tried pushing them all away. [Wing: CHOSEN FAMILY FEELINGS. I HAVE THEM.] Then Julian stepped in to block, fending the Shadow Men off with a runestave. His ancestors threaten him with death by carving out his name from the instrument. Julian tells everyone to run. The Shadow Men cut and Julian collapses. Jenny breaks free of everyone and runs to him, holding him as she’s dragged back through the door to her grandfather’s house.
They try to seal the door to keep the other Shadow Men from coming through but Julian says it’s not necessary since he already gave them their sacrifice. They won’t come after any of them. He dies, Jenny cries, and she finds her ring on his chest. Only it now says, ‘I am my only master’ instead of the binding words from before. True Gebo right here.
Nothing’s forgotten as long as someone remembers and Jenny promises to dream Julian into a wonderful wonderful as he fades to mist and disappears. [Wing: Fading to mist and disappearing is a damn good image.] Everyone’s changed all thanks to him. Michael’s more confident and Audrey doesn’t give a shit about her looks anymore. Zach is noticing Summer for the first time, coming out of his shell, and Summer seems more substantial of a person. Dee’s considering college and Tom is finally letting Jenny breathe, and Jenny no longer feels the need to chase Tom but to find out who she is and what she wants with her life.
Julian brought color into the world and it will be poorer without him in it, even though he was probably too dangerous to exist. Someone asks what would happen if someone were to carve Julian’s name back into the runestave and everyone tries to brush it off. But Jenny couldn’t help but wonder and she thought that if someone did that she’d wish him luck.
They make calls to their parents, money gets wired, and they leave Jenny’s grandfather’s house behind to go home. [Wing: Where they are grounded for life.]
I think my fanfic-writing brain exploded with that last bit there about someone carving Julian’s name back into the runestave. [Wing: I wonder if there is any good fic out there about just that.]
By far the best book in the series. I don’t usually say that about the third book but I think Smith really took the time to drill down into her characters and develop them so that by the time we get here, to this creepy amusement park from hell, they’re genuinely fully formed people that have shown true character development over the story arc.
Plus it was a story set in a creepy amusement park from hell. It was hard not to love. And Smith did a great job setting the scene. I could see it all so vividly and her tone really brought it all home.
I think Julian dying was really the only way this was going to go. He didn’t seem like the kind of person to give up easily and since Jenny had a habit of beating him at his own game he needed to die by his own game. And I both liked and disliked Jenny’s development toward Julian. I said it before but I basically wanted her to be like FUCK YOU MAN after he keeps just fucking with her. Which she kind of does. And she doesn’t get sociopathic about it. She gets this weird kind of Stockholm Syndrome thing going on with effectively sympathizing with him and humanizing him. I mean I guess you do get to see his struggle toward the end where he’s fighting what he’s eventually going to become and he does save them all. So no, he’s not the pure evil he wants to play up. He turns into a solid little anti-hero there for a second.
Overall an excellent series. Probably my favorite next to Christopher Pike’s Last Vampire series. Very well-written (although Smith doesn’t know how to write people of color and uses incredibly odd descriptions), great character development, great story development, and scene-setting appears to be her thing. She just makes it work so well. The books are worth the read just for the worlds she paints. Even if they are vaguely similar to Labyrinth.
[Wing: This series is a ton of fun. I’m so glad you decided to recap them. Thanks, Donna! And thanks, LJ Smith, for a wonderful world with entertaining plots and characters I grew to adore.]