Forbidden Game Guardian's Key

“I need you like – like light. You’re light, all right – like a flame to a moth. I told you once that you shouldn’t mess with forbidden things – I should have taken my own advice.” (Julian, The Forbidden Game)

I’m profiling two books at once in this post because they both strongly remind me of Labyrinth – the GU story dearest to my heart – in different ways (Smith practically quotes directly from the movie at times). Which also makes them very good examples of the archetype.

The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

Jenny, 16, first enters the “Shadow World” by means of a magical door that appears from nowhere down a side street. There she meets Julian (maker her adversary also her initiator, much like Jareth when he appears to Sarah and shows her the Labyrinth), who entices her to buy a strange game which, when played by Jenny and her friends/companions at a party, transports them all to Julian’s realm – at first, into a labyrinthine Victorian house (several GU stories take place entirely within a house or castle – including the Logston novel discussed below). Over the course of three novellas, in both his world and theirs, he and his minions (a spectral snake and wolf) pursue and torment the teenagers in hopes of making Jenny relent and agree to be with him romantically.

It is revealed that Julian first made contact with her when she was only five (when she foolishly opened a door that had trapped him and his kind) and has been in love with her since. The final showdown happens in an amusement park which is an otherworldly parallel of a real park Jenny went to as a kid. In some of the games, there is a time limit, and in the first game a clock chimes ominously with each passing hour (again, reminiscent of the clock in Labyrinth). Many times Jenny is separated from her friends to face Julian alone. She must also solve riddles – a recurring theme in the archetype.

The Guardian’s Key by Anne Logston

Dara, a young woman, deliberately enters an Otherworld (a magical keep) in search of the magical ability she needs to win her lover. She meets and befriends a couple of denizens of the keep along the way to finding the mysterious Oracle, hidden somewhere in the myriad landscapes within. She is specifically guided and helped by the wise and powerful Granny Good (similar wise-old-women figures appear in many other GU books). Dara and her companions must evade the dark and beautiful Lord Vanian and the less pleasant residents of the keep. However, little by little Dara changes her feelings about Vanian.

At one point, she eats some plums that erase part of her memory (reminiscent of the peach scene in Labyrinth). Near the end, she comes to a replica of her own home and is so comforted that she almost forgets her quest and stays there (echoing the trash-lady scene in Labyrinth). She also gets glimpses of her love through a magical mirror, but begins to realize that he is not worth the trouble. Time runs much more quickly here, and in the “real world” over a year has passed since she arrived.

The final showdown is more with herself than with Vanian, when she realizes what she’s had inside her all along. It ends on a more satisfying note than Labyrinth, however, when Dara decides to stay with her once-Adversary in the Otherworld.

“I am my only master.” (Jenny, The Forbidden Game)
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