by Rin Chupeco
e-ARC, 313 pages
Published September 8th, 2015 by Sourcebooks
Seventeen-year-old Tark knows what it is to be powerless. But Okiku changed that. A restless spirit who ended life as a victim and started death as an avenger, she’s groomed Tark to destroy the wicked. But when darkness pulls them deep into Aokigahara, known as Japan’s suicide forest, Okiku’s justice becomes blurred, and Tark is the one who will pay the price…
I received an e-ARC of this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Well, well. Not so christmas-y, are we?
Since I’ve been so tired throughout September, October, and November, I haven’t be able to read much of the creepy books I allocated for those months. As the result, I’m not sure I’m already over fall and in the mood for christmas… you’ll see what I mean by the books I read on my wrap up.
Anyways, the book. The Suffering sets 2 years after the event in The Girl From the Well. Now back in the USA, Okiku and Tark continue to hunt for child murderers. Then a troubling news arises from Japan, where one of the shrine maiden helping them, Kagura, disappears when accompanying a group of ghost hunter inside the Aokigahara. Okiku, Tark, and Callie then fly to Japan to join the rescue effort by local authorities… until Tark and Okiku disappeared into the legendary Aitou village.
This book wastes no time in getting into the action. The book starts with Tark performing an exorcism on a doll used for one-man tag game gone awry by his classmates. It also doesn’t shy away from conflicts, both on teenage drama and supernatural front with Okiku. The rest of the story progresses the same way, it was fast paced, some scenes at breakneck speed, but it also holds the mystery long enough to keep you interested.
As with the previous book, I really love how well-written Japan and its stories are adapted in this series. Rin Chupeco really delved into the traditions and superstitions, from the bridal doll, one-man tag game, and of course, the Aokigahara. She mold this element together and reinvented the story, which resulted in this atmospherically creepy stories. She weaves the tales around and build the suspense really well, there are so many hair-rising, I-need-to-stop-reading-because-I’m-scared-moments. Seriously, this is the only book I insisting on read only during daytime.
The plot itself is pretty interesting, with the fictional Aitou village at its center and the curse that keeps its inhabitant stuck in this world. There are so many mysteries surrounding Aokigaraha itself with all the suicides and dense foliage, the village certainly adds the creep factor. It’s full of twist and turn, and while some of them are pretty predictable, others took me by surprise and chills me. Yet, overall it’s still enjoyable to read and I can’t stop flipping the pages to know how the story will ends.
I mean, while I was reading, there seem to be no possible endings for all the parties involved, so yeah I was concerned.
I feel like the characters are also more well developed this time, with Tark out of the dark influence and becoming his own person. I love his sense of humor and quips, how he has both darkness and kindness inside him and manage to balance them both, albeit with some difficulties. For someone who has a vengeful spirit tailing him and killing murderers at night, with exorcism as occasional side job, he manages to keep this sense of normalcy around him.
I think the relationship between Tark and Okiku is also really beautiful, and I’m not sure we’re supposed to put a name on it. It’s like everything but also not at the same time. Is it romantic? No, it’s less than that. Is it friendship? It’s more than that. Is it familial? It’s not quite right either. It’s a beautiful connection they have and I’m glad the author does not blatantly make it romantic with Tark having his own teenage moments with a living breathing girl. However, there are also some of that cliche sacrificial moments that make me questions everything about their relationship. One thing that unsettles me a bit is how dependent Tark is on Okiku, but then again, she’s the one that freed him from evil spirit and helped him getting his bearing afterwards, so I understand where he came from.
I’m late to start this duology and certainly late in reading this book, but it turned out to be an amazing hidden gem! It adapts the Japanese traditional folktales and rituals really well, with atmospheric writing, fast pacing, and intriguing plot. It’s still underrated compared to other ghost books out there, so please check this book out because it’s definitely worth the time! Especially if you love The Bone Witch (which is by the same author), I think you’ll love this series.