I love it when you have so many sequels to wait for *insert fangirl feels*, one of them just come out without you noticing it. Then “wait what? The sequel is OUT?” and it’s one of the best feelings ever. This happened with The Suffering, sequel to The Girl from the WellI was charmingly frightened by The Girl from the Well, and I’m delighted to resume my terror.

Thankfully, The Suffering is a satisfying combo of horror, creepy, and cute moments. It may be a strange thing to say, but while I don’t find the sequel as scary as the first book, I’m perfectly happy with it. This book focuses more on characters instead of horror elements, and I find a cowardly comfort in that (oh and character development is very important).

The book starts with our hero Tark, whose spirit is bound with Okiku’s, exorcising a horrible ghoul with Okiku’s help. The two are now a ghosthunting/perv-hunting team, with Okiku helping Tark kill nasty spirits and Tark tagging along Okiku on pedophile-extermination missions. They have found a warped, precarious balance in their life, until Tark’s friend Kagura goes missing with a ghostbusting TV team in searching of a mysterious cult village in the Aokigahara, the famous Suicide Forest in Japan.

Character

Tark is still the snarky, stubborn little fool he was in the previous book. He maintains his sense of humor even in the most dire situations, and I adore how he’s understandably stupid and dorky in some circumstances. But I can also see him becoming more mature and responsible as the book progresses through his relationship with Okiku and other people. On one hand he is repulsed by his nightly hunting, but on the other hand, he must continue out of a sense of...what have you, but it’s not justice or righteousness; he just does it because he has to. Tark also grows more fond of Okiku through many misadventures together, and he develops a love for this girl who emerges from her trials a vengeful and powerful vindicator.

Okiku is decidedly less scary than she was in the first book. Of course, she is still frightening when cutting down bad guys, but as Tark’s partner, she displays more of her humanity and competence and less of her fury and malice. I find myself shipping Tark and her, even though it’s weird and disturbing. They’re both abnormal, but they’re the perfect match for each other.

Setting+Atmosphere

Japanese culture plays an important role in the book. It features a lot of Japanese food with hard-to-pronounce names but mouthwatering descriptions. Have I lured you in with the promise of delicious food? Now, we can talk about how skincrawlingly sinister it really is. I both hate and love the creepy setting. The atmosphere turns terribly ominous as soon as Tark arrives at the Aokigahara forest. There is something slimy and revolting about the whole atmosphere, and I really appreciate Chupeco’s writing style that makes it all happen. It’s just not possible to eat something while reading this book, because it gives even caramel chocolate a weird taste. Here’s a list of macabre elements that contributes to the eerie atmosphere:

  • The Suicide Forest
  • Secret cult village inside said forest
  • Dolls
  • Ritualistic killing
  • Malicious ghosts roaming the village
  • Rotting flesh and bones
  • Muchly much suffering

How about that, eh?

Although there are so much gruesome ingredients, The Suffering also features tragic girls and unimaginable betrayals. In the end, it’s human nature that’s most ghastly and frightening.

Pacing

The pacing of the book is intense and action-filled. There’s little time wasted. However, even between critical moments there are sweet, humane instances of realization and understanding (not going into spoilers). I’m happy to see all that action and suffering culminate into one ultimate showdown and all that suspense worth something in the end. The ending is not what I expected; I was bracing myself for a bittersweet epilogue in which Tark wanders around a lost, angry rage-fest again, but that’s not what happened!

I enjoyed The Suffering immensely, so much I had to drag my mom into one of those mother-daughter sleepovers the night I finished the book. And you can see how candid this review is. If you also love a good Asian horror book, The Suffering absolutely delivers.

book-review-the-suffering-by-rin-chupeco The Suffering (The Girl from the Well #2)

by Rin Chupeco

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…

 

Published by Grace Li