Breathtaking and haunting, Rin Chupeco’s second novel is a chilling companion to her debut, The Girl from the Well.
The darkness will find you.
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…
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If you haven’t yet read the first book, The Girl From the Well, here’s some more info about it and a link to our review!
“[A] Stephen King-like horror story.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion.” -Publishers Weekly STARRED Review
“This gorgeously written story reads like poetry.” –Brazos Bookstore
“Darkly mesmerizing.” -The Boston Globe
“A superior creep factor that is pervasive in every lyrical word.” –Booklist
The Ring meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable.
Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.
With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well
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Our review of The Girl From the Well:
About the Author:
Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.
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Excerpt from The Suffering:
It’s still early morning when our group is given clearance to enter. Aokigahara is a deceptive forest. It has all the hallmarks of a popular tourist destination: narrow but well-maintained hiking trails with a surprising amount of litter, not to mention strips of tape and ribbon wrapped around tree trunks. The leader explains that hikers use them as markers to maintain their bearings. Later on, one of the other volunteers whispers to us that some of the tapes were left by those who came here to kill themselves, in case they decided to change their minds. The revelation horrifies Callie.
A few miles into our hike, anything resembling civilization disappears. Roots crawl across the hard forest floor, and it’s easy to trip if you’re not constantly looking down. We’re outside, but the trees make it feel claustrophobic. They reach hungrily toward the sun, fighting each other for drops of light, and this selfishness grows with the darkness as we move deeper into the woods.
It’s quiet. The silence is broken by the scuffling of feet or snapping of dry twigs as we walk. Every so often, volunteers call back and forth to each other, and rescue dogs exploring the same vicinity that we are will bark. But there are no bird calls, no sounds of scampering squirrels. We’re told that there is very little wildlife in Jukai. Nothing seems to flourish here but trees.
This deep into the woods, any roads and cleared paths are gone. At times, we’re forced to climb to a higher ledge or slide down steep slopes to proceed, and there’s always some root or rock hiding to twist an ankle.
And yet—the forest is beautiful. I like myself too much to seriously think about suicide, even during my old bouts of depression, but I can understand why people would choose to die here. There is something noble and enduring and magnificent about the forest.
That sense of wonder disappears though, the instant I see them. There are spirits here. And the ghosts mar the peacefulness for me. They hang from branches and loiter at the base of tree trunks. Their eyes are open and their skin is gray, and they watch me as I pass. I don’t know what kind of people they were in life, but they seem faded and insignificant in death.
Okiku watches them but takes no action. These are not the people she hunts. They don’t attack us because they’re not that kind of ghosts. Most of them, I intuit, aren’t violent. The only lives they had ever been capable of taking were their own.
I’m not afraid, despite their bloated faces, contorted from the ropes they use to hang themselves or the overdose of sleeping pills they’ve taken. If anything, I feel lingering sadness. I can sympathize with their helpless anguish. These people took their own lives, hoping to find some meaning in death when they couldn’t find it in life. But there’s nothing here but regret and longing.
And there’s that tickle again, so light it is nearly imperceptible.. Something in this forest attracts these deaths. It lures its unhappy victims with its strange siren’s call and then, having taken what it needs, leaves their spirits to rot. A Venus flytrap for human souls.
Something is wrong here, and suddenly, the forest no longer looks as enticing or majestic as when we arrived.
Well color me impressed! The Suffering was everything I could have hoped for in a sequel. I am really blown away at the thoughtfulness Chupeco put in from the very first sentence to the very last. There wasn’t an inch of space that didn’t aid in making this story come together in the most fabulous way. One of the things I loved the most is Chepeco’s way of writing horror. The Suffering was a potent mix of traditional horror and psychological thriller. I appreciated that the even the most visually spine-chilling spirits in this story weren’t always the most malevolent things creeping up behind you. Sometimes the most ordinary, innocuous appearing PEOPLE were more monstrous than any wraith.
Furthermore these nefarious characters, more often than not, were the ones that molded those vengeful spirits into the horrors that they ultimately became. In the end I found I had a hearty mixture of fear and pity towards these savage spirits.
I would I also like to say that I am eating my own words from my review of The Girl From the Well where I said that Tark was not quite as interesting as the affliction he bore. Yep, I was gloriously proven wrong in this sequel. Being in Tarquin head in this story was a much different experience than being in Okiku’s in the first book. Each had their ups and downs, but I have to say I think I much preferred Tark’s point of view. What’s even better is that we still got clips from Okiku since her and Tarquin are so intertwined in The Suffering. I was totally engrossed in the symbiotic relationship between Tark and Okiku. It was a perfect balance, and I found Tarquin to be a very intriguing character that I was really rooting for! I also think that Tarquin had matured since the last book, which I found to be a really nice addition as well.
I couldn’t have asked for a better setting either.The Aokigahara (aka the Suicide Forest, wiki link for more info…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aokigahara) was such a menacing and poignant place.The Aokigahara is chilling enough in what we know to be facts about it, and the myths surrounding that are hard to just write off as nothing when so much suffering flocks there. It was the perfect place for a story such as this one to take place. It definitely added to the mysterious and unnerving atmosphere of the tale. I really like stories like this that take a real piece of mythology/legend and weave their own tales out of it. That makes even the fantastical feel like it could be possible.
There were definitely times, especially while reading at night in bed, where the creepiness of the story had my heart racing and me not so casually looking using my Kindle on full brightness to shine around the room….just to make sure nothing strange was lurking. I wasn’t necessarily hiding under the blankies, but it was enough that when I actually put the book up for the night I did spend a chunk of time laying there in the dark, hyper-listening for any unwelcomed movements lol.
It looked a little something like this…
Yet again the Japanese culture was rich and expertly weaved in throughout the story. Every time I read a Rin Chupeco book I find myself searching on the internet for more about all the enchanting lore and culture she puts in her stories. I also appreciate her affinity for the antihero. I can’t help but to cheer on these characters that take matters into their own hands and avenge the innocent souls that perished at the hands of others. I find it chillingly satisfying each time, Okiku especially, exacts her gruesome justice upon the wicked. I only hope that this won’t be the last time we see Tarquin and Okiku taking on the world!
I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
***Now it’s time for a giveaway! Click the Rafflecopter link for your chance to enter to win a copy of both Rin Chupeco books, The Girl From the Well and the sequel, The Suffering!!***