Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Synopsis: It’s been two years since Tark Halloway’s nightmare ended. Free from the evil spirit that haunted him all his life, he now aids the ghostly Okiku and avenges the souls of innocent children by hunting down their murderers. But when Okiku becomes responsible for a death at his high school, Tark begins to wonder if they’re no better than the killers they seek out.
When an old friend disappears in Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous “suicide forest”, both must resolve their differences and return to that country of secrets to find her.
Because there is a strange village inside Aokigahara, a village people claim does not exist. A village where strange things lie waiting.
A village with old ghosts and an ancient evil–one that may be stronger than even Okiku.
“Over the last year I’ve gone against faceless women, disfigured spirits, and grotesque revenants. Some people keep dangerous hobbies; skydiving and driving at monster truck rallies and glacier surfing. Me? I cast myself into the churning waters of potential damnation and wait for a bite.”
Despite The Suffering and it’s predecessor being billed as horror, there has been some criticism that they’re not scary enough, but I have to respectfully disagree. Both of them scared the heck out of me! After I finished this latest one, I had a terrifying nightmare involving killer dolls and–well, you don’t really want to hear about my scary dreams. Let me just say that as I’m a doll collector, this hit close to home.
Despite a bit of a slow and awkward beginning which introduces the conflict between Tark and Ki, the action really takes off once they’re in Japan to find their friend Kagura (who was also in the previous book) who has disappeared along with a group of American ghost hunters she was taking on a tour of the suicide forest.
For those of you who are like me and have never heard of Aokigahara Forest aka “The Suicide Forest”, it’s a real place. It’s located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji and has the unfortunate destinction of being the second most popular place in the world to commit suicide (the first being the Golden Gate Bridge). Over the years hundreds of people have journeyed to this remote area to kill themselves. Here are a couple of pictures to give you more of a sense of the desolate nature of this forest.
Like with her research into the suicide forest, Chupeco has done amazing work in further developing the character of Okiku, who is based on the Japanese legend of the same name. As her counterparts in The Grudge and The Ring, Okiku is an Onryo which means “vengeful spirit”. Part of Japanese mythology these spirits are usually women who share the similar appearance of pale features, long unkempt hair, and traditional white burial clothes.
Tarkin (who is now seventeen) is an amazing character. He has suffered so much in his young life yet he retains a snarky sense of humor. A loner, he is intensely loyal to the few people he lets in his life: his older cousin Callie, his father, Kagura, and of course Okiku, who saved his life in the previous book and continues to protect him in this one. While mature beyond his years in some respects, Chupeco never lets the reader forget he still is a teenager. He makes some truly foolish decisions based on emotions and his craving for adventure, yet at the same time, he acknowledges these mistakes. It’s the aforementioned loyalty which lead Tark and Okiku to Aokigahara to rescue their friend Kagura. Accompanying them is Callie, although she doesn’t play such an integral role as she did in the first book. This time, Chupeco focuses much more attention on the relationship between Tark and Okiku. While there is no real romance between them as of yet, there are hints of the possibility of one in the future. The ending, while not a cliffhanger, definitely leaves you believing there will be at least one more book about Tark and Okiku.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I consider a book a success if it gives me nightmares (in the case of a horror story), and if it makes me want to do my own research into the background, setting, etc. Both were the case after I finished The Suffering. Chupeco draws the reader in with her expertise in Japanese mythology and culture. This and The Girl From the Well are great scary reads and I highly recommend them for older teens as well as adults who are fond of the genre.