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…
The Suffering picks up the story two years after the events of The Girl from the Well – and this time around it is in Tark’s POV. While The Girl from the Well was often dark and grisly, because Okiku was the one narrating it, The Suffering has a bit of levity due to Tark. He is very sassy, and it reflects in how the book is written. He is nearly 18 now, and is a budding exorcist with his ghostly sidekick, Okiku by his side. Their tag team of exorcist-vigilante-serial-killer is bound to each other such that she can’t leave his side for long periods of time without ghosts attacking him, and so she is his protector. Sacrificing her freedom of movement at the end of the last book, she is now tied down by her possession to him.
The plot this time around is heavily on a little haunted village in Aokigahara, where they may be a Hell gate. Tark has to go there when a friend (view spoiler) goes missing there. So it’s mostly them figuring out the curse on the village and the unholy rituals that were being carried out. Good thing he had practice chasing and banishing ghosts all over his city in the US, because he did need a lot of that experience for this village. Once again, it is tied to sacrifices, and Okiku once again puts him before herself. Though weakened by the place, she still perseveres in trying to protect him there. Their relationship definitely changes from what it was in The Girl from the Well. There, he was a kid she felt strongly protective about because protecting the souls of children is what she did, and he was struck by her beauty at the times she was human. Now after two years, they have become good friends, if you can call a possession that – but they make the best of it. He loves her, but doesn’t realize this until quite further on. And while it’s not really romantic love, they are quite fond of each other. (Which was good, because the thought of her first considering him a kid, and then falling in love with him, would have been a bit weird). The story also goes back to the original Okiku tale, in glimpses, so we can see how she changed from a creature of malice to vengeance.
The ending, well, was a bit anti-climactic considering the action-filled book. I particularly had guessed what would happen about Okiku, when I first came across the possibility earlier in the book. It was quite enjoyable, trying to find clues and put pieces of the puzzle together. The last scene, though – I feel it was pretty convenient [that he is no longer in danger of possession (hide spoiler)]. There were also a few things which weren’t explained, and since it doesn’t look like this story will have a sequel, I find that not satisfying. The thing with the distorted photo was not really explained. And the timeline of the events in Aitou and Tomeo’s age at present (or even 10 years ago) don’t match up. Nevertheless, it is quite entertaining, but surely not as spooky as The Girl from the Well, thanks to Tark.
Received a free galley from Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.