*Potential spoilers for book 1, The Girl From the Well*
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…
When I read the first book, I honestly had no clue it was part of a series. Honestly, that mystery allowed for a great reading experience because the steaks remained high as the story developed.
However, I will say I enjoyed the sequel much more than I did the first book.
As I mentioned in my review of the first book, the nameless characters and third person narration made it hard to connect to them. In the second book, the narration switched to Tark’s point of view and uses first-person narration, allowing us to connect with him and the situation more.
I did enjoy how this story continued to play more on Japanese mythology and Folklore and bring us to the Aokigahara Forest. The use of the forest in this book was much more intriguing than other portrayals I’ve seen in American media (though I cannot speak to the accuracy of the mythology or how tasteful the portrayal was).
Another thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was Tark’s relationship to Okaku. It was an interesting friendship that startled the romantic but allowed for a nice dynamic. There were several moments where I was rooting for them. And I loved how authentic this friendship felt, from discussing boundaries, hurt feelings, and the like.
The main conflict of this one was able to build on the mythology established in book one, without feeling like a total rehash of the concept. It was interesting to read about and allowed for this eerie tone to exist while reading.
I also loved how this one ended. There were a few things I was worried about, but overall it really made me happy. Mainly, it wasn’t too predictable, but a few things I think we all saw coming.
As a follow up to book one, The Suffering was able to hold it’s own and develop the already established story and mythos. It was intriguing, mysterious, and eerie. Personally, I loved this one way more than the first book. I felt like there was more connection to the characters and more time to focus on the plot and relationships instead of just set up. Like the first book, this the perfect Halloween read (or one to pick up when you’re in a J-Horror mood).