It's hard to say what I loved most about this book. The narrator Okiku is fascinating. Her sentences are sometimes broken up over several lines, and her obsession with counting things interrupts her view of events and reminds the reader that the story is being told by a centuries old Japanese revenant whose sanity sometimes slips and who has long ago forgotten what it felt like to be human. Okiku is terrifying as befits a vengeful spirit trapped on this plane and given the task of destroying those who murder children, but she also feels safe to the reader. We know her intentions toward Tark are pure, and we feel no pity for the victims she takes throughout the story. This is a horror novel where the horror feels like a natural extension of the narrator and the culture, and so what will keep the reader up late at night isn't fear of Okiku, it's an insatiable need to know what happens next.
The world itself is seamlessly delivered. Japanese culture, both past and present, provide the backbone for the story and will appeal to readers who already love Japanese mythology while making new fans along the way. The mythology is unmistakably Japanese (and indeed the second half of the book takes place in Japan), but is so expertly rendered that it is immediately familiar and accessible to readers who are new to it.
The plot is fascinating, and the pacing pulls the reader forward while still allowing the reader to find places to linger within the world. I especially enjoyed the clashing of the ghosts (the one inside Tark and Okiku), but the evolution of the characters is equally compelling. Readers who already love horror will find much to enjoy in this book, but readers who are hesitant about horror will also find a book destined to be one of their favorites. The horror aspects are not gratuitous (and much of the true horror happens off-page), and the mythological aspect reads more like a supernatural thriller.
Rin Chupeco displays a deft command of language and is a compelling new voice in the YA horror genre. THE GIRL FROM THE WELL is a stunning, atmospheric debut that I highly recommend.