Author: Yukako Kabei
Illustrator: Shunsuke Taue
Kieli, vol. 1
My rating: 4 of 5
The world Kieli inhabits is cold and dilapidated, a godless people ruled by a militant Church that knows nothing of grace or mercy, whatever they may say. Small wonder then, that Kieli prefers the company of ghosts over that of the living around her. Something begins to change, though, when she encounters a young man sitting alone in the train station, looking like the dead–especially when she finds he is able, like herself, to see the spirits of the dead. Unable to resist, or unable to lose the one person who shares her abilities, Kieli sneaks out of the Church-run boarding school where she lives and follows this unusual man who goes by the name Harvey. Together, the two proceed on Harvey’s purposed journey by train to deliver an old radio inhabited by a ghost to an abandoned mine, little guessing that someone else is also following. Because Harvey isn’t just an ordinary young man; he’s an ageless, deathless soldier created nearly a century before to end the War, one of the legendary Undying . . . and now the Church is ruthlessly hunting down their own creations.
I had heard good things about this light novel before, so I was excited to read Kieli. I have to be honest, it was mostly those expectations that kept me reading beyond the first half of the first chapter; there’s a lot about Kieli’s past, the War, and the emptiness of the Church that is really important background information but was hard to get into. But once I got past that to the part where Harvey enters the story and they’re traveling together, I really enjoyed the story. It would be a difficult story to really categorize: paranormal, science fiction, steampunk, dystopian, and several other things kind of meshed together. But it really works, feeling like its own unique genre rather than a mish-mash of multiple other genres. The majority of the story is a train journey, so you get the experience of the country they’re traveling through and the people they meet. And of course, the adventure of their being pursued and trying to evade capture. But most of all, the story is the development of the characters and the relationships between them: Kieli, Harvey, the Corporal who haunts the ghost radio. I’ve heard the book described (on the back cover, no less) as a romance, but I really don’t quite see it, although I can definitely see it developing into a romance in future volumes. For now, Kieli’s too young, and she and Harvey are really still just building a trust and friendship with each other. In any case, I truly enjoyed reading Kieli: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness, and I look forward to reading further in the series.