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Sometimes you look over the synopsis on the back of a book, and you just know you’re going to enjoy it. Such was my experience with volume one of the Kieli series, subtitled “The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness.”

I’ll go ahead and post the blurb here for those who haven’t heard of this series before:

“Kieli is a reclusive girl isolated by her ability to see ghosts. Her only friend is her “roommate,” Becca, the precocious spirit of a former student still residing in Kieli’s dorm. Everything in Kieli’s life changes suddenly when the girls meet the handsome but distant Harvey who, like Kieli, can see ghosts. He also turns out to be one of the legendary Undying, an immortal soldier bred for war now being hunted by the Church. When Kieli joins Harvey on a pilgrimage to lay to rest the spirit of a corporal possessing an old radio, as unlikely as it seems, she feels she may have finally found a place where she belongs in the world. And in Kieli, Harvey may have found a reason to live again.”

TL;DR:

  • Kieli can see ghosts
  • Her roommate’s a ghost
  • Harvey’s an immortal super-soldier
  • He’s being hunted by the Church
  • He’s got a radio possessed by a corporal’s spirit
  • Adventure, Drama, Romance!
  • Harvey’s an S-Class bishounen

The Kieli light novel series by Yukako Kabei is available from Yen Press, and so far six volumes (out of nine) have been released in English. The first volume has been adapted into a manga (which is two volumes long), and is also available from Yen Press. I strongly suggest checking out the light novel first though, because it’s really great stuff. The translation is handled nicely, and the prose flows really well.

One thing I enjoy about light novels is their willingness to experiment with the tropes we’re familiar with in fiction. I enjoy reading young adult literature in my free time, but sometimes I feel authors stick to the same sort of stories too often. And that’s where light novels come in! At least to me, most of the ones I’ve read have been quite refreshing, and Kieli is no exception. It’s a difficult book to stick into one specific genre. The setting is very sci-fi, but the supernatural elements give a fantasy feel to things as well. But in regards to the storyline, this is very much an adventure, with Kieli and Harvey evading the soldiers of the Church (which is essentially a totalitarian organization ruling the planet). But a great deal of the story is devoted to Kieli’s (and Harvey’s) thoughts and feelings, in regards to how they’ve lived their lives, and how they (fail to) fit in within their society. It really fleshes out the characters, and gives a lot of emotion to the book in general. It’s generally quite somber, as the world of the story is (to put it lightly) not a very pleasant one.

The way the plot of the book is organized is a bit unusual, in that there is an overarching storyline–but there’s several “short stories” our lead characters take part in along the way. It works well for the most part, since much of the book is about the journey Kieli and Harvey take in order to bring the spirit possessing the radio to his final resting place. Kieli encounters a number of other spirits along the way, some of which have little to nothing to do with the main plot. I suppose you can consider these “side-quests” or even “filler” if you wish, but I found each segment engaging enough to hold my attention and keep me turning the pages. The characters were generally developed a bit more with each passing chapter, and since they were both interesting and sympathetic, it was easy to root for Kieli and Harvey in their endeavors. And to ship them. =P They’re perfect for each other! It’s very cute. Well, in a gritty way, I suppose… since this isn’t exactly a romcom we’re dealing with here. x_x

In the end, I found the book quite satisfying, and hope to get more volumes of the series soon. These light novels are quite affordable, so you’re not risking much when you buy one. The English version includes glossy color illustrations at the beginning, as well as the black-and-white illustrations interspersed throughout the text. The cover, sadly, has been changed from the beautiful drawing of Kieli (with a perfectly atmosphere-setting background) to a bland horror novel type of cover (a negative image of a radio). But this is probably the only thing I dislike about Yen Press’s treatment of the book. The text itself has been handled well, and if you’re a fan of unique stories filled with fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, drama, and romance… then start flipping through the pages of Kieli, volume one! It’s an intriguing setup for a series of light novels, and the author has the uncanny ability to entertain as well as deliver at both an emotional and an intellectual level.