Review: Kieli — The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness

(art by Shunsuke Taue)
(art by Shunsuke Taue)

For general information on this series: Kieli entry

This review is for the first volume of Kieli by Yukako Kabei (with art by Shunsuke Taue). The English edition was released by Yen Press in July 2009, and the remaining eight volumes of the series have since been officially localized.

Vol 1 - The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness
Vol 1 – The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness

One thing I enjoy about light novels is their willingness to experiment with the tropes we're familiar with in fiction. In the case of Kieli, there are so many peculiar plot elements meshed together it becomes difficult to pin the series to one specific genre. The setting lends itself a sci-fi atmosphere, but at the same time fantasy crops up in a number of supernatural elements. Kieli is a girl who can see ghosts, and the young man she meets named Harvey turns out to be a regenerating super-soldier. The story places them together as they seek to evade soldiers of the totalitarian Church ruling the planet, but the adventure plot is supported by a good helping of character-driven drama and the beginnings of a romance subplot.

A great deal of the story is devoted to Kieli’s and Harvey’s thoughts and feelings, both in regards to how they’ve lived their lives and how they (generally fail to) fit in within their society. It’s a bit of a somber tale, and the world of the story is not a particularly pleasant one. The way the plot of the book is organized is a bit unusual though, 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, but reader response will likely vary between interpreting the tangents as “side-quests” of sorts or simply complete filler. I personally found each segment engaging enough to hold my attention, but it’s the interactions between the main characters I enjoyed the most. Kieli and Harvey make for interesting and sympathetic protagonists, so it was easy to root for them in their unusual endeavors.

The translation is handled well, and I liked the inside illustrations–particularly all the color inserts at the beginning. Unfortunately the cover was changed (from a perfectly atmosphere-setting image with Kieli to a bland negative image of a radio), but the story itself is what matters most in the end. If you are interested in reading a story that juggles fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, romance, and drama, Kieli: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness will provide enough of each to entertain as well as deliver at some emotional and intellectual level.

Cho’s Rating: Recommended

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