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Kieli Vol. #04 Novel Review

5 min read

Kieli strikes out on her own to find the man who left her behind.

Creative Staff
Story: Yukako Kabei
Art: Shunsuke Taue
Translation/Adaptation: Sarah Alys Lindholm

What They Say
It’s been a year and a half since Harvey left Kieli and the Corporal in Beatrix’s care. Though she hasn’t heard a word from him in all that time, Kieli can’t forget the Undying who took her under his wing. When Beatrix receives a cryptic note from Harvey indicating that he’s discovered information about Kieli’s mother, Kieli abandons the Corporal and Beatrix in an effort to track Harvey down, but the passing of time has not been kind to the Undying. Will Harvey and Kieli have a second chance at a life together, or is this the end of their story?

Content(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Kieli is something of an anomaly in the publishing world. While there are plenty of young adult fantasy books aimed at teenage girls, a young adult science fiction novel staring a teenage girl on a Dune like planet is something of a rarity. Compound that with the fact that this is a Japanese light novel and you end up with something unique and interesting being brought to the English speaking market.

To catch new and prospective readers up to speed, this is the fourth novel in the series. Kieli is a teenage girl who was left an orphan after her grandmother passed away. She has an unusual gift to see ghosts, which causes the other girls at the Church run boarding school to think she’s spooky. Kieli’s only friend is Becca, a dead girl who was her dorm room’s previous occupant. One day she meets Harvey, a stoic and gruff traveler who has the same ability to see spirits. He also happens to be an Undying, a near-immortal soldier from a war fought a century ago on the dusty planet they call home.

In previous volumes Kieli, Harvey, and the Corporal (a spirit caught inside a transistor radio) traveled by rail and sand boat to escape the eyes of the Church. Along the way they encounter ghosts, church soldiers, and strange lost technology. At the end of the previous volume Harvey leaves Kieli in the care of Beatrix, another Undying, and strikes out alone to attempt to track down an old acquaintance of his, who may hold the secret to Kieli’s mother and father’s disappearance.

Volume 4 picks up a year an a half later. Kieli is a little older, and should be a little wiser, but has instead started to fall into her old ways of dressing and behaving. She’s been living with Beatrix, traveling and doing part time work while trying to not think of Harvey and why he hasn’t contacted her. That ends quickly when Beatrix decides to pursue a lead on Harvey’s last known whereabouts, and the two women hit the road once again.

The opening of this volume follows the familiar pattern of the earlier novels, with a ghost that Kieli confronts. This time the ghost is a more personal reminder of Beatrix’s past, a haunting consequence of fanaticism and fear. Beatrix finds that time does heal most wounds, and rather than be consumed with memories of an unfortunate time in her past, she looks at the town she once lived in with a tourist’s eye.

Even more so than previous volumes there’s an element of desperation in the story this time. From the beginning we know that something has happened to Harvey, and it’s uncertain if he can even survive his latest encounter with the Church after the permanent damage he incurred last volume. The information he sends Kieli leads her to discover something about her mother’s life, and the mysterious undying named Jude who accompanied her. The results of the lead are somber, and hopefully not foreshadowing Kieli’s own future.

The author has taken strides to smooth the narrative. No chapter is in this volume is a standalone tale separate from the overarching plot. Even with those changes, it feels that Kieli and Harvey haven’t grown much as characters up till this point. They even seem to take a step back during most of this volume, with Kieli at her most stubborn and Harvey at his most despondent. The arguments between all the characters feel tired and frustrating. Their reunion plays out in an unexpected way, complicated by a return from an unexpected character, and compounded by another separation. The exhausting journey through the sewers at the climax of the volume provides an excellent metaphor for the slog that their relationship has become.

Still, it’s hard not to root for Kieli. For her and the other character’s faults, they still remain interesting to watch. Thankfully the ending has everyone in a more emotionally stable place. I can only hope that wherever the future leads for Kieli, Harvey, Beatrix and the Corporal, they’ve learned to finally start communicating with each other more openly.

This volumes reads smoother than the previous volumes, the dialog feels less clunky, perhaps due to a change in translation and adaptation teams. Another change from the previous volumes is the use of the opening color pages. Instead of summarizing previous events, the first few pages provide an outsider’s view of several events that occur during the course of the story in this volume. I feel that the illustrations this time are weaker than the previous, the events they’re portraying are less gripping and more brooding.

In Summary:
Kieli continues on, a road story with no resolution in sight. The melancholic tale takes on all the elements of a proper horror story in the later chapters of this volume, with a tense chase through the dark as our two leads evade pursuit on all sides. While Kieli and Harvey have some found some of the answers they sought, more questions about them and about the past remain unanswered. Despite the gloom that follows the leads wherever they go, there’s always an element of hope. Much like Kieli, I hope that the journey doesn’t come to an end anytime soon.

Content Grade: A –
Illustration Grade: B –
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A –

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 26th, 2011
MSRP: $11.99

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