Warning: If you have not read “Kieli, Volume 1: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness” by Yukako Kabei, avoid reading this review as it contains spoilers. If you’ve already read the book or you don’t mind spoilers, feel free to read this!
I’m back with another book review! This time it’s “Kieli, Volume 1: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness” by Yukako Kabei. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“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.”
I’m just going to put it out here now that I was, overall, not impressed with reading this book. Plotwise, the whole story didn’t quite feel like a ‘story’ with an ongoing main plot, and felt more like a collection of short stories that happen to just occur in order because the main characters are travelling together.
Speaking of Harvey and Kieli’s relationship in the book, it seemed a bit odd as of how they started travelling together and getting to know each other. Harvey technically didn’t have to bring Kieli along with him to various other places that they go to in the book. He could’ve easily left her behind at the school and go on his merry way by himself, and I don’t know if he gave any specific reason why he let Kieli tag along with him in the first place. The way he treats Kieli is at worst with indifference, but at best more like a protective brother figure than a potential romantic interest for Kieli. Overall, I didn’t feel much development in their relationship in the book.
The character of Becca being written off early in the book also felt like a huge letdown, given that she was actually mentioned in the summary and so I assumed she would continue to be a travelling companion of sorts for Kieli throughout the whole book. When she was written off, I was hoping she’d reappear later in the book like Corporal did, but unfortunately it wasn’t the case, meaning that Kieli has, quite literally, lost the only friend she had before meeting Harvey and Corporal.
The character of Corporal didn’t have much development either, other than close to the end of the book where he obviously has developed concern for both Kieli and most definitely Harvey, despite his seemingly ‘grumpy-old-man’ antics in the beginning. Despite this, he felt more like a plot device rather than his own character for both Harvey and Kieli’s development.
In terms of world-building, a lot of it felt like there were info-dumps ready to happen. Most of the concepts such as the Undying made sense, but I just wish the information came across less as an information dump and more naturally, through dialogue or . I feel like some bits of information, like the cores of the Undying, could’ve been used as some great plot twist if written well, but I think the opportunity for that was buried under all the information needed.
Overall, I’d rate this book 1.5 out of 5 stars due to the info-dumping, lack of development, Becca being written off early, and the lukewarm, undeveloped relationship Kieli and Harvey share.