Thoughts on Chapter One of Kieli (Vol 1)

Kieli

The other day I posted a series of tweets on Twitter simply going over some of the things I liked in the first chapter of Kieli: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness. This article is just a copy of my tweets, so I can share my thoughts with those who don’t use Twitter.

(I am hoping to read through the whole Kieli series for 2019 LN Summer Reading. I hope you’re all enjoying some good light novels this summer!)

As the color illustration for this chapter implies, we will tackle the ethical question

Is it okay to drop a boulder on a man who may or may not be immortal

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I won’t always post a whole page like this

But yes, Kieli has a ridiculously strong opening page. We don’t begin with an event, so much as a strong belief Kieli holds — and even more so, a mood.

This book is going to be a mood.

—–

I will note that we do definitely get an event in the prologue, and what an event.

Kieli witnessing a death at a young age — or is it really a death? The Church destroys one of the Undying (basically an immortal homunculus soldier) right before her eyes.

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In chapter one, we start with an older Kieli’s daily life at a boarding school. Unlike many anime, manga, and LNs, the Kieli book does not portray school life as all that lovely and wonderful.

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The class is acting as choir at the local cathedral for a holiday event. (Kieli was absent during the announcement regarding what to wear.)

I really love this description for Kieli’s outfit — it gives us a visual, and thematically clues us in on Kieli not fitting in.

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Kieli finds the Church a sham in general, but keeps such thoughts to herself these days. The priest gives a sermon on death and rebirth, but doesn’t notice the hanged ghost hovering above him. Without being told directly, we are shown in this scene that Kieli can see spirits.

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We also met Kieli’s roommate Becca.

Colonization Days is basically Golden Week, it seems. Everyone goes on vacation.

We get bits of world-building sprinkled throughout the text, giving us an idea of the setting’s technology, culture, and history bit by bit.

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Just some more of that world-building. Lots of people take the train, but only the wealthy can ride a car it seems. The author took the time to make the car a bit different from what we’re used to, which I appreciate. If we’re in another world, why not make it unique?

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We get a great scene that introduces Harvey — a man Kieli mistakes for being a dead seminarian

And we get quick and efficient character-building for Becca, which I’ll not spoil here. The more we learn about Becca, the more we get to understand Kieli’s situation too.

—–

Back to Kieli’s day to day school life

I do wonder if this first Kieli chapter and Oregairu could be compared somewhat. (We won’t be in a school setting after this chapter though, so not much to really delve into there.)

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I just really love how this is worded, and am mad that I didn’t come up with it myself for one of my own stories

A fun way of showing that even in little things, Kieli will put forth an effort, even if she doesn’t wish to — but also, that she isn’t a perfectionist by any means

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Because of Harvey looking like a dead homeless man at the train station (that is, until he started to move), the girls end up discussing the Undying soldiers.

The War ended about 80 years ago, likely giving us a clear analogy to WWII for modern readers of the Kieli book

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Our next scene is from Harvey’s point of view. The author decided to not restrict PoV solely to Kieli, despite the book’s title.

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Harvey speaks with a radio here. I love the detail about the radio having a “prewar accent.” Is that something any of us ever even think about? The changes in accents from one generation to the next?

Also, immediate character establishment for both Harvey and the radio

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Lines like the one I highlighted here really sell me on the actual writing for the Kieli book. The entire concept of An Immortal Ex-Soldier and His Spirit-Possessed Radio is absolutely delightful, and is the sort of creativity that drew me into light novels in the first place.

—–

In the touching scene that follows, Harvey meets an old woman who recognizes him as an Undying.

Again, great character establishment. Generally speaking, Harvey is fed up, & doesn’t want to care about a world that has abandoned him. But still he offers a silent prayer here.

—–

The chapters in this Kieli book are a lot like individual short stories that are strung together. As such, I’ll refrain on spoiling some of the twists and turns toward the end of this opening chapter, because it’s really great stuff.

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I especially love how the nature of ghosts is established — which again, is shown to us, rather than told in a bunch of bland info-dumps. And it’s legitimately creepy stuff! I wouldn’t call Kieli a horror story, but it is indeed here to thrill first, wax poetic second.

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Just a couple random excerpts to share here, that I felt were great descriptions. Sometimes people online ask for LNs with strong prose, and I think I’d make a case for Kieli. The imagery here is succinct yet vivid.

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Earlier today I had a Twitter discussion about how Re:Zero novels could have benefited from stronger editing — namely, being willing to skip ahead to a later scene to move the story along.

“In late, out early,” they say in the biz

A great example of this in Kieli chapter 1!

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The lesson here is that sometimes it’s okay to just tell us that certain things happened, and move on to the next interesting scene that actually matters. We don’t need to read a whole scene about Kieli preparing for her trip — we can just be informed about it in passing.

—–

The last excerpt I’ll share.

It just made me laugh. Kieli is cute. Harvey is cute. And by the end of chapter one, I’m 100% on board with finding out what will happen next with them.

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If you are looking for a light novel to read that’s “something different,” give Kieli a try! Yen Press has all nine volumes of the series available in English. You can look for old paperback copies, or start reading the ebooks immediately.

7 responses to “Thoughts on Chapter One of Kieli (Vol 1)

  1. I’ll be honest. I liked the first volume of Kieli but dropped the series after 5 volumes. The author doesn’t seem to know how to drive a plot forward and will systematically use the “don’t do this Kieli – sure Harvey – does it anyway – you always get yourself in trouble – sorry Harvey” mechanic. And the amount of “coincidences” that sort out major plot challenges made me cringe, especially in book 2.

    Sorry to post such a negative comment when you clearly liked volume 1. So did I! The universe the author created deserved better.

  2. To me Kieli was a treasure in the vast ocean of books that I never expected to find. I like many books, but Kieli’s world was something else. I loved the characters so much!

    • I’m having a lot of fun re-reading this one. I remember liking the characters and setting a lot back in the day, but this time I find myself appreciating the prose itself a lot more. Yukako Kabei really draws you in with her detailed descriptions and creative imagery.

  3. I enjoy the short stories in volume 1, but looking back, later volumes definitely did a better job in stringing together all the short stories and making them feel like they correlate to the themes of the main plot. Volume 1’s feel a lot more random in comparison, but I suppose it’s hard to do that when the story was still starting out, lol.

    • Yes, I can see some people finding the chapters a bit disjointed. I think they at least helped to show how Kieli and Harvey each are individually (away from each other). All of that would serve as a base to compare with their subsequent character development over the course of the volume.

  4. Pingback: Summer Reading 2019 — How Was June? | English Light Novels·

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