Kieli is a lonely girl with only a ghost roommate for company until the day she meets Harvey, an undying soldier who is being pursued by the church. These two unlikely companions will travel together and may just find what they are looking for in one another.
I have to admit, there was something interesting about reading Kieli even if I’m not thrilled enough to go looking for a second book. For me, this story was great to read and I loved watching Kieli and Harvey interacting with the commentary of the ‘corporal’, a ghost who lived inside a radio they carried. But I’m also kind of feeling that for me this was enough of that story. Certainly there are wider implications and more that can go on in the world, but I liked where this story chose to finish and felt a sense of completion from it. So I am going to recommend reading this book even while I decline to read any further in the series at the moment (I may eventually change my mind).
There’s a lot of fairly familiar antics going on in Kieli with the orphan girl who is a bit different getting picked on by others in the school and being the target of mistaken charity from others. Even her interactions with Becca, the ghost roommate, are all pretty much what you would expect. However, the familiar set-up is taking place in a world that is fresh and new even while it reflects a lot of what we’ve seen before.
Set on a world colonised long ago and all but out of resources after a devastating war, there’s a sense that everything here is coming to an end and the people are just going through the motions of living because there’s nothing better to do. From a technological point of view there’s a strange mix between old and new as there are weapons and machines left over from by-gone eras that are pretty fantastic, and then there are things more reminiscent of more of the 19th Century. The mix works well to create a world that feels fresh even while a lot of what it presents has been done before.
Where it really missed a chance to distinguish itself was in the main antagonist of the novel, the controlling church and the bureaucracy beneath it. While religious organisations and dictatorship governments are pretty easy targets for dystopian settings, it felt like Kieli could have really tried something different if it wanted to given the nature of the setting and the history, and yet it does make perfect sense that the people did fall back to a theocracy of sorts.
Despite the intriguing setting, this is very much a story about Kieli and Harvey and while they are both products of the world they live in, they are first and foremost people who have been deeply hurt and for various reasons have cut themselves off from others. Despite Harvey’s secrets and the fact that they both see ghosts, they are both characters that it is easy to emphasise with and that is one of the greatest strengths of the story.
Some decent action sequences, including a train escape, and some supernatural goings on with the ghosts all make for a fairly interesting plot while we watch the two characters slowly come out of their self-imposed shells.
As I said, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it quite interesting, but for me the end point it enough. It’s like getting to the end of a movie and the characters get their happily ever after and then you realise there’s a sequel where they just kind of mess everything up for the characters again. I’m happy where this ended and where the characters are so for now I’ll leave Kieli and Harvey alone but if you are looking for something a bit interesting to read, than Kieli might just be what you are looking for.
If you’re interested in reading Kieli Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.