Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jan 26th 2013
Novel 7 - As the Deep Ravine's Wind Howls
Kieli and Harvey are forced to put their search for Beatrix on hold when the Corporal starts to malfunction. Is the ghost's presence in the old radio about ready to move on? As they set out to find a way to fix his host body, the two are forced to face their feelings for each other (without overtly stating them) and the fact that there might not be a happy ending to their story.
What is it that keeps us reading a story that consistently makes us want to cry? Yukako Kabei's beautifully melancholy light novel series Kieli, which tells the story of a lonely girl who sees ghosts, an immortal soldier with a wounded heart, and the ghost of a corporal the soldier killed over eighty years ago, keeps its readers with its sweetly sad, well written tale. Set on a nameless planet untold centuries in the future, it is tempting to classify the series as dystopian fiction, but is it really a dystopia if only our heroes see it that way? For many years after the colonization of the planet it was at war, brought about at least in part by the diminishing fossil fuel energy sources. Towards the end of the final war, scientists discovered a way to implant “cores” in the chests of dead soldiers, making them into immortal fighters known as the Undying. Harvey is one such soldier, and in the two previous entries into the series, The Sunlit Garden Where it All Began parts one and two, we learned of Harvey's life before the core, as Ephraim. This latest English volume, As the Deep Ravine's Wind Howls, doesn't achieve the same level of mono no aware as those books, but it draws on the emotional discoveries that both Harvey and Kieli made, using them to form the foundation of this penultimate story arc.
As the Deep Ravine's Wind Howls takes place shortly after the events of The Sunlight Garden Where it All Began Part Two. Harvey and Kieli are helping at the wedding of the bartender and Yana when the Corporal begins malfunctioning. His memory is patchy and before long his personality has been lost. The theory is that the radio components that have been serving as his body are growing old, making this a metaphor for dementia or Alzheimer's. Neither Harvey nor Kieli quite know how to handle it, and Harvey decides (without consulting Kieli) that they should take the Corporal's radio back to his grave in Easterbury. This puts their search for the missing Beatrix (an Undying) on hold and gives Harvey some time to think about whether he wants to take Kieli to the capital with him.
Harvey's emotional turmoil is much more at the center of the plot than Kieli's this time around. We've known that she has strong feelings for Harvey, and while we have suspected that he returns them, we haven't had any real confirmation. We still don't get anything concrete, but Harvey himself is beginning to realize that Kieli is important to him. As his Undying body begins to falter, he faces the fact that it might be him leaving her through death rather than the other way around. Kieli is also starting to make more solid realizations about the fact that forever might not be an option for she and Harvey, wondering if perhaps “they [had] been riding on tracks that never crossed.”
Train symbolism is rife throughout this volume, with one whole chapter focusing on Kieli's wish to never leave Harvey and her ability to see ghosts in a very ominous way. At the end of the volume Kabei neatly flips this symbolic moment on its head as Harvey ponders the train tracks that will take them to their next destination, making the moment more hopeful than when seen through Kieli's eyes. (To be fair, the lack of ghosts helps.) The idea of parallel lines is another symbolic constant throughout the book, with the mystery of the Corporal's favorite guerrilla radio station having more to say about Kieli and Harvey than one might suspect. Kabei has consistently had a light touch with the symbolic aspects of the story, leading the readers to think not just as they read, but once the book is done. In the realm of translated light novels where translation choices or plots can make the things much more obvious, Kieli stands out as a more subtle piece of fiction.
Kieli is also notable for the fact that its redone covers actually better capture the dark melancholy of the series than the originals. While Shunsuke Taue has a light, delicate touch that compliments Kabei's story well, the creepy yet depressing factor of the Yen Press covers suit the series. Taue's illustrations are few, but they work well, giving everyone a doll-like appearance against bleak backgrounds. In all honesty, Kabei's work doesn't need the illustrations, as her words are able to paint Kieli's world well, so Taue's pictures are in the way of an added bonus.
If Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting made you tear up, then Kieli will too. Immortality sounds great in theory, but Kieli points out the sadness behind it, and even when it seems like things will even out, Kabei intimates that they still might not. In other words, there is no guarantee of a happy ending. But there is a good read, albeit one not as compelling as the previous books, which may be due to the fact that Kabei felt she wanted to write one more journey before the finale. Will Harvey and Kieli save Beatrix? Can they stay together? The reader may find herself reluctant to know lest things not work out as she'd like, but at the same time unable to stop reading. As A. A. Milne once said, “It is that kind of book.”
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Story continues to compel, Harvey's emotions finally come clear. Symbolism works without being too heavy handed.
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