Author Rosalyn Kelly tells the story of Ramya, the successful but arrogant ruler of Peqkya, a mountain-dwelling nation of warrior women, where men are kept as servants and pleasure-givers. Ramya's alliances and feuds between neighbouring civilisations fluctuate throughout the novel, and she develops a controversial romance with a cave creature...
The front cover gave me the impression that Melokai was young adult fantasy, but this is actually grimdark fantasy on a par with Game of Thrones and Godblind. There is violence, rape, torture, and an infant's head gets crushed underfoot, all peppered with superb moments of dark humour. This is perfect for readers with a bloodthirty appetite.
Melokai is deliriously entertaining and wholly immersive. Kelly has an impressive flair for world-building and crafts multiple kingdoms in great detail, each with its own culture and quirks. Her author biography shows that Kelly has travelled the world, which is apparent in the vivid description and variety of the places described. These include the aforementioned, Peqkya; the desert kingdom of Drome; pompous medieval country Fertilian; the rainforest world of Jute, populated by pygmies; and the Zwullfr mountains where the wolves live.
The scale of Kelly's world is supremely vast, with an enormous cast of characters populating each region. A lesser author might have saved something for a later book, or a separate franchise, but Kelly has generously given us a smorgasbord of fantastic cultures to devour all in one novel. The justified glossary of people and places at the back of the book is testament to the size of the ITHOTM universe.
The characters are a hateful bunch, in a good way, with no obvious categories of good guys and bad guys, although the spoilt Prince of Drome, Ammad, has a nasty case of the Joffreys. You will be dying for someone to give him a slap. Meanwhile, Violya is one of the more likeable heroes - a warrior woman with magical abilities - who happily looks set to have a bigger part in the sequel out next year, which is titled V.
I eagerly await Part Two and discovering more of the ITHOTM world, much of which is teased in this series opener, including the rebellious Thorne Twins, the cave nation of Troglr, and the literal rise of the wolves.
AFAIC, the ITHOTM franchise could be, IMHO, the next GoT. IKR?
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