This is the first book in the “In The Heart Of The Mountain” series, which takes place in a fictional world with the nations Peqkia, Zwullfr, Drome, and Fertilian.
The points-of-view take place in four different locations in where there are leaders that have differing interests in mind which inevitably conflict and result in skirmishes. Ramya is spending her last years as Melokaz, or leader, of the Peqkia nation in dealing with the trade complications with Drome and Fertilian as well as hunting the wolves of Zwullfr. In both of the former nations, they have been engaging in a war over the city Lian, while the Fertilian King Hugh is warring with a pretender Queen while trying to procure an heir.
As for the pacing of the plot, it moves naturally, since there are never moments when exposition encompasses the story. However, there are violent moments that were either never built up or did not give the reader time to ponder “What just happened?”
What is unique about this novel is that there are two systems that serve as a binary system of opposition in the political and personal spheres. In Peqkia, because the leaders and all authority figures are women, it is essentially a matriarchy; while Fertilian and Drome are patriarchal, since they rely on men to be in control and since royal succession is done through the male line. The function that men have in Peqkia is either laborers or pleasure-givers while the women in Fertilian and Drome act as subservient wives.
The issue of sexuality is prevalent in this book, either in the personal or the political lives of the point-of-view characters. However, while this theme permeates the novel within the three human nations, it has the tendency to interfere with the plot. In the case of the Dromedars, this theme interfered with the world-building and made them less materialized and more cartoonish.
They are based on the Arab nation and while that is exemplified within the descriptions of their religion and the marketplaces, this insight into the Dromedar nation is deemphasized by the bumbling point-of-view of the Crown Prince, Ammad.
As for the other world-building elements, there are definitely links between Peqkia and the Nepalese mountain range, since Kelly herself traveled there to visit the Annapurna Sanctuary. Peqkia is definitely the most unique place in the fictional world. However, the description of daily life in Riaow, the capital of Peqkia, is sparsely looked into.
Since each of these nations have weary, complicated relationships towards one another, this results in the use of spies in order to see what the other ruler is planning. However, in the case of Ramya’s spies, it seemed that they failed to note the changing point in the story in order to create a false sense of conflict.
In the Amazon description for “Melokai,” it stated that it is for lovers of George R. R. Martin, presumably referring to his “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Indeed, I can see the traces of that in this novel, with the Lannisters, direwolves, and wight walkers.
How is it that Ramya does not know how to control her emotions, when she was in power for years and had to deal with extremely complicated issues without becoming compromised? And considering how she had a Duke (who was a squire for the king of the Fertilians) executed, such an action would have escalated from a trade conundrum and into a war. But the wife of the king, Jessima, does not bring it up and spends much of the time in Peqkia becoming BFF’s with Ramya.
As for Ammad, who is the Crown Prince, it is clear to the other Dromedar characters, whether they are the Minister of War or even his own mother, that he is incompetent and cruel. No one considered it an irresponsible choice to place him as the Crown Prince over his older brother. While the latter was considered too decadent, it isn’t even explained whether he was nearly as incompetent and cruel as Ammad.
It would be important for characters’ emotional flaws to provide a source of conflict for the stories, since it would grant them autonomy. However, those flaws mentioned above are left unchecked or prevented in the first place. There were even a few characters who pointed out the flaws, which led me to think “These characters are sinning this novel for me.” As for the Duke, it would have been better if King Hugh heard of his death and shrugged it off saying “He was never a good squire anyway.”
I also found it quite tragic that Darrio and the other wolves showed humanity that was more interesting than the human characters’, since the latter have bland motivations. Ramya pretty much forgets that she is in her final years as a Melokaz. Of course, the wolves deal with survival, loss, war, and a foreboding dream, which are major reasons for their dimensional humanity.
There are typos throughout the novel, though only sparsely located. There were also moments when the fighting scenes were awkwardly worded.
I thought that the abbreviation “PG” was confusing. It referred to “pleasure-givers,” though apparently the Peqkians do not have a unique word in their own language for such a title. Perhaps it is because I associated it more with the ESBN rating, but throughout the novel, there are colloquial phrases that I would not think would fit into a world like the one in the novel.
As such while there are clichés in the tropes throughout the novel, such as the ancient evil reawakening, the strong, empowered woman who shows off the misogynistic losers, and a throne fashioned from [insert objects], most of the clichés are in the phrases.
However, as for the uniqueness of each of the nations, they definitely provide them the means to assert their identities. As for the Peqkians, they are described as being dark-skinned, so they are based on Africans. Another hint is that the word for their leader “Melokaz” comes from the Proto-Semitic word “malk-” for “king,” it can definitely relate to either the legend that Solomon, king of Israel, had an African wife named Sheba; or the widespread influence of the Islamic empires during their first century of north African conquest. The Jutes, of course, come from one of the Germanic nations who allied with the Angles and the Saxons during the migration to Britain. Zwullfr includes the Proto-Germanic word for wolf which is “wulfaz,” Trogr comes from “troglodyte” (especially since they live in caves), and Fertilian is cognate to “fertility,” which easily juxtaposes with the harsh landscape of the Peqkia.
The Promise Of A New World With An Abstractly Worded, Misleading Prophecy
While the conflicting agendas provide a riveting read, the characterizations are quite clumsy. The world-building is sound as far as Peqkia is concerned and it is interesting to read, but everything else does not fall into place properly when there is not a lot that is explained.
Kelly, Rosalyn. “Melokai (Book 1: In The Heart Of The Mountains).” NValters Publishing 2017.