Book Review: Melokai: In the Heart of the Mountains by Rosalyn Kelly

51NpZ0clkbL Synopsis: Legendary warrior Ramya has successfully ruled as Melokai for longer than most. Prosperous, peaceful, and happy, her people love her. Or so she thinks.

Ramya’s time is up. Bracing herself for the gruesome sentence imposed on all Melokais who have served their purpose, she hears instead a shocking prophecy.

Is the abrupt appearance of a mysterious, eastern cave creature the prophesied danger? Or is it something darker, more evil? And what of the wolves? Will the ferocious war with their kind oust her from power?

Suddenly Ramya must fight threats from all sides to save her mountain realm. But while her back is turned, a conspiracy within her inner circle is festering. Ramya and her female warriors must crush an epic rebellion before it can destroy her and devastate her beloved nation.

She thinks it’s the end, but it’s just the beginning…

Review: Melokai: In the Heart of the Mountains by Rosalyn Kelly is an engrossing, dark and diverse fantasy that propels you into the world immediately. The cover alone promises an epic read, and author Kelly didn’t disappoint.

In the opening, Melokai Rayma is accompanied by her counselor and Head Scholar, Chaz, to entreat the Stone Prophetess Sybilya. Each Melokai ruling the matriarchal society of Peqky serves for a decade, and then a new Melokai is elected. After which, the departing ruler’s tongue is removed and they’re banished from Peqky. This isn’t a prospect that Rayma or her counselors relish, since their fates would be the same, save the banishment.

Rayma visited the stone goddess each week for her ruling, but instead of proclaiming Rayma’s rule at an end, the goddess remained silent. As a result, Rayma had ruled two years longer than any other Melokai. Howbeit, this visit would be different. The stone goddess spoke a prophecy that will inexorably alter the Peqkyians future.

Although bemused by the prophecy, Rayma continues to lead her people and make great strides to improve the lives of her denizens as well as lessen the severe treatment of the pleasure peons (PGs). Regardless of some opposition, she is loved by her people and surrounded by loyal counselors and warriors. Or is she?

The Peqkyian society is also intriguing. Most inhabitants display catlike features and also communicate with their feline companions. In the times of Xayy, a thousand years past, men had a place of ruler as the Melokaz. However, after the then stone prophetesses cursed them, that changed, and now the males (peons) are considered lesser citizens, and nothing more than a means to procreate and provide physical pleasures. Unfortunately, if males can’t demonstrate their ability to provide the latter, they are disposed of in a most horrific way. The PGs (male pleasure givers) existence is better than most other males. Notwithstanding the threat of castration and an excruciating death if they can’t satisfy their female summoners, they live and are treated modestly well.

Another interesting (and relevant) element is the Peqkian children. Women can choose a soulmatch if they feel connected to a certain male. Evenso, once they birth children, they’re taken to a communal pen. Naturally, with the use of PGs, women are pregnant often, and Peqkian law mandates that no child can know their parents and vice versa. “Mothers” have positions in each pen facility to rear and teach these children until they reach the appropriate age (fifteen). If the young boys can’t pass a ‘usefulness test,’ they are disposed of immediately.

With the dire implications of the prophecy, distrustful allies, warring wolves, and a banished, foreign Trogr (Gwrlain) arriving in the city, fealties are wavering, and the brittle filament tethering the Peqkian together could shatter at any moment.

That’s quite a bit to absorb, but it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. Author Rosalyn Kelly has created a vividly intriguing world pervaded with new species, deities, talking animals, concepts, great battles, and milieus that immerse you in this epic world whilst tickling every fantastical desire to satiate even the finickiest of readers. With numerous sub-plots, betrayals, manipulations, and intricately scrupulous treacheries, you’ll barely have time to catch your breath.

Melokai by Rosalyn Kelly effectually whisks you through multiple lands and societies (not all human), and a huge cast of interconnected characters. With the sexual content and brutalities, it’s intended for mature readers and not those unfamiliar with dark or grimdark fantasy. I don’t have an issue with such content when it’s used for characterization and along with the plot…not in place of one. Melokai is the former, and I was captivated from page one, and can’t wait to see what’s next revealed…especially with Sarrya, V, Artaz, and Gwrlain. What appears to be an end will certainly be a new beginning.
Easily 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The Brittle Riders by Bill McCormick

RGB Trilogy Color I Synopsis: In a far future, Earth had already been visited by an alien race called the Sominids, who came here for the express purpose of drinking and having sex with everyone they could. When one of their infamous parties resulted in the moon being cut in half, and killing everyone who happened to live there, they quietly left. Their encounter with the Sominids had taught the human race many things, primarily that faster than light travel did not exist. Denied the stars, the human race began to dwindle in numbers and terminate all of their space programs.

A thousand years after that, a scientist named Edward Q. Rohta circumvented anti-AI laws, laws which had been on the books for millennia, by creating organic creatures to provide manual labor. Instead of dying after ten years, as promised in the company brochure, they would develop flu-like symptoms and go into hiding. Eventually, fed up with the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of humans they rose up and killed every man, woman, and child on the planet.

This is the story of what happens next.

The Brittle Riders; Apocalypses are funny that way.

Review: The Brittle Riders (Book I) by Bill McCormick was an unexpected pleasure to read. While I love science fiction and fantasy, it took me a while to immerse myself in this new and creative world. This debut novel commences with a preamble establishing the atmosphere that caused the apocalyptic demise of humankind. We’re introduced to Edward Q. Rohta, who is a brilliantly arrogant geneticist (and avowed hedonist). Since the “Plato Wars,” the creation of artificial intelligence was forbidden. Howbeit, Rohta circumvented that law by developing organic hybrids designed to assist humans. The transgenic beings he created were categorized as pseudo-humans and granted no rights. Rohta continued his research, creating more mutated and intermixed species called gen-o-pods, selling them as international slave labor and sex slaves. After fifty prosperous years, a succubus visited Rohta, stating that her contemporaries had studied humanity and deemed humans unscrupulous and indecent creatures that were a blight on their world. War soon followed.

Once the humans were defeated, the gen-o-pods constructed new communities and rid themselves of anything that was reminiscent of their human creators. However, like in all societies, not everyone desired a world of peace. Instead, they launched a war of their own, enslaving other brands (species) they deemed inferior. Xhaknar and Yontar (super soldiers), devastated the new world, and decimated numerous brands.

So, what happens when a succubus, a wolfen, a badgebeth, a rangka, and a braarb walk into the haven bar for a meeting over a few flagons of skank? No, seriously, that’s what happens. What comes next is an intriguing tale regarding those fringe dwellers of the wasteland, and an unfathomable plan by “the dead one,” Geldish.

The Brittle Riders is a well-crafted and intricate tale about these unlikely ‘heroes’ on a quest to free Arreti (formally earth) from its new, tyrannical leader. Author McCormick interweaves the backgrounds and the histories of their brands into an engaging, multi-layered plot. It isn’t merely a good vs evil story. Both concepts are interspersed with gradations of each, creating a compelling tale that you won’t want to stop reading.

As an added benefit, there’s a meticulous accounting of all brand names and descriptions, as well as the new measurements of time, days, years, etc. I referred to it a few times, but after I was well into the story, I didn’t need it. However, it’s always a pleasure when an author includes such details for the readers’ benefit.

The Brittle Riders is full of multidimensional characters, great battles, and the complexities of seeking new allies amongst sectarian brands to benefit the whole of Arreti, whilst rectifying wrongs of the past. In some places, the prose appeared a tad stilted, but once the story unfolded, it flowed quite well. There’s also some adult content, but not overly so. It’s used to demonstrate the turpitude and maleficence of integral characters. Definitely a “Zanubi” of a story, well worth 4.5 stars.

“La’Kyee Shhak.” You’ll understand once you’ve read it.

Book Review: Going Forth by Day by: Mary Woldering

51nU70ZsCEL._SY346_Synopsis: Marai, a former shepherd who discovered a fallen ‘star’ and was gifted with amazing abilities by the unearthly Children of Stone, has been separated from those he loves. Kept apart by forces seeking to control all of them, they must independently grow to understand their own powers while continuing their journey to wisdom. Will they be reunited? Will Marai rise up and begin to Go Forth By Day? Will those who care for him survive without his guidance and love?

Going Forth By Day, the second book in the Children of Stone series, is the story of Marai’s companions, Ariennu, Deka, and Naibe-Ellit. Through their involvement in the lives of the royalty of ancient Kemet, new alliances form, loyalties shift, and the comfortable lives of some are shaken to their core.

Blending history, ancient literature, mythology, classic archetypes, and personal inspiration, Woldering takes the reader on a speculative and emotional journey through the ancient world with detailed and thought-provoking characters whose stories weave themselves into the tapestry of history.

Review: Going Forth by Day by Mary Woldering is the second installment in the Children of Stone series. As with her debut novel (Voices in Crystal), Woldering delivers exceptional world-building and characterization. The intricate details and setting attest to not only the extensive research, but also Woldering’s delight in immersing her readers and herself into this world.

Going Forth by Day opens with Marai’s wives: Ariennu, Deka, and Naibe-Ellit, awaiting the return of their beloved husband. Mariai’s sojourn to commune and study under the Great Count Prince Hordjedtef is nearing its end, or so his elder wife, Ariennu, believed. With the Children of Stone’s silence, and recent turbid visions, the sister wives have grown trepidatious. That trepidation amplifies when the inspector priest, Prince Wserkaf, arrives at their home with a contingent of peacekeepers.

After receiving some perplexing instructions from her stone, Ariennu prepares her sister wives for a journey that will alter every aspect of their lives.

Going Forth by Day details the sister wives’ disparate lives after an inimical separation and numerous perilous circumstances. Ariennu contemplates their futures, and attempts to decipher the Children’s warnings, whilst maneuvering into positions to impede their enemies’ plans, thus reclaiming their lives. Howbeit, the power, position, and manipulations of their ‘captors’ isn’t so easily surmounted.

Rife with magic, compelling characters, betrayals, enigmatic prophecies, and awakenings, Going Forth by Day is a fascinating read, laying the foundation for the final novel, Opener of the Sky. I can’t wait to read the climactic end to this diverse and enthralling epic trilogy.

Book Review: Darkrise by M.L. Spencer

DarkRise Synopsis: Darien Lauchlin betrayed his allegiance to the Rhen when he sold his soul to the God of Chaos. Now the unthinkable has occurred: war between Malikar and the Rhen looms on the horizon. As Darien prepares to lead an invasion against his former homeland, he struggles to unite a diverse people who still view him as the enemy. Darien is forced to abandon his former loyalties and confront the tragedies of his past. With the help of Azár, he embarks on a series of trials that will forge him into the Battlemage his people desperately need him to be. But will the price of becoming a weapon be the last of his humanity?

Review: Darkrise by M. L. Spencer is the fourth book in this unique epic fantasy series (counting the prequel, Darkstorm). If you’re looking for a satisfying conclusion in this novel, you’ll have to wait until the next book (maybe). If you’re seeking an enthralling epic adventure comprising the fantastical elements you love, Darkrise is that and more.

Darkrise continues from where Darklands ended. Malikar and the Rhen teeter on the brink of war if a peaceful solution can’t be achieved. Darien Lauchlin, revered as a hero by some and an enemy to others, is entrenched within a battle not only between civilizations, but also within himself. Regardless of his moral conflicts and waning integrity, he’s determined to ascertain a peaceful solution and stand as a bridge between both worlds. Howbeit, his desires are incongruous to those of his new oath and master. Darien struggles with retaining his humanity, whilst striving to protect it. In doing so, numerous aspects of his life must change as he realizes that in order to attempt the impossible, he must surrender to the unthinkable.

It wouldn’t be a Rhenwars novel without the beloved, misunderstood, and flawed, Quin Reis. He’s continuing his efforts to aid Darien on a separate, perilous journey of discovery and strife. Even so, there’s some interesting facets of his personality that are brought forth along with more insight into who and what he is. Can a touch of humanity deliver him from the turbidity encompassing his soul? One can only hope. As one of the most intriguing characters in the series, Quin Reis never ceases to sacrifice himself for others and continuously advocates for causes that are beneficial to the whole. I do love that numerous so-called ‘demons’ in this series comprise more rectitude and ‘goodness’ than those proclaiming morality and righteousness. Furthermore, those purporting other cultures as savage, display the very barbarity they assign to their nemeses.

With a few darker undertones than the previous novels in the series (at least to me), Darkrise comes closer to having a grimdark edge. Conflicted characters, demons, hell-hounds, magic, torture and war, are all interwoven into a compelling tale that I didn’t want to end.

The one thing that perplexed me was the sudden aberrant behavior of an essential character. Throughout the series and especially in this novel, he remained unflinching and cold (as he should). Even after proclaiming his ‘blood-thirst’ and elation at decimating his enemies (or friends…he’s like that), it completely changed when the opportunity presented itself. It was contrary to everything that he is and previously demonstrated. Perhaps, this aspect was needed to augment another character’s purpose and significance. He certainly benefited from this reversal in characterization. I can’t wait to read the next novel and see.

Darkrise by M.L. Spencer is a captivating read with relatable characters that you’ll care about. The world is richly drawn, enhancing the epic experience. Definitely recommended.