Ramya is the queen of the Peqkyrian people, a mountainous Amazon-esque race which is ruled by women and keep their men in nightmarish misandrist conditions. Men are only useful for pleasuring women or fathering children with those who excell at neither being summarily killed upon maturity. They are racist against all other people in their land, live an isolated existence, and get by only through the power of their armies.
Rayma fancies herself a compassionate, level-headed monarch who is loved by her people. In fact, she is none of these things. Rayma is a ruler prone to whimsy, acts on her immediate impulses, and is utterly ruthless in her actions regardless of their cruelty. One notable moment happens when she castrates and removes the tongue of a messenger for asking if the Peqkyrian people would be willing to hire their armies out as mercenaries.
Genghis Khan, notably, found the idea of killing messengers abhorrent as did most of the ancient world. Sparta, while they did kill Persia's messengers as depicted in 300, eventually got on their hands as well as knees to atone for the action that was infamous across the Ancient World. Rayma doubles down on her capriciousness by the fact she accepts more or less the same deal a week later when the queen offers it instead of a male servant.
Ramya's term as queen is coming to an end, though, because they each serve about ten years in office before they are exiled to die in the mountains. She's already served two more years than is customary and is expecting the call to her doom any time now. Instead, she receives a prophecy that wolves are coming to her doorstep. Melokai is an interesting novel which doesn't shy away from sex, violence, or the fact their protagonists are pretty much all awful people. Ramya is a vicious tyrant and it's only her word that she's actually that much better than previous ones. Indeed, her greatest accomplishment is the fact she dialed back the mass culling of young men which is a bit like Gul Dukat being outraged the Bajorans were ungrateful he dialed back some of the atrocities being done against them. Sorry, gratuitous Deep Space Nine reference.
While Ramya is an awful person, most of the people around her aren't much better. The surrounding nations are misogynist or an outright race of talking bipedal wolves who more or less have become the orcs of this reality. The other Peqkyrian are also far harsher and more misandrist than Ramya who considers them barely more than animals. The most sympathetic character is Ferraz, a male sex slave who believes Rayma is in love with him and planning on making him his mate. He is wrong but that is just the beginning of his end.
The world building is the best part of the novel with a huge amount of attention paid to the politics, societies, and relationships of each community. We learn not only how the Pekyrian people live but their neighbors, their trade partners, and their enemies they don't even know anything about. It's not just a transplanting of real life cultures either but wholly invented new ones with society impacted by their alien qualities. The Trogs and Wolves were perhaps my favorite characters in this book because they were so far removed from human evil.
Are there flaws to the book? Yes. The fact we don't get into the perspectives of the main characters can make some of them seem like they make very arbitrary decisions. Other characters are a bit more broadly written than others. Rayma is driven by her whims, cruel, and hypocritical but her chief opponent (and what passes for the villain) is a misogynist rapist moron. That hurt the narrative a bit as everyone seemed equally awful and thus it was hard to get invested in who wins. Despite this, I still found myself eagerly turning pages as I did want to know who would triumph in the end. The answer surprised me.
I appreciate fantasy which isn't afraid to create dark situations with no clear good guy or no good guys whatsoever. The book isn't afraid to kill off important characters with shocking regularity, either. At the end, it was almost like a slasher film. Its characters are motivated by whimsy, prejudice, and absolutism. Despite this, I had fun reading it and think it'll appeal to a lot of readers.