Where Loyalties Lie (Best Laid Plans #1) by Rob J. Hayes

whereloyalties lieWhere Loyalties Lie is a winning combination of pirates and grimdark that isn’t for the faint hearted.  No Disney style pirates here but plenty of raucous banter and bloodshed on the open seas.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Captain Drake Morass.  He’s just made port at one of a number of pirate islands and he has a dark tale.  It seems like the Five Kingdoms and Sarth are joining together in a bid to clean up the waters and they’re not taking prisoners.  They’re destroying pirate townships, literally killing everyone and burning the place to the ground – and these are the good guys – so that might help to shed a little light on what you can expect from the rest of this book.

Basically, if the pirates are going to survive they need to wise up, pool resources and stand united under one leader and Captain Morass figures himself to be just the man for the job.  Of course, being a lying, cheating, murdering, swindler and double crossing no good son of a so and so (characteristics which I might add are running amok amongst most of the pirates) most of his fellow pirates are reluctant to believe his story and smell a rat.  What Captain Morass needs is an ally and he has the very fellow in mind, in fact he’s been told unequivocally that Kellin Stillwater is just the man to get the ball rolling. Now, there’s more to the plot than I’m outlining here – there are twists aplenty, what with pirates trying to outdo each other and all but I think that probably gives a fairly good flavour to whet your appetite.

So, lets get to the world building.  To be clear from the start this story takes place very much on the high seas.  Yes, I hear you – it’s a pirate story – but, really, seriously, the majority of the action takes place off terra firma so if you don’t have your sea legs you might like to take that into account.  I just loved it to be honest.  There’s such a lot of creativity going on here ranging from tempestuous sea Gods that might just kill a whole bunch of superstitious pirates on a whim, Islands with monsters living beneath the sand and tropical forests that just might lull you to sleep so that insects can slowly eat you.  On top of that there’s magic, wielded by Arbiters and the like who hunt witches and burn them at the stake.  There’s plenty going on here and no shortage of things to entertain.

The characters are up for scrutiny next.  What to say really.  They’re not a nice bunch in fact I spent a good part of the build up really puzzled about whether or not to like any of them – until they began to work their magic and win me over, some of them at least.  The main characters are Keelin, Drake, Tanner Black, his daughter Elaina Black and an arbiter named Beck.  For the most part the POVs switch between the occupants of the different ships which is a great way of varying the landscape and giving us a different perspective on things as they develop.  I admit I’m impressed with the way the characters are built up.  They slowly reveal little bits about themselves and there are a good deal of skeletons in closets.  The whole lot of them are firmly in the area of grey – apart from Tanner Black who is literally a downright nasty piece of work and deserves his terrible reputation.  But, two things that are worthy of mention.  Firstly, grimdark really lends itself to the area of pirating.  Let’s be honest now, these are people who, no matter how charismatic or charming they might appear, kill and rob on the high seas.  The majority of them have little compunction about murdering a crew or torturing someone for information, they’re not nice people.  That being said there is a certain camaraderie that eventually makes you view them slightly differently..  They begin to understand the predicament they’re in and just how desperate things are and they begin to pull together in real underdog style.

The writing here is really good, the dialogue is sharp, the pacing is fast, there is never a lull in momentum and the writing manages to show the restraint necessary to keep a good balance between action and intrigue.  However, I can’t stress enough that this is downright dark and brutal and I feel that I must point out that there is rape and torture amongst the bloodshed.  Now, I didn’t feel like any of the content was gratuitous, in fact I felt like it was relevant in really highlighting that these pirates are nasty and in fact some of them are downright evil.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have any.  I think there was maybe a slightly slowish start but nothing that really stopped me from wanting to read on and I definitely had  moments where I felt like I might struggle to like any of the characters and I worried that might be an issue.  That didn’t turn out to be the case though.

I thoroughly enjoyed Where Loyalties Lie.  It’s dark and twisted.  It’s brutal and bloody.  It’s entertaining and creative.  It kept me hooked to the page with the intriguing plot and creative landscape.  I loved this nautical adventure and look forward to reading the next instalment.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.  The above is my own opinion.


My rating for Where Loyalties Lie is 9/10 which equates to 4.5 out of 5



11 Responses to “Where Loyalties Lie (Best Laid Plans #1) by Rob J. Hayes”

  1. Tammy

    This sounds like my kind of book😁 I love pirates, even the nasty ones!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Nasty pirates – not Disney version ones (although I’m a sucker for Captain Sparrow and Captain Hook!)
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Let’s face it: if pirates were totally nice guys we would be thoroughly bored by them, wouldn’t we? So welcome grimdark pirates! 🙂
    I think I might enjoy this very much: thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’ managed to win the SPFBO – and it was the book of choice for 5 out of 10 bloggers which is a pretty good recommendation really.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I enjoyed this one. Real real dark and gritty. I’ve been contemplating the second one 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh yes, I will definitely read No.2. Real gritty, downright nasty pirates – and yet there is a little glimmer of hope – although it really is a tiny glimmer.
      Lynn 😀

  4. jessicabookworm

    Now Lynn you know I love a pirate story but sadly I think this might be too dark for me – Glad you enjoyed it though. 🙂

  5. Jennifer | Book Den

    This sounds really, really great! I’m going to add it to my list so I can keep my eye out for it.

  6. TTT : Wish you were there? | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] and can always be persuaded to pick up more.  Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J […]

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