Where Loyalties Lie

Best Laid Plans, Book 1
Narrated by: Matthew Jackson
Series: Best Laid Plans, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 4 mins
4.1 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of Mark Lawrence's 3rd Self Published Fantasy Blog Off

Finalist in BookNest's 2017 Fantasy Awards

Nominated for a r/Fantasy Best of 2017 Stabby Award

"Feels exactly like a world populated by pirates should; fun and vulgar and more than a little dangerous." (BookNest

Everyone knows Drake Morrass is only out for himself.

As the fires of a dying city burn on a distant shore, Drake sees an opportunity to unite the other pirate captains under his flag and claim himself a crown. 

If he is to succeed he will need allies and credibility. Who better than gentleman pirate, Keelin Stillwater, renowned for taking ships without bloodshed, as well as his skill with a sword. 

Enemy ships sail their waters, setting the Pirate Isles ablaze. The sinister Tanner Black threatens to steal the throne before Drake has even sat in it. Now Drake must somehow convince the other pirate captains that his best interests are also theirs. 

Dive into this swashbuckling adventure today!

©2017 Rob J. Hayes (P)2019 Rob J. Hayes

What listeners say about Where Loyalties Lie

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    5 out of 5 stars

Some of the best fantasy of the past decade

WHERE LOYALTIES LIE by Rob Hayes is technically part of the larger First Earth universe and a sequel to the Ties That Bind trilogy. It is, however, an individual work which functions on its own and the first novel in the Best Laid Plans duology. Got all that? Me neither. However, for the sake of this review, this is a great grimdark pirate novel with bloodshed and booty! The premise is Drake Morass, professional conman and pirate, has decided he's getting along in his years so it's time to think about retirement. Retirement plans for a man who was lovers with the Dragon Empress and who has literally sold his own mother into slavery are a bit more grandiose than for most, though. Drake Morass wishes to be a king and not just a king but one who rules over a nation of pirates in the setting's Carribean equivalent. There's just one problem: everyone who knows Drake Morass knows he's a scheming piece of garbage. A man's word may not mean much among scurvy seadogs but his means less than anyone's. To this end, Drake Morass recruits gentleman pirate Keelin. Keelin is something of a stereotype even in-universe as he's a former nobleman who went on the high seas to get revenge on his enemies. He's a man of his word and a man who tries to maintain civil standards above being a murderous bandit. In other words, he's the perfect patsy to make it look like Drake is out for anyone other than himself. Keelin is also, notably, lovers with Elaina Black--the world's most famous she-pirate and daughter of Tanner Black. Tanner is the man who actually IS close to being the pirate's king and knows better than to try something as stupid as Drake is planning. Where Loyalties Lie is clearly inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies but it also draws a great deal from the historical attempt at creating a pirate nation in Nassau. For those unfamiliar with it (or Assassins Creed: Black Flag), that was where the pirates of the age took over the island and attempted to create their own Republic. Unlike the Disney movies, this is a book clearly written for adults with language, sex, and visceral violence. There's also a short rape scene in the book which, while plot relevant, made my stomach turn and is the only reason this book isn't a 5 out of 5. While I don't think fantasy is overclocked with Medieval European settings, I do like when the genre branches out and pirates are an underdone setting for stories about magic as well as monsters. They should go together like peanut butter and jelly with this novel making excellent use of his fantasy world as well as it's politics to create a dynamic interesting plot. The fact Drake's plan to create his own kingdom is entirely selfish and the book makes no attempt to soften its sociopathic antihero also means I didn't know who would win out. I was as much rooting for the people opposed to Drake Morass as the people he'd duped into following him. The characters are dynamic, the situations interesting, and the writing crisp. There's never a dull moment in the novel and there's numerous twists I didn't expect. Also, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the book's love triangle between Keelin, Elaina, and Aimi. Keelin desperately wants to become a respectable gentleman again and that leads him to question his relationship with Captain Black. Unfortunately, Aimi wants to break away from the very respectability he craves. In a story about king-making, piracy, politics, and murder--this is a surprisingly engrossing story. In conclusion, I strongly recommend readers who like their fantasy a bit more on the gritty side to check this work out. It's not for the faint of heart but that's part of why it's so enjoyable and why I intend to pick up the next volume. I strongly recommend the audiobook edition of this title as narrated by Matthew Jackson as it is extremely well done with a consistent dramatic read.

3 people found this helpful

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Quest to become King of the Pirates

Where Loyalties Lie is a great fantasy novel about Pirates. It's world is fleshed out quite well and this is a stand alone series that is built upon a previous series which I had never read but as I said this stands on its own and you don't need to have read the previous books but you might get a better appreciation or better understanding of some of the characters. The characters are what truly make this book, there are a lot of them and they are definitely interesting. There are some characters who are 'good guys' but that is a relative term because even they can do some questionable, callous or brutal things. The story mainly follows Captain Drake Morass(get it?) and Captain Keelin Stillwater but there are a lot of other characters that also play prominent roles. The story takes place in the pirate Isles a region of the seas with islands populated mostly by Pirates and people who want to be free from the rule of other countries. These other countries have sent out ships recently to eradicate the pirate problem and Drake Morass believes all the pirates must band together to survive and set up there own kingdom, of course he wants to set himself up as the King, The only problem is that another rival the very brutal and evil Captain Black will never join forces with him and has his own designs. The narration by Matthew Jackson is spot on and he does some great pirate voices without going over the top. I like how there is a lot going on between each faction and Captain and how there is a lot of politics even in the Pirate World. This is definitely an adult book and there is a small rape scene in the book which can definitely be off putting to a lot of people as it is pretty brutal, it is plot driven and is there to show how messed up a certain character is and why another certain character has been through and it goes to explain why she is the way she is. I would definitely recommend this book and am interested in reading the next in the series and am very curious about the previous series of novels. "Please note I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

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Set Sail, for my new favorite series!

Gritty, badass, dry and hilarious, action packed, complex characters, and a plot that twists and turns. You know that feeling where you finish reading/watching something and need to consume everything you can about the subject? "Where Loyalties Lie" will be that. As soon as I finished, I immediately went to Audible to find the second book. Knowing this is a book series is even more exciting. I've always wished for more "pirates" in the fiction genre, but Scott Lynch's "Red Seas Under Red Skies" (which I also loved) was one of the few I could find. Then, this book rocked my world. Being a giant fan of "grimdark" and reading Mark Lawrence's review of this book, I was very excited to get a chance to read it. I have a very busy schedule, so audiobooks are the way to go for me and this was just released through Audible. The narrator, Matthew Jackson, is the perfect fit and I can't wait until the rest of the series is released. I am hoping he continues to narrate. I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. My new favorite world that I cannot wait to escape back in to. Thank you, Rob!

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Ah Pirates Pirating

This book was great, it had pretty much everything, politics, intrigue, pirates and monsters, and magic. The writing was excellent, the characters are all well developed nuanced people with goals and attachments of their own, the pacing is excellent and moves swiftly, the intrigue was believable, and the adventure was exciting. We need more books like this. The narration was excellent, the accents and dialect shifts all sounded natural and realistic. I don't want to put to much into this review as I said there is a lot of intrigue in this book so I don't want to provide any spoilers. If you like pirates and scoundrels and aren't squeamish, get this book. ** I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, my review is voluntary and unbiased.

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Gritty Pirate Yarn

As political as it is violent, this is a tale of intrigue among pirates wherein one Drake Morass sees a empty place upon a throne and beings the machinations to become the pirate king and take that throne. To that end he enlists the help of a former noble man Keelin, whose involved in a relationship with the daughter of the man w ho would most likely be called pirate king if the story ended at the beginning. Instead it's a tale of him and his allies attempting to bring the rest of the pirates onto his side and convince them that their best interest is in having him lead. One might surmise from this that this character is not a great individual and they would be right, the author is great at writing characters who occupy the side of the morality scale between antihero and straight up villain. Regardless of what side they're on in this story they are still pirates and still out for themselves. That's part of what makes the characters, who are well developed, interesting as well as the story as a whole. The political angle is even more interesting when you realize that no one can trust one another and they're jockeying for a position that will probably be anything but sturdy. The narrator was alright, but there were a couple of issues with repetition and I'm not sure he was the best to do this kind of story. But I listened through til the end and still very much enjoyed myself regardless so YMMV. I received the review code for this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this honest review.

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Fun Pirate Tale... Action Packed

"I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review." I enjoyed this tale about pirates with a little magic thrown in. Characters were well developed and interesting. After the first several chapters during which the world was established, it was fast paced and action packed. The author did a good job describing the scenes, and with the dialogue. There was some NSFW activity, but aside from one instance which I will discuss next, it wasn’t over the top from my perspective. The one exception was an instance of sexual violence, which was brief but graphic (easily skipped). This scene was establishing a complex interaction. Narration was good, but some additional editing may have helped. There were a number of lines repeated throughout the book, not enough to be a distraction, but it was noticeable.

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Pulls you into its depts

This book is fantastic. Were Loyalties Lie is an action packed pirating adventure that draw you in and pulls you into its depts. Rob J. Hayes is has a talent for storytelling and characterization and combines both to build a dark and fantastic tale. He has created a world that is ruled by greed and hedonism, a place where the only good is built on lies and deception. This world is dark, gritty, at times, disturbing. Exactly what you would expect in a world of pirates. While the writing and characterization are top notch, this book is not for everyone. There is a large amount of offensive and mature content as the book contains graphic violence and sex, rape, homosexuality, torture, drug addition, drinking, and more. The narration in the audio version is excellent and brings the book to life, however, it needs to be edited as there are a number of parts that repeat themselves. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Grimdark Pirate Fantasy

Even though this is a fantasy book, the author depicts the pirates as they were in real life. The most “moral” pirate of the bunch tries to take ships without killing everyone, but he is still a remorseless thief that will kill if necessary. Overall, it was an interesting story, albeit more of a slow-burner. This is a spin-off from another series, which I haven’t read, but I still got what was going on for the most part. There were a few references to other events that I wish would have been expanded upon, but that’s to be expected in a spin-off. My biggest problem with this book is the narration. I haven’t seen any other complaints in the reviews, so perhaps I had a corrupted download from Audible, but the narrator repeated sentences many times in the novel, and I found that quite distracting. The narration would be four stars otherwise, and if I listen to this book again in the future and find that that’s been corrected, I will update my review. I was given this audiobook for free at my request and I provided this review voluntarily.

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Gritty Swash Buckling with a few drops of magic

I was given a copy of this audiobook for free for an honest review. Pros: Exciting story with gripping (and grasping!!!!) characters. The sea is salty, the battles are brash and bashing. The characters are conflicted. The sex is part of the plot, not merely gratuitous.The actions moves from plans to battles and negotiations. The protagonist Drake is mixed in his actions, yet he is following a prophecy that was passed along by his brother. His brother also sends a woman with magical powers to watch his back. Keelin Stillwater didn't really want to follow Drake, but the circumstances seem to give him no other choice. So he does. They are pirates, so they both do exciting piratical deeds, but they both try to live with themselves. So like many a contemporary situation, "it's complicated"--which is definitely good. Cons: I'm not really over-joyed at the Narrator. Matthew Jackson's voice keeps taking me out of the story into noticing his accents and projecting volume. There is graphic sex. I think it manages to stay outside porn, but it's close. Imagine scenes from the movie Flesh and Blood with Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh, except fewer minutes in the acts themselves. This will be off-putting for some listeners, and a feature for some listeners. The last negative to mention is that this is book one of a two book series. It ends with two and possibly three cliff hangers. While the book is very good, it is not stand alone. Not even a little bit. Still, this reader / listener will be getting book two to continue the story.

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To Retire as a Pirate King!

This was an impressive listen about Pirates and one old Pirate who wants to sit a Thrown in his retirement. I was impressed with the story and the amount of action. The fight scenes are well told and really get you into the life and death of a Pirate. The Narrator has a very silky voice but he does a very good job of getting the listener into the story. Really enjoyed the story. I received this Audiobook for free in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks. Well worth a credit!!

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  • Ruxandra Andreea
  • 08-07-20

Fun, well written and the narrator is brilliant!

I got exactly what I was hoping for out of this one! I'm new to grimdark fantasy, so can't exactly compare, but I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, characters and world. As I dive into the genre more, I might come back and give it more stars.

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  • MR
  • 11-29-19

A great fantasy swashbuckling adventure

This was an interesting listen, containing lots of intrigue and plots. I have never listened/read anything like this before but I really enjoyed it. The characters are engaging, each being well written and brought to life by the narrator. I am looking forward to the next installment of this as I want to see how everything pans out Please note that I was provided with a free copy of this audiobook to give a non-biased review

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  • S. D. Howarth
  • 09-12-19

A must for fantasy fans and anyone with a piratical heart

A really enjoyable read, just shy of topping out on full marks. More terrifying than a cat. Classic line. Three solid entertaining characters and a raft of secondary characters who add life and body to the yarn, that is worth anyone's time to indulge with and some interesting concepts within the pacy delivery. Fast and fluid, with some nice piratical nastiness and the threat of more and the inevitable squabbling to come - so little to dislike. Personally I would have preferred to have had a little more backstory to the woven world building and I felt the ending was leaning towards a break point for the next book in the duology. It just didn't quite grab me at the conclusion quite as much as the myriad build up and tension. Perhaps because the action pulls away to secondary characters. Short and intense mayhem but as a reader/listener I prefer page time with the main characters. I’ve not read the authors earlier books, so something to remedy and in particular I look forward to future audiobooks as the author elevated his later writing from mizzen to main. I have a soft spot for pirate yarns and this landed better than grapeshot on a crowded deck. A fine introduction to the author. I look forward to the follow up as much as Sid Meier re-creating the old days and heartily recommend the authors following books, which are even better written. Yarr god damnit. The audiobook format elevates the yarn and as a re-read it is still a stonking story and ironsides of solidity in narration. I wanted to give it five stars with the characters coming to life as they did on screen in Black Sails and I’m stingy... but the audio editing let down what would be a perfect audio production. Many audiobooks have a minor flaw, whether trad or indie - a duff word pronunciation, a botched name and the like and this one (via audible) could do with a number of duplicated lines being edited out. Perhaps appropriate - would any pirate be perfect?