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Where Loyalties Lie

Best Laid Plans, Book 1
Narrated by: Matthew Jackson
Series: Best Laid Plans, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 4 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (8 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

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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 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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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3.5 stars

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left my review.

This copy was obtained free through Audiobook Boom in exchange for an unbiased review. Perhaps I was expecting a little too much when I imagined this book as sort of an epic grimdark fantasy treatment of David Cordingly's wonderfully fascinating nonfiction book 'Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates'.
It isn't quite that, and the book focuses instead on the tribulations of an ambitious, social-climbing sociopathic pirate rather than on pirate life in general. The characters in the book were interesting enough, though I kept hoping that gentleman pirate Keelin Stillwater would turn out to be as compelling an anti-hero as the charismatic, mostly successful real-life gentleman pirate Captain Bartholomew Roberts instead of the rather disappointingly bland patsy of the aptly named Captain Drake Morass.

The narrator has a pleasant voice and he reads quite well, though would, in my opinion, be better suited to reading nonfiction or classic fiction - I kept envisioning the pirates as civilized gentlemen sniping waspishly at each other over genteel cups of Earl Grey rather than as violent, largely ill-educated, desperate men, which was disconcerting and took awhile to get used to. I would happily listen to more of his work, though perhaps not in this particular genre.

Despite all these issues though, this book is still quite entertaining, and well worth the listen. Also, if you do decide to give this book a try and like it well enough, be prepared to read book 2 - this is only the first book of a duology, after all.

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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?