Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes

Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes

Series: Best Laid Plans #1Rating: 4.5/5
Date of Publishing: May 26th 2017Genre: fantasy, grimdark, dark fantasy
Format: KindleAvailable: Amazon
Number of pages: 372Author’s website: http://www.robjhayes.co.uk/default.htm

“Right then,” Drake said with a smile. “Now let’s all have us a hug.” Both Beck and Keelin shot Drake an incredulous look. “Of course I’m bloody joking, you damned idiots. Onto the boat with both of you.”

– Drake Morrass



Everybody knows Captain Drake Morass 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 a crown for himself. If he is to succeed, he will need allies and the Oracle named Keelin Stillwater, the best swordsman in the isles, as his right hand.

With enemy ships sailing his waters and setting fire to his cities, and the sinister Tanner Black threatening to steal the throne before Drake even has a chance to sit upon it, Drake Morass must somehow convince the other Captains that his best interests are also theirs.

Where Loyalties Lie is the first book in the Best Laid Plans duology and is set in the same world as The Ties That Bind trilogy, continuing Captain Drake Morass’ story where the trilogy left off.


Personal notes

This book has been sitting on my TBR list for a while now, but haven’t got around to read it, because, let’s face it, I had a mile long TBR list as it is. Then I started my blog, got into some groups, got to know Rob too, and so this book climbed up toward the top. Besides it came highly recommended, so I really couldn’t ignore it anymore. Since then it also won the 3rd SPFBO title, not entirely undeserved. Here comes my 2 cents about Where Loyalties Lie.



After the first 14 pages I knew I’m going to love this book, and I wasn’t far off. I did enjoy this book until the end, except a scene or two, but I’ll get back to this. This is a grimdark book, therefore it’s not for the faint hearted, so I was aware what I’m getting myself into. While I think Where Loyalties Lie deserved to be named as champion in the 3rd SPFBO, it still surprises me this one got the title. This book is not for everyone, and definitely not one which might appeal to a wider audience. Especially to women. Okay, I don’t make much sense, so let me go from the start.

Where Loyalties Lie is the first book of the Best Laid Plans duology, and part of the First Earth Saga. Those who read it carefully, might have spotted the names of Black Thorn and Rose who are happen to be the main character’s of Hayes’ upcoming book City of Kings, and Black Thorn is also the main character in The Tie That Binds trilogy, in which Drake also appears. Despite all these crossovers, you don’t need to have previous knowledge to understand what’s going on. For me this was the first book I’ve read from Rob Hayes and had no problem whatsoever. Maybe would have helped if I knew a bit more about Drake’s background, to add to his character rather than to the story.

We follow the story through a few point of views, although there is two, maybe three main ones:

Drake Morrass, captain of the Fortune, has plans. Which involves him to become king of pirates, after uniting them under his command to save them from the coming invasion. But of course he not only does this to save the folks of the isles, he also wants fame, money, and control over everything. As he puts it:

“It’s all about greed, Stillwater. Whether the gain is money, power, fame, or even the freedom that being a pirate offers. Fact is, we’re all in this game because we want something for ourselves. So yeah, what I’m proposing does in fact benefit Drake fucking Morrass.”

Aside from being a wee bit egoistic, he has some interesting secrets regarding his past, which he doesn’t seem to want to share, not even with Arbiter Beck, who was sent by Drake’s brother to watch his back. Drake is no fool to contradict his brother and sucks it up. Personally I liked Beck’s no-nonsense attitude and the way she wrapped everyone around her finger. She has a strong personality.

Keelin Stillwater, captain of The Phoenix, having some secrets himself, one of them explains his hate for Arbiter Beck. Which leads some pretty interesting and heated conversations between the two of them.

“Right then,” Drake said with a smile. “Now let’s all have us a hug.” Both Beck and Keelin shot Drake an incredulous look. “Of course I’m bloody joking, you damned idiots. Onto the boat with both of you.”

Although reluctantly, but he agrees to join forces with Drake to help him, while hoping to get his hands on some charts Drake happens to own. He also sports some kind of ideals about pirating and how the world would work. Even though he got some hard lessons while serving under Tanner Black. Who likes nothing more than teaching hard lessons – well, maybe money, women and power are higher on the list. But then, we are talking about pirates, so there is no surprise. And since we are talking about lessons…

…let’s mention Elaina Black as another, if not main POV character but an important one. She is the daughter of Tanner Black, childhood friend and lover of Keelin. She is hard to figure out. She is strong-headed, stubborn, temperamental, and hard – at least on the surface. I can’t say I liked her much, however, one of the most disturbing scene was hers. Not exactly because of the treatment she’s got – although that’s disturbing enough in itself – but because it showed how brainwashed she is by her father. Remember what I said about hard learned lessons? Here is a passage about that:

“Suffering makes you stronger,” Elaina said, repeating the words her father had drilled into all his children over and over again. “A lesson learned without pain isn’t learned at all. The pain makes you remember. Stops you from repeating.”

There aren’t many female characters in Where Loyalties Lie, but they are mostly whores, or they are treated like objects who aren’t much good for anything except sex.  Now, I’m not a feminist, but the treatment these women get sometimes borders disturbing – and sometimes it crosses that line. Which is kind of paradox if we think about the law regarding those who take a woman against her will. Still, my favorite character was Aimi, a quiet, hardworking, clever, with a strong personality and witty attitude. But unless the other prominent female characters, she also has a kindness in her toward those she genuinely cares about. She reminded me of myself in one of the scenes where she tried to lighten up Keelin’s mood with useless chatter about whatever just to get his mind off of things. I find myself doing this a lot lately.

I find it hard to criticise anything in this book. The pace is good, the action is well-balanced with slower chapters where not much happens, but information is given in smart ways. The writing is excellent, and although there is plenty of bloodshed and scenes which are not easy to stomach, and quite some graphic content too, it’s also witty and there are some moments which makes you laugh out loud. The characters were all well fleshed out, maybe too well, because there wasn’t much place for developement. The plot has a nice arc, and I pretty much enjoyed reading it, there weren’t much twists that would have surprised me. Well, okay, there was a few things I didn’t see coming toward the end. My point is, the plot was a bit too predictable for my taste. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested what’s going to happen next. I also would have liked to learn a bit more about the magic system, the Inquisition and the mythology of this world.

If you love grimdark, you look for a book with self-absorbed pirates, plenty of action, blood and adventure, then Where Loyalties Lie is for you. It’s witty, it’s brutal, it’s bloody, it’s dark and it’s impossible to put down. There is plenty of rum, fights, plotting against each other, secrets well-kept, magic and interesting enough characters. I honestly don’t know what you all waiting for, go get your hands on of the copies of this book!