Well, guess what? I found more pirates! Where Loyalties Lie is the first book in Rob J. Hayes’ new duology, Best Laid Plans. And it is all pirates, all the time. It was so much fun!
There are multiple perspective characters here, with each perspective listed by ship instead of by any individual characters’ names, which I thought was creative. But the main character in this story, the hinge around which the entire plot swings, is Captain Drake Morrass of the Fortune. The Pirates Isles are under attack from Sarth and the Five Kingdoms, as these kingdoms have decided that the “pirate problem” has gotten completely out of hand and needs to be addressed. Unfortunately for the people of the Pirate Isles, these kingdoms have no problem with collateral damage. Every citizen of the Isles, be they pirate or innocent, is slated to be obliterated. But Drake has a plan, a plan that will unite the many pirates of the Isles and save them all. And if it requires him becoming king of the Isles to accomplish this task, so much the better.
The other characters were just as interesting as Drake. There’s Captain Keelin Stillwater of the Phoenix, a man who will do just about anything to protect the secrets of his past; Captain Elaina Black, daughter of the most terrifying pirate captain in the Isles; Arbiter Beck, a member of the Inquisition with hair of gold and access to magic that terrifies every pirate she comes across except for Drake; and Captain T’ruck Khan, a giant of a man who believes that bigger is always better. All of these characters, with the exception of Beck, are pirates through and through; they’re out for themselves and, though they may be likable, they are certainly not good people. They are selfish and conniving, everyone of them, and their interests are the only interests that interest them. Beck might not be a pirate, but she’s no saint. There are no heroes in this story, but that totally works for a pirate tale. No pirate is a hero, or they wouldn’t be a pirate!
The setting Hayes has created is unique. The Isles seem to have life of their own, and would rather kill their inhabitants than nurture them, but they’re home for thousands who wouldn’t abandon them for anything. Here there be monsters, and trees that seem almost sentient, and other wonders and terrors laying in wait in the depths of the forests that plague each of the islands. There’s also Fortune’s Rest, a mobile “island” created by strapping hundreds of ships together, that is a pleasure playground for those with, shall we say uncommon tastes. Beyond these ports there are the pirate ships themselves, and the crews that call them home. And everywhere, there is magic laying in wait just below the surface of the land or the sea, waiting. Hayes did a phenomenal job conveying every aspect of his setting without bogging readers down in the details. The world he created felt exactly like a world populated by pirates should feel; fun and vulgar and more than a little dangerous.
Hayes has a previous trilogy, The Ties that Bind, which also features Drake, but exposure to that trilogy isn’t necessary to enjoy this book. I’ve never read anything by Hayes, and I enjoyed this book immensely and didn’t feel at all like I was missing out by not having read The Ties that Bind first. I will admit that I wanted more resolution at the end of the book, but I’m excited that this is going to be a duology. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for book two, and will most likely be tracking down The Ties that Bind trilogy to get my Drake Morrass fix in the meantime.
The only things that kept this book from being a five star read for me was the lack of resolution (but that’s a personal preference) and certain choices Hayes made with the writing. Every once in a while, specific phrases or even thoughts would just feel a bit repetitive. Also, there was one particular rape scene that just threw me out of the story for a minute as I tried to process it.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves pirates. Or antiheroes. Or a story that’s just plain (but definitely vulgar) fun.
I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed in this review are entirely my own.