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Where Loyalties Lie by Rob Hayes

Where Loyalties Lie (Best Laid Plans #1)Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Making a conscious effort to read some of the ebooks on my ipad and went for this one which I’ve wanted to read since it won spfbo3 which Toric’s Dagger was entered in.

The story follows ‘grimdark pirates’ struggling against one another and the local empires who would like to see the end of the pirates. The characters – Drake Morass, Keelin, Elaina Tanner and more are mostly piratical types who, let’s say, have their own moral code. Certainly a morally grey grimdark (TM) style of novel here. I found them convincing and entertaining. They are at each other’s throats – the question is, are they capable of uniting to save their skins?

I am 99% sure the book is set in the same world as most of Rob’s other fantasy books – there are some references to other parts of the world here and there but you certainly don’t need to read anything else first. The author does the whole pirate thing – from the descriptions of the ships, to the characters’ speech – incredibly well, and for me this makes it stand out enough to earn a 5***** rating. Mr Hayes must have done some significant research and given some serious thought to the world, plot and characters, but writes the story so smoothly that you don’t see any of that. The fantasy and magical elements are low key and woven in with the gritty world of pirating very well and it makes for an original and distinctive read.

The story is certainly adult in every respect and people looking for a YA read about pirates need to go elsewhere. I’m not a massive fan of pirate stories per se but I really enjoyed this. By focusing on such a small scale (relatively, for fantasy) I felt like the writer was able to take his time with the story, giving the pirates the centre stage, when often (in fantasy) they get a bit part and it has a slightly gentler pace compared to the average frenetic fantasy read.

I certainly recommend this one, especially for those wanting something a bit out of the mainstream.

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