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Where Loyalties Lie: Best Laid Plans book 1 (First Earth Saga 4) Kindle Edition
|Length: 374 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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- Book 1 of 3 in Best Laid Plans
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About the Author
- Publication date : May 26, 2017
- File size : 1517 KB
- Print length : 374 pages
- Screen Reader : Supported
- ASIN : B071D6KB7D
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #79,592 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Specifically to gripe, then: The sex scenes and what I call Decorative Rape. Obviously, this is supposedly gritty and so on, so sex scenes should be there, but they tend to stand out like a sore thumb, they are that unevenly written. The first one went past without be noticing it, so it was probably fine - they are not very long - but then there is one where two people have been eyeing each other for ages and the tryst has as much erotic charge as an encounter with a hoover. I do not want to be flagged by Amazon so I let you fill in the detail in your head... fill, and head, keep those on mind. The last sex scene on the other hand was forgotten to be written in, as there is a lot of ripping cloth and then it is over (odd choice when other times the act was there: in another story it would be a familiar device, 'pulling the curtain' when the couple actually couple). No-one has heard of foreplay. Sex scenes should at least be sexy, or it is not worth the time reading them.
This matter of fact way of describing sex serves the Decorative Rape well, because now we do not have to linger with it, which would be icky, it is merely fast and brutal. I thought it was handled well, but then it turns out it serves no purpose in the plot. Nothing. Zip. I expected the victim to turn to be some sort of Joker-level weird and damaged but nope, just another female who seems to mostly think about the men in her life. Plot-wise the scene has no consequences, which is what makes it Decorative Rape - something that is there just to show how edgy this all is.
All in all, the characters are not as interesting as they could be - there is a bit of character in the main pirates, but the main protagonist seemingly knows he will succeed, which is probably which saps the tension from the plot. The other main pirate captain also has some intriguing backstory, but he is rather bland nevertheless - the inner conflict he clearly has does not quite come across.
Lastly, there is the Chekhov's Necromancer - there is some magic stuff and dangerous creatures that are shown briefly and then do not intrude in the story. I quite like fantasy that concentrates on characters and action, rather than have magical special effects oozing from every page, but this is just teasing. They could have been left out and made this a low fantasy book, with just the magic the actual characters use - presumably other magics will reappear in book 2, and must therefore be established, or you'd get necromancy ex machina which is also not good, but could it not have been done with just hints and not this blunt way?
So, why even give it 3 stars, I hear you cry. Well, it still is a book, unlike many incoherent offerings on the genre, there is an actual plot, and the characters are OK if not terribly wonderful. It is the overall impression the book leaves - OK. I could have wasted my time in worse ways.
This book is a sequel, of sorts, set in the same world as Rob J. Hayes THE TIES THAT BIND series. Despite this, while reading the last book will enrich your experience, it is not necessary to appreciate what is inside. This works entirely on its own as a standalone story of roguish pirate Drake Morass and his decision to try to build a nation out of the various pirate fleets which exist inside the seas of the Known World.
This impressive ambition is fueled by the fact he's managed to get to the top of his game as a pirate and con man but has recently lost his most lucrative con (being the lover to the Empress of China's equivalent in the setting) as well as winning the enimity of the world's most dangerous inquisitor. Drake has the seed money and contacts to become a king, sort of, but he has the problem that everyone knows him as a scheming treacherous bastard. To that end, he has to recruit a number of individuals who might actually be able to persuade, with sincerity, pirates to believe in a dream of a nation of their own. The fact Morass doesn't remotely care about the prospect save as a means of entitling himself is one of the books ironies and underscores the author's cynical views about causes.
Comparisons to Pirates of the Carribean are inevitable with the fact this is a supernatural pirate story with the calculating lead and his more straight-laced associate Keelin Stillwater. In fact, the similarities highlight the differences as Drake only has a heart of gold if he ripped it out from someone else's chest. He's charming, yes, but in the same way a snake is and the book makes no bones about his sociopathy. Keelin, by contrast, is desperate to be a good man but the fact he's a pirate makes all his attempts at righteousness ring hollow. The fact he wants a measure of redemption through leaving his current long-time pirate lover for a more "innocent" girl also shows the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of his desires.
Tanner Black, the book's primary antagonist, is an interesting take on the mythological Blackbeard. While Edward Thatch may have had his downer points, he wasn't the embodiment of cruelty and causal horror which Rob J. Hayes has created in his "villain." The irony of the character is he's right about everything, particularly that Drake Morass is going to get them all killed for his own ambition. His mind is an interesting place to be as well since his treatment of his daughter and son approaches Tywin Lannister levels of abuse (then passes everything but Tyrion's "moment") yet believes he loves them. By the end of the book, it was definitely my desire to see him destroyed as I can say about few fantasy villains--even though I hated Drake in a "love to hate" sort of way.
My favorite character in the book is probably Elaina Black, though, who has much of the appeal of the literary Asha Greyjoy and would very much work as the star of her own novel. Elaina desperately wants to please her father and be with her lover Keelin in a life of blood, sweat, and rum but this just isn't in the cards. Neither man is worth her devotion and it's clear she probably would be the best Pirate Monarch-but there's the issue of both her gender as well as her father's untrusworthinss standing in her way. Also, sadly, the fact she'd rather help those she loves than rule herself.
Make no mistake, despite the Caribbean-like environment, this book is grimdark. There's a horrifying scene in the book where a major character is "punished" which strips away any pretense the antagonists are decent people while the protagonists have the benefit of merely being slightly less monstrous. If you don't have a stomach for George R.R. Martin levels of violence and angst then this might not be the book for you. Fans of the Ties That Bind, for example, may remember that Drake was a VILLAIN in the previous book and did something most would consider irredeemable.
Even so, there's a kind of jolly (roger) energy to the book which propels its story forward. Even though we, the audience, know this is all a con, it's very easy to get swept up in the idea of a nation for the underdogs. The historical pirates of Nassau had the belief they could create an equal society for all before their dream collapsed due to, well, piracy being a poor method of creating a nation. It's really more of a supplementary income sort of thing unless you're Francis Drake at least. There's a good sense of humor to the book, too, which contrasts nicely against the somewhat grim protagonists of his previous book.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend this book and consider the duology (yes, I read the sequel too) to be Hayes' best work and up there with Mark Lawrence as well as Joe Abercrombie.
Top reviews from other countries
I am sick of male writers using rape as a plot point to help establish their female characters.
Yes the writer has written a “strong female character” but only to the extent that he has attached breasts to a strong man. In her first scene she aggressively pursues a male protagonist; in her second scene she has agressive sex with said protagonist and; in her third scene she is brutally raped so the writer can establish a family dynamic. After a weepy fourth scene where she forces herself to suppress her emotions, she then focuses on aggressively pursuing a boat (I won’t spoil the agressive sex she has with the boat). I tend to prefer no diversity to a piss poor attempt at it.
Asides from my main objection - the positives:
+ it is relatively well plotted
+ the actions scenes are well written
+a lot of thought has gone into the world building
- The characters’ inner voices are virtually indistinguishable. (But one of them is good with swords!)
- The world is built through exposition (when females characters are involved: sexposition)
So, this was the well deserved winner of round 3 of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. It had been getting pretty good reviews anyway but I decided I really needed to read this when it won!
This takes place in the same world as the author's other trilogy, The Ties That Bind, which I haven't read yet. We apparently meet a few of the same character but on the whole I felt like I hadn't missed too much by not reading it yet. There were few questions I had that I suspect would be answered in the other series. It stands well enough alone and I had no problem getting to know the world and the characters.
The world building was subtle and really well done. I quickly built a sense of the environment and explanations in the text and dialogue felt organic rather than info-dumpy. There's a lot more to the world and I can't wait to read more.
There is an interesting structure to the book. There's multiple point of view chapters but each chapter follows on of the ships, rather than individual characters. With a decently large cast, it really helps to place people and sort out their loyalties. However, the main focus in each chapter is the captain of each ship, but it isn't entirely limited to that.
Characters were generally well built. We get to know quite a few people to varying degrees. Drake Morass is fascinating and charismatic but has so many facets. Keelin Stillwater is comlpex and running from his past, Beck is something of a mystery and is clearly working to a different set of rules. Tanner Black, however, felt a touch like a caricature. He's the Bad Guy, obviously the Bad Guy and does Bad Guy things. Some later scenes with him felt very rushed in their process.
I loved that there was a consideration of how disgusting the world is! People can only wash in buckets of salt water while at sea, towns stink and the sheer amount of blood and gore turns people's stomachs. It just adds a bit more detail to the world!
The scenes at sea were vivid and wonderfully described. Battles between ships were well thought out and pretty clear in their execution. I have seen authors become bogged down in nautical terminology the minute their plot moves out to sea. I don't know anything about ships and fortunately, this book assumes I don't know anything about ships!
Pacing was pretty fast all the way through with only a few points where if felt like the characters could relax. The shorter chapters helped with the speed of the pacing and I read this really quite quickly.
I cannot wait for the next part!
It should be noted that this is very clearly book 1 of a series and none of the plot arcs resolve