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Literature / Rob J Hayes The Ties That Bind

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The toughest woman in the borderlands.

The Ties That Bind is a series by Rob J. Hayes which was originally self-published but later re-published by Ragnarok Publications. The first book, The Heresy Within, was released in 2014. The sequel, The Color of Vengeance was released in January of 2015.

Jezzet Vel'urn is a trained swordswoman, one who has rightfully earned the title Blademaster but knows there are often two ways of a out of a fight for a woman like her. Sadly, too often it comes down to a combination thereof. In THE HERESY WITHIN Jezzet is chased into the Wild by a vengeful warlord until she finally makes it to the sovereign city-state of Chade. But instead of sanctuary, she finds only more opportunistic bastards waiting to turn her over to her enemies.

Also figuring majorly in the story is Thanquil Darkheart, a sorcerer hunter called an Arbiter, tasked with hunting down and purging heretics for the Inquisition. Thanquil is given a task by the God Emperor of Sarth from which he has no escape. Lastly there’s the brutal outlaw called the Black Thorn, best known perhaps for the killing of several Arbiters and possibly being one of the biggest names in the Wild for his proclivities. All three of their fates seem to be converging on the Free City of Chade and, before long, Jezzet, Thanquil, and the Black Thorn will have to confront each other as they find themselves facing heresies within.


The series has the following tropes:

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     The entire series 
  • Action Girl: Jezzet Ve'urn is one of the only two Blademasters in the world. A title reserved for the greatest warriors in the world.
    • Henry is also this, being almost-but-not-quite as tough as Jezzet.
  • Anti-Hero: Jezzet and Thanquil are this if you want to be generous. The Blackthorn is a straight-up Villain Protagonist.
    • The Blackthorn softens considerably in The Color of Vengeance.
  • City of Adventure: Chade is one of these, being the source for all manner of crazy hijinks from our heroes.
  • Black And Black Morality: Everyone in this world is one sort of scumbag or another. The heroes are just more likable than most.
  • Crapsack World: Slavery (sex and otherwise), warlordism, immense poverty, crazy religious fanatics, demons, murderous brigands around every corner, monsters, and a less than enlightened attitude to women. Conan the Barbarian or Elric should burn the place to the ground. Subverted by the fact this is actually a return to Sword & Sorcery's roots before the genre became Lighter and Softer.
  • Dark Action Girl: Henry, despite having a boy's name, is both a woman and terrifying.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Everyone in the story suffers this with the possible exception of Inquisitor Darkheart.
    • Green and Henry suffer this worst.
      • Swift joins the ranks of this by The Color of Vengeance.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The only redeeming feature of Token Evil Teammate (well, Token Evil-er) Swift.
  • Evil vs. Evil: A running theme in this story is everyone is one kind of sonofabitch or another.
  • Grim Dark: Advertises itself as such.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Everyone in this setting is one kind of a son of a bitch or another. Even the street waifs. Especially the street waifs.
  • The Red Baron: The Blackthorn is, obviously, this. His real name is the decidedly less impressive Betrim.
    • Catherine, Constance's sister, was called The Bloody Angel.
  • Sword & Sorcery: A fairly classical example of such, being a grim and gritty fantasy setting with a historical mash-up of cultures.
  • Troperiffic: Just look at this list!
  • Villain Protagonist: The Blackthorn is one of these. Jezzet and Inquisitor Darkheart have some standards. He...does not.
    • He develops a few in The Color of Vengeance.

     The Heresy Within 
  • Amazon Brigade: The Battle Angels are an army of women led by Constance.
  • Archenemy: Constance has become this for Jezzet.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: What every army seems to be made of.
    • In particular, the Blackthorn's gang.
  • Big Bad: Lost H'ost wants to be King of the Wilds and has a witch and Constance in his service. Subverted. He's just a pawn.
  • Burn the Witch!: The Inquisition's standard M.O.
  • Brawn Hilda: Constance is one of these. Ironically, it turns out she's more of a Huge Schoolgirl.
  • Breaking Speech: Jezzet gives a horrible one to Constance. Revealing that Catherine never loved her, thought of her as a pathetic weakling, and used her horribly. Worse, Jezzet was perfectly justified in killing her. Constance refuses to believe it and ends up dying at Jezzet's hands.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Constance is accused of being in a relationship with her dead sister. It turns out she wasn't her sister but her former slave owner.
  • Butch Lesbian: Constance is accused of being one of these. It turns out to be semi-accurate.
  • Cool Gun: Inquisitor Darkheart's smokepowder pistol. Which exists on pure Rule of Cool.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The Blackthorn explains the best way to kill an Inquisitor is when he's sleeping.
  • Cowardly Lion: Thanquil regularly hunts monsters but plays the role of Non-Action Guy around the Blackthorn.
    • Jezzet has elements of this despite being the second greatest swordsman in the world.
  • Corrupt Church: What the Emperor suspects the Inquisition has become.
  • Darker and Edgier: A return to the ugly, brutal, and lawless Crapsack World roots of the genre.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Jezzet causes this to happen without trying.
  • The Dragon: Constance serves as this to Lord Host.
  • The Dreaded: The Inquisition is treated this way due to their reputation as religious fanatics with unlimited authority. It's deserved.
    • Blackthorn portrays himself as this to the Inquisition. Thanquil reacts with caution but no real terror.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Inquisition has made a literal one, albeit it's only a demon.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted. The vast majority of people on this planet have no seeming ethical limit to their behavior. See Humans Are Bastards.
  • Fan Disservice: Jezzet is one of the world's most desirable women and routinely covered in-story in either crap or blood. The story seems to enjoy covering her in garbage which ruins her attractiveness.
  • Gentle Giant: Constance is one of these, or was, before Break the Cutie happened.
  • God-Emperor: The Inquisition, theoretically, answers to one.
  • Hypocrite: The Inquisition burns whole families for witchcraft but gets much of their power from a pact with a demon. This is a closely guarded secret.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: A lot of the Blackthorn's problems would be solved if he just murdered Green. Thankfully, H'ost's army takes care of the problem.
  • Kick the Dog: All of the heroes get an opportunity to do this at one point or another during the book.
    • Jezzet gets a retroactive one when she goes into a lengthy insult tirade against Constance and her sister. While said sister was no angel, despite her name, it turns out Constance has a legitimate reason for hating her. She later tries to have sex with Thanquil within minutes of him killing a young boy.
    • Thanquil gets one when he kills a child to cover up the Inquisition's secrets. To be fair, he hates himself for doing it.
  • Killed Off for Real: Bones, Swift, and Green all die in the Shade attack.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: This will happen to anyone who finds out the Inquisition has a deal with a demon.
  • Knight Templar: The Inquisitor is this combined with Well-Intentioned Extremist. How much the latter is true is up for debate, though.
  • Lady of War: Constance is an unpleasant version of such.
  • Living Lie Detector: All Inquisitors have this as one of their abilities.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Spectacularly averted with Swift who touts his prostitute sister's talents to the Blackthorn when he visits Swift's mother's brothel.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Inquisitor Darkheart. Subverted by the fact he's the nicest Inquisitor in the world. He's still a brutal murderer, though.
  • Non-Action Guy: Inquisitor Darkheart cultivates this sort of reputation but still has a prototype blackpowder pistol. Oh and magic.
  • No Woman's Land: Rape, slavery, or some combination of the above is a constant threat for women out in the wilds and in the impoverished streets.
  • Power Trio: The Blackthorn, Darkheart, and Jezzet.
  • Rape as Backstory: Jezzet mentions this is one way she was coerced into killing Catherine.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inquisitor Darkheart is probably the only one of these in the Inquisition.
  • Reason Before Honor: Jezzet seems to be a decent enough person but will do whatever she has to in order to survive.
  • Reconstruction: Of the Wretched Hive Humans Are Bastards free-booting Antihero Sword & Sorcery books which started the genre.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Jezzet's life would be far-far simpler if she wasn't a beautiful woman as well as a swordswoman. At least, in her opinion.
  • Running Gag: Jezzet being forced to flee into a sewer in order to escape attackers.
  • Sexual Extortion: Jezzet is, unfortunately, frequently subject to this before she meets Thanquil. She beds men she doesn't want to fight, which is unfortunately happens a couple of times in the text. Thankfully, this practice comes to an end.
  • Sex Slave: A common enough fate for women in the Free Cities, according to a street urchin.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Jezzet after being forced into a dress is the World's Most Beautiful Woman. This horrifies her.
  • A Simple Plan: Inquisitor Darkheart will assassinate three traitorous Inquisitors. What could go wrong?
  • Son of a Whore: Swift's mother runs a brothel and his sister is its main attraction.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Jezzet admits to suffering it (or its Sword & Sorcery equivalent) a couple of times, much to her shame and disgust. Constance developed this to her former slave owner, Catherine.
  • Token Good Teammate: Thanquil Darkheart appears to be this. He's not.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Flipped with our heroes, who are all bad people, having a good time at Swift's mother's brothel.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Jezzet and Constance were once part of a Power Trio with her sister. The Blackthorn is afraid this is his and Jezzet's fate when she shows up with an Inquisitor.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: An unusual example when Inquisitor Darkheart kills a little boy to protect the Inquisition's secrets only for Jezzet to witness the event, look like she's going to give him one of these, then shrug it off and come onto him. Then he gives her one of these.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Thanquil kills a young boy to cover up the secret of the Inquisition dealing with demons. He hates himself for it but doesn't hesitate.

     The Color of Vengeance 

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Invoked and mocked when the Blackthorn who thinks they should use this trope for a mission, only for Henry to point out the frontier city they're living on doesn't have one.
  • Action Girl: Henry, already established in THW, takes a prominent role here.
    • Lady Emin D'roan used to be one of these but was made a Sex Slave.
  • The Alcoholic: Anders spends much of the early part of the book wanting to be blackout drunk twenty-four seven.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jacob is this, being quite obviously nuts yet the Inquisition's most terrible murderer.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Henry forces the half-conscious Anders to give her oral sex in exchange for another drink at her bar. Anders turns out to be far less drunk than he appeared.
  • Bounty Hunter: The Blackthorn has a lot of amateur thugs after him because of an absurdly high bounty placed on him by Swift. He later decides to become a professional one of these after he kills Swift.
  • Character Development: The Blackthorn has become noticeably less sadistic and brutal. Likewise, Henry seems to be less Ax-Crazy.
  • The Dragon: Jacob serves as this to Inquisitor Kessick.
    • Henry takes up the position as the Blackthorne's number 2# in the new crew. Which wouldn't qualify if not for the fact the Blackthorn is kind of evil. He gets better, though.
  • Evil Overlord: Both Swift and Lord Niles Brekovich play this role.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Inquisitor Kessick is trafficking with demons despite his previous profession and giving them the lives of one of Chade's formerly prominent bloodlines.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The Blackthorn gains one as a result of his battle with Kessick from last year.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Downplayed Trope as Swift was always a Villain Protagonist (starting as a rapist) but seemed to have some redeeming qualities. In fact, no, he was always a complete psychopath. Becoming rich and powerful has allowed him to become a much-much bigger threat to everyone around him. He also turns against the gang, especially its female members, without hesitation. He still loves his mother, though.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Haarin joins the Blackthorn's gang after Swift's death.
    • The Blackthorn, Henry, and the rest of his gang decide to become bounty hunters at the end. Employing their skills, now, to catch people like them.
  • Hero of Another Story: Lady Emin D'roan is this, but she's been Made a Slave. Worse, a Sex Slave.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Haarin seem to be the only people in the setting who put stock in this. Even they have limits it turns out.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Utterly and completely subverted with Rose. Who has her own mother killed to rile up Swift.
  • Human Sacrifice: The fate of those people Swift gives to Inquisitor Kessick.
  • Knight Templar: Jacob is, literally, a Templar for the Inquisition. He's also a fanatic and lunatic.
  • Non-Action Guy: Anders fills the role this time around, being the fast-talking charmer to Henry's The Dragon to the Blackthorn's The Brute.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Swift used to be a member of the Blackthorn's gang and a lovable jokester. He's now the ruler of Chade, allied with an Evil Sorcerer, and offering up people (his own relations) for Human Sacrifice.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Anders, once he's sobered up, seems to be much-much smarter than everyone else. And was probably never quite as drunk as he appeared.
  • Power Trio: Anders, Henry, and the Blackthorn.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Haarin is hired by Swift to protect him, which is troubling given Swift is a Chronic Backstabbing Disorder Evil Is Petty Evil Overlord.
  • Rape and Revenge: Henry's plan for Swift is this.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Not treated so in this Crapsack World but when it happens to Henry, nothing will stop her from ending him.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The Blackthorn refuses to let the fact the Inquisition and Swift are virtually untouchable get in the way of his revenge.
    • Swift offers a fantastic fortune to the Blackthorn to let him get away with Rose and Henry for rape as well as murder, which is an offer only a monster would accept but something which most would in this world.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Jacob is able to follow any trail.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Jacob chases the Blackthorn halfway across the world only to get taken out by his allies before he can get to him. He escapes, later, though.
  • Slave Liberation: One of these plays a role in the narrative.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Anders and Henry take over much the same roles as Thanquil and Jezzet from the previous books, though Henry was an established character.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Perin always choose law, even though his master via contract is evil. He gets over it.
  • Undying Loyalty: The Haarin are supposed to have this for their clients to the point they commit suicide if they fail to proptect them. Pern decides Swift is such a monster he pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Henry becomes one of these when she begins a slave revolt.
    • Swift, ironically, set the Blackthorn on him because of an enormous bounty he posted on the latter. Which he only did because he wanted to look like he'd turned against his old boss, believing said boss to be dead. This bounty, of course, makes the Blackthorn's life really-really difficult.
  • Xanatos Gilligan: The sheer number of complicated Xanatos Gambits, ploys, counter-ploys, and politics destroyed through this book by the Blackthorn and Henry smashing through stuff defies description.

     The Price of Faith 
  • Always Save the Girl: Subverted. To tragic results.
  • Amazon Chaser: Drake believes this to be the source of Jezzet's beauty.
  • Big Bad: Inquisitor Kessick is one for this series.
  • Bigger Bad: We discover there's something worse than demons.
  • Character Death: Jezzet Vel'urn dies during this book.
  • Checov'sGun: Inquisitor Darkheart is given something which can affect the whole of demonkind.
  • Compelling Voice: Thanquil has one of these as always. It doesn't do him ANY good during this adventure.
  • The Determinator: Thanquil stuns countless people by his unwillingness to ever back down despite being an otherwise unassuming sort of fellow. This includes chasing a witch across the entirety of China.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Dragon Empire is one for Imperial China.
  • God Save The Queen: The Dragon Empress is a capricious seventeen year old with whimsical ideas about justice and absolute authority.
  • Hypocrite: The Inquisition hunts and kills all magic-users. Well, all magic-users except themselves.
  • Internal Affairs: Inquisitor Thanquil gets roped into this again as he is incorruptible.
  • Knight Templar: Inquisitor Darkheart has faith in his God so when he says to murder people, he murders them.
    • Inquisitor Kessick has the belief only an army of demons can stop the Dread Lords.
  • Lovable Rogue: Drake Morrass is supposed to be one of these.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: Thanquil is tempted repeatedly by women to abandon the Inquisition. It doesn't work because he loves Jezzet instead. Then he has to choose the Inquisition over her.
  • No Woman's Land: Bizarrely, Jezzet finds the Crapsack World environment of her homeland better than the patriarchal one of the Dragon Age.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Jezzet rescues a bunch of women from sexual slavery. Then finds out it was actually an underground railroad leading them away from arranged marriages to brutal controlling partners. it's all a trick anyway.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Closer to Humanoid Abomination types than the traditional Devil variety.
  • Pals with Jesus: Thanquil's relationship with the God Emperor.
  • Xanatos Gambit: A complicated one executed by Drake Morrass Gets the majority of the upper-class in the Dragon Empire murdered so the Empress can enact much-needed reforms.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The witch Thanquil has been chasing is never dealt with again after he's forced to leave her behind.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: This book has a lot of pirates in it.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Drake Morrass claims Jezzet and he slept together under an Inquisition compulsion. He has the power to lie under it.

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