Monday, February 29, 2016

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin: captive prince trilogy

Captive Prince Trilogy: Captive Prince, Prince's Gambit and Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

blurb for book 1: "This was Vere, voluptuous and decadent, country of honeyed poison"

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the truthful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else...

mini-reviews of all three books under the cut!  

Before I begin talking about these wonderful, incredible novels, I have to say a disclaimer here! These books are NOT YA in any way, shape or form. There are some very mature situations in these novels, as well as a bunch of trigger warnings. There is a post, which I will link here, that describes any triggers you may encounter in these books! I personally loved them, but if you don't feel prepared for the content that you will encounter, then I will encourage you not to read them. The first book especially is a little shocking when you aren't used to the world! I just felt like I needed to disclaim before I gush about these: so you're aware of the triggers. 

Now! Onto the reviews! I cannot stress enough how much I loved this story. It was shocking and surprising and something so new and so well written: it has been a long time since I've read something that I was so immediately hooked on. I wish the books were longer, but all three are under 400 pages each, which means that you could read them super quickly if you wanted to. I loved all three books, the last one, Kings Rising, was definitely my favorite though. It had a more lighthearted tone than the other two, which I really enjoyed. I'm going to do a mini review for all three of these, but the review for Kings Rising will end up being longer than the other two :) This story is a high fantasy (though perhaps quasi-historical) m/m romance, but the romance really doesn't come into play until well into the second novel. If that appeals to you at all, then I think you will really enjoy Captive Prince!

Book 1: Captive Prince (or Captive Prince vol. 1) 

Hoo boy, I did not know what I was getting myself into when I started this book. I saw it on a list on tumblr of "fantasy novels with LGBT+ characters," and as someone who is always looking to broaden their reading horizons, I put it on my TBR list because it looked really good. Then, a couple of my favorite authors started tweeting about how much they loved it, and I knew I had to read it right then. I purchased all three of the books at once and dove in.

I have to say, I wasn't in love when I started. I was shocked by some of the subjects that Pacat writes about without shame (like prostitution, rape, rape of children, slavery, etc.) I had to slowly accept that these things are a part of this world (just like any world really, though they aren't spoken of), and once I did that, I was able to really enjoy the story. Basically, this feels like a historical fantasy to me, because though it is a high fantasy setting, there isn't any magic or magical creatures involved. It has a Song of Achilles vibe about it, which I absolutely adored.

This is the story of Damen, a prince of Akielos, who has had his throne stolen away from him by his half brother. His father is killed, his brother takes up the throne, and he is sold into slavery: as a bed slave to the prince from a rival kingdom. Laurent, the prince of neighboring kingdom Vere, is silver-tongued and deadly, and he has reason to hate Damen, to want to kill him: for on a battlefield, Damen killed Laurent's brother. When Damen arrives in Vere, he has to hide his identity in order to survive, and this is the premise for the story.

I really loved Damen from the start. He is so loyal and honest, and he takes everything at face value before he meets Laurent, poor small son. (which is how he ended up a slave in the first place, tbh) Laurent is harder to like. 1. because we aren't in his head, and he is so unbelievably hard to read. 2. because he kind of sucks, but then he sucks less at times, which makes you want to like him. and 3. because he's incredible and brilliant and you can see that Damen likes him, despite himself, from very early on, but Laurent still hates Damen. This being said, I did end up loving Laurent by the end of book 1. There is so much more to him than meets the eye!

This book does a really fabulous job of setting up the characters, their relationships, the setting, and the two sides of an inevitable conflict. Read: there is not a ton of action in this one. It is a very character-driven (with no romance!) story that allows us to get to know Damen and Laurent, Laurent's (EVIL) uncle: The Regent, Nicaise, Jord, the council people of Vere, etc. I think that it has to be this way, because it takes a while to get used to the world and on track with the story. Of the three, this was my least favorite, but I still adored it.

Book 2: Prince's Gambit 

This is where the action really begins to pick up. Laurent and Damen get out of the poisonous royal court of Vere, and it is on the road to the south, where Vere is engaged in skirmishes with Damen's country Akielos, that they are both slowly able to be themselves. On this journey, Damen learns about the Veretians that he is surrounded by, especially Laurent, picking up on his little quirks, his moods, his jokes. Laurent is able to relax into the first even quasi-friendship that he has allowed himself since his brother died. (though, duh, it's Laurent, there are ~layers~ and he cannot fully trust himself or Damen yet) This was the book that I read the quickest in this series, like, I just laid in my bed for about 7 hours and read it straight through, and it was so worth it!!

I really really loved the scenes were Damen and Laurent would be in their tent, talking over battle strategies, and Damen would teach Laurent Akielon, and he would realize just how amazingly smart and amazing Laurent is, and his attraction just grew throughout the entire novel. THAT SCENE! Where they go to the town and the brothel and the inn and they meet Charls the cloth merchant and Laurent pretends to be Damen's pet and then something *almost* happens but then they have to flee for their lives?? BEAUTIFUL SCENE. And we don't even need to talk about the infamous chapter 19 and also 19.5 which is included in the U.S. paperback version of this. Needless to say, I was fanning myself.... hot scene is hot. It was the sex scene that actually didn't make me cringe, which is difficult to do, and I thought the way that it happened was carefully wrought. Like it couldn't have happened sooner, but also it doesn't magically change everything. UGH! Damen and Laurent's relationship in this book was magic. I was so so pleased with it.

Further than that, I loved the side characters that we got to know. Jord and his fierce loyalty to Laurent and love for Aimeric. Orlant meeting his terrible fate and breaking all of our hearts. Aimeric's betrayal, which I did NOT see coming. Guion, who will become important later. Mentions of Nikandros. The death of Nicaise. Laurent humiliating Govart but managing to unite the Regent's soliders with his own. All of this stuff, which I loved when I was reading, I appreciate even more now, because it all becomes important in Kings Rising. C.S. Pacat does an amazing job of keeping you 100% plugged in to what is going on in the story at the moment while also weaving a web and setting up events that will come into play later. She's like Laurent in that she's always thinking five or ten steps ahead (haha) 

I loved it when Laurent finally won one over his uncle. His past is so heartbreaking, and that part, at the banquet, where he is just so happy with himself and Damen, I thought was so cute. When they leave together, kiss on the battlements. LOVED all of that. When Jord found out who Damen was, in the battle.... my heart stopped. Of course, I was immediately petrified, because I felt like Laurent would just murder Damen and never even give him a chance to try for reconciliation. But damn, that was a good scene. I love the way Damen fights like an absolute maniac, and everyone is like "oh. damn." Then, when Damen is finally about to escape back into Akielos, and he is taking his gold cuffs off, but chooses to LEAVE ONE ON!!! BECAUSE OF LAURENT!!! I DIE.

Plus this was sort of a cliffhanger, so on I went to the next novel.

Book 3: Kings Rising

By far my favorite of the three. It was more lighthearted, I thought, and I think that has a lot to do with Laurent finally coming into himself and realizing that, not only *can* he trust Damen, but that he actually really *wants* to. Laurent broke my heart in this novel. I had guessed that his uncle abused him when he was a boy, after Auguste died, and I'd been waiting, since book 1, for it to come into play. It explains why he had never taken a lover before Damen, why he was so locked inside himself, why he felt so alone. It explained basically all the questions that I had about Laurent, actually, and my heart went so out to him. When he's alone in the cell with Govart, when he says "all bad things happen in the dark," I felt like crying. So much about Laurent is like an inexperienced teenager, especially when it comes to Damen: when they sleep together, he doesn't know what to do with himself, he doesn't drink and needs Damen to take care of him, he dresses in the Akielon style to make Damen lose his shit... it's all so good. Especially in comparison to the way Laurent is with everyone else: snake-like, wily, ruthless, intelligent. I love the way he can truly relax around Damen. The part where Damen wrestled the other dude naked and then he and Laurent tied in that spear throwing game was great for me. Especially when Nikandros and Laurent get into a fight about Damen's scars and Damen has to break his two boyfriends up. When Damen is like "Laurent, I am Damianos" and Laurent is like "yeah, I know, tell me something I don't know also I hate you" but he doesn't hate him.... I totally knew Laurent knew, but it is amazing that he knew since the very beginning. Also! The fact that Laurent was willing to give up his own life in order to ensure that Damen gets his throne back. I was absolutely weeping when they were at the trial, basically declaring their love for one another.

Damen was different in this book too, but I think that's because his disguise of slavery fell away, and he was finally able to take up his mantle as rightful king of Akielos. He took charge so well, I could just feel the rightness in it. It is said a few times in the book, and I totally agree with it: Damen is meant to be king. Laurent, perhaps less, though he strives so hard to make himself rise to the task, but he is always better suited to be working in the background, arranging and moving things where no one can see. Damen could be the face of an empire. They both inspire loyalty, in different ways, and I think that is the reason that they work so well together. I love his relationship with Nikandros: they are truly brothers. Nikandros is like "Damen, you're only working with Vere because you can't resist a blonde," "Damen *please* let me beat up Laurent for hurting you," "Damen oh my god could you PLEASE remember that you aren't Laurent's slave anymore, at least in public?" I LOVED IT. I just imagine Laurent and Damen doing the thing where they stare meaningfully at each other while Nikandros just stands there and rolls his eyes into the next century. I love the protectiveness that Damen feels for Laurent, even though they aren't slave and master anymore. The whole storyline with Jokaste broke my heart, because it has so many parallels with Damen's story with Laurent. Damen thought that Jokaste would make him happy, and he trusts her implicitly, just like Laurent. That's why I think Damen is so strong: he knows that Laurent could hurt him in the same exact fashion that Jokaste did, and he still trusts Laurent with everything that he has. Damen is *SUCH* a cinnamon roll: I mean, he won't even hurt Kastor, who stole his woman and throne and killed his father? And gets stabbed because of it, of course. Where would Damen be without Laurent? Dead in a ditch for sure.

I liked how much of a shit show this book was. Like, everything was so haphazard. They prepare for this huge fight to take the Akielon fort, and then they roll up and everyone is gone but Jokaste, and they don't know what to do. When they're trying to get Jokaste to the kingsmeet, and Laurent LITERALLY cross-dresses and pretends to be here and the border guard is like "I have heard of her great beauty" and Nikandros is just standing there with his mouth hanging open. When they meet charls, I was in absolute STITCHES cracking up. Hands down, funniest part of the whole series, and one of my top five favorite scenes. Then they get to the damn kingsmeet and Damen is like "good the Regent cannot kill us here," but then HES the one that tries to stab The Regent for insulting his boyfriend. When we're (finally) in Laurent's perspective and he freaking kills a man with a CHAIR. God I loved it all.

The part where Laurent comes to Damen's room, after Jokaste tells Laurent that her child was Damen's, was so sweet. They bond about losing their families, their innocence, and I think that's when I really was able to relax and trust that Laurent felt just as deeply for Damen as Damen felt for him. I just find it so heartbreakingly amazing that Laurent finally finds acceptance and trust and kinship for the first time in his life with Damen, and Damen, who is this enormous, battle-hardened warrior, is just reduced to a puddle of very protective mush around Laurent. They compliment each other so well, and give me ALL the feelings.

The ending was the absolute best ending that I could've ever imagined. As I mentioned, I was weeping when Damen and Laurent were trying to save each other on the trial floor, facing their respective usurpers. Laurent screaming "YOU PROMISED" at his uncle when Damen is dragged in, not realizing, at first, that Damen would do anything for him. Laurent hasn't had anyone to come to his aid since he was thirteen years old, and when Damen does, he is absolutely floored. Damen saying in front of everyone how proud he is to be Laurent's lover. GUION'S WIFE being the real freaking MVP. I totally did not see the plot twist about the Regent killing his own brother coming... that was a shock. Kastor escaping, Laurent coming to save Damen one last time, their plans to join their kingdoms forever as one <3 my heart absolutely could not TAKE how amazing it was. There is so much more that I want to talk about, but this review is already really long, so I'll just put links to my favorite tumblr posts about this book down here, and you can peruse them at your leisure.

fave KR tumblr posts (hilarity will ensue): x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x/x

IN SHORT! I loved this series, I think it is so important, and I would recommend it to you if it appeals even a little bit!



  1. Oh my God. I was googling around images of the cover of the series for my own blog post, and I came across this review. PERFECT REVIEW IS PERFECT. You basically wrote down everything I felt. I'm so happy when I find people who loved/loves these books as much as I do, especially when they feel the way you feel about Laurent.

    In case you want to check out my own review, that I admit isn't as exciting as yours, here's the link:

    1. ahhhh thank you so much!!! I'm glad you could understand, I felt a little like I was just too emotional to write a proper review haha! I will definitely check out your review, thank you so much for stopping by :)


80% Read the Printed Word!