Captive Prince

Captive Prince main

Captive Prince
C.S. Pacat4.5 Stars

Spoiler Rating: Low-Moderate

Hey Katie,

Let me warn you now that Captive Prince is not your standard gay romance fantasy novel. Do not pick this book up expecting to watch two men get cuddly; I understand that things get more romantic later in the trilogy, but Captive Prince is first and foremost brutal, and it establishes a truly amazing foundation for what I hope will be (a) a truly amazing plot, and (b) a truly amazing romance.

W-Synopsis

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful 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 rason to hate him than anyone else . . . 

W-Praise

Okay, straight up: I really enjoyed this book, and I could ramble about it at length. But I won’t, because I can exhibit self-restraint sometimes, and you’re better off just reading the book already.

And sure, it’s not perfect, but it does so many things right that I typically have to complain about in other books. For example:

Character-Driven Plot

Captive Prince‘s story focuses pretty tightly on Damen’s struggle to cope with the loss of his identity and his new, horrifying life as his #1 enemy’s pleasure slave. Unsurprisingly, he has plenty of conflict (internal and external) to deal with, and some personal goals he’s determined to achieve, or die trying. Even though there wasn’t much going on in terms of, like, coups or war or evil sorcerers attacking the city or whatever, Captive Prince kept me reading long past my bedtime, because Damen’s personal struggles were so damn compelling.

This is in contrast to books like, say, Rebel of the Sands and The Winner’s Curse, in which the protagonists have no particular goal, and their personal struggles are either nonexistent (Rebel of the Sands) or portrayed in a terribly dull way (The Winner’s Curse).

It helps that I liked Damen from the get-go, and was firmly Team Damen throughout the novel. He’s a fantastic combination of strength, moral integrity, pride, and practicality that I find endlessly enjoyable/charming.

(Note: this isn’t to say the story is entirely about Damen’s enslavement. Important things do happen, as the synopsis promises.)

Enemies (Captive/Captor) to Lovers

Remember in my review of The Wrath and the Dawn, where I frothed at the mouth over Shahrzad’s near-instantaneous lady-boner for her enemy/captor/husband, Khalid? Remember how I explicitly described how I’d’ve changed the story to make the romance more palatable—and my changes included pushing the romance back so it’s not even hinted at until the second book in the series?

Because really, the enmity and skewed power dynamic of these types of relationships (enemies and spouses in The Wrath and the Dawn; enemies and master/slave in Captive Prince) can’t be magicked away by a few glimpses of sweaty skin and a couple snarky conversations. These couples start off in a horrible place, and it should realistically take a lot of work to arrive at romance.

Captive Prince does a great job of respecting the very real and very horrible relationship between Damen and Laurent—and I cannot wait to see exactly how they negotiate their way to love.

Laurent’s a Dick

Were you ever engaged by Draco Malfoy’s combination of pride, cunning, and ruthlessness? Are you interested in reading about a morally ambiguous love interest? Allow me to present Laurent. He read to me like the grown-up’s version of Draco, and I loved being both attracted to and repulsed by him. I need more, stat.

Now, I don’t want to give explicit spoilers here, but: Captive Prince is focused tightly on realism, and just as it doesn’t let love instantly spring up between Damen and Laurent, it doesn’t magically redeem Laurent of his (truly horrifying) behavior throughout the novel. Hallelujah.

As excited as I am to see how the romance develops, I’m even more excited to see how the author will convince me that Laurent is (or can become) a decent person.

The Writing Style

For the most part, I really enjoyed the writing style. The story’s told from Damen’s (third-person) perspective, and the language (for the most part) suited him very well: frank, observant, and descriptive without being poetic.

W-Criticism

The Writing Style

As much as I approved of the writing style, it had its hiccups. Every now and then, the author would use a million-dollar word or phrase instead of a more reasonable one-, ten-, hundred-, or even thousand-dollar word or phrase that would’ve worked better. It felt like the author decided to go digging deep into a thesaurus to use the most obscure words she could find, forgetting that the story’s narrated through Damen. Damen wouldn’t have chosen those words, I don’t think; they’re too obscure or unnecessarily flowery.

The result: every now and then, I was jarred completely out of the story. It was very frustrating, and I’m glad it only happened a handful of times.

Damen’s Weird Blindness to Laurent’s Impending Kingship

There’s probably a much better section title than the above, but god help me I can’t think of it.

Crash course in Captive Prince politics, here we go.

Damen is (was) the heir to the throne of Akielos, which borders the kingdom of Vere. Akielos and Vere had fought a brutal territorial war that ended with Akielos the victor—and killed both the king and the crown prince of Vere. Laurent, the second prince of Vere, was still a child at this point, so his uncle became Regent.

Now, Laurent is less than a year away from becoming a legal adult—and once his birthday arrives, the Regent will have to get his ass off the throne and let Laurent become king. The Regent has been a good/passive neighbor to Akielos throughout his regency.

You’d think that Damen would’ve spent some time imagining what kind of king Laurent—who is, by all appearances, a malicious and awful person—is about to become, right? You’d expect Damen to prefer the Regent over Laurent for Vere’s king, right?

Yet he doesn’t. And even when he’s in a position to choose between siding with the Regent or with Laurent, he leans toward Laurent, without ever having discussed with himself just how potentially, incredibly horrible it would be for Akielos to have Laurent as its ruling neighbor.

Yes, a hasty explanation for Damen’s choice is offered on the very last page of the novel, and it’s not a terrible one; I just would’ve preferred to see Damen weighing the options throughout the book, and his choice would’ve been much more convincing if he’d shared his explanation before the very last page of the novel. Cutting it a little close there, dude.

W-AddtlNotes

I need to warn you that this book is thick with sexual, physical, and emotional violence. There is rape, and extreme physical punishment, and slavery, and this is really not a book for the squeamish.

That said, I thought the violence was handled with care and frankness; it wasn’t gratuitous, though there was plenty of it.

W-InClosing

I never thought I’d enjoy a book that features slavery (sexual and otherwise) and extreme abuse, but here we are. Now, if only YA fantasy novels could approach their own stories with the care, realism, and gravitas seen in Captive Prince; I’d be a much happier reader, for sure.

Love,

Liam


37 thoughts on “Captive Prince

      1. Oh thank goodness, when I clicked on the link to goodreads I only saw kindle editions of the second and third and got a little bit sad.
        I’m sure I’ll love it! It sounds really great, I conducted a little snooping after reading your review and found a lot of people really raving about it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m really glad to see that you enjoyed this. I was really hesitant going into it (for some reason I’d completely forgotten that slavery was going to feature so prominently) but it completely surprised me. Now I kind of want to read them all over again haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I finished reading Captive Prince the other night and I really liked it. I love your comparison of Laurent to a grown up Draco because it makes a lot of sense, he felt almost familiar in a way. I had the same experience with the writing being jarring in some places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you liked it! And I’m also glad I’m not the only one getting Draco vibes, and getting knocked out of the flow by the writing style. It’s awesome to compare notes with someone and find out you had the same experience. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That book sounds very interesting, and I love a great character-driven story. However, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with the violence, and most especially the rape parts. But seeing you compare this to The Winner’s Curse in terms of the characters having no real goals, is making me impatient to read that book (The winner’s Curse, I mean). I have it on my TBR and I heard great things, and not-so-great things about it. 🙂
    (Wow, this is all me, talking about another book on a review, haha, I apologize.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my gosh, do my eyes deceive me? 4.5 stars, LIAM?? I feel like I should drop everything and read this for Pride Month or something. Also, books that venture deeper than just romance are my favorite. Also, if you want a really moving book (with abuse, etc) try A Little Life. (I think I recommend this to everyone I’ve seen lately-I finished it earlier in the year and it’s one of my ALL TIME favorites.) Thanks for the minimal spoilers review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. MARK YOUR CALENDAR, ‘TIS A GLORIOUS DAY.

      If you do read it, I hope you love it at least half as much as I do. (If you hate it, I’ll feel kind of awful for leading you astray.)

      I’ll look into A Little Life! But first: on a scale of “cringing sympathetically” to “BAWLING MY EYES OUT,” where would it fall on the make-me-want-to-cry scale? I don’t do so well with the bawling books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I’ll make sure to keep low expectations just in case then! 😉 But I really doubt that I’ll not enjoy it seeing it’s Liam-approved.

        On your scale? Certainly the latter. But it’s actually one of those where you cry so much you feel so full of emotion (and understanding of how BEAUTIFUL that book is) but empty as well. deep breath You just need to read it, Liam.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review. A morally ambiguous love interest greatly appeals to me so I’m eager to read about that.
    I must say as I was reading your review, my eyes quickly jumped to “Laurent’s a Dick” because I didn’t see the “a” in that title which made me wonder what else is the story about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!

      I’ll be eagerly awaiting your review, if you do end up reviewing it. (And if you don’t, maybe you could just leave a “I loved it/I hated it” summary here in my comments? I’ll be dying of curiosity if I don’t hear from you one way or another.)

      Ha! Honestly, there are a few dicks in Captive Prince, and more in its sequel. The author isn’t coy about penises and what people do with them.

      That said, I saw one reviewer who felt that the books were dick-centric, and I politely but emphatically disagree.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol! I’ll certainly let you know.
        I’m in Barnes & Noble at the moment actually and couldn’t find Captive Prince in fantasy. It was stocked in the romance section. I wonder how it’s category was decided on.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Might be one of those unsolvable mysteries. Perhaps the third book in the trilogy reveals that the ultimate struggle for these characters isn’t about political power or personal freedom, but sacrificing power and freedom to fulfill their hearts’ desires? (I can’t think of a less silly way to phrase that, and I apologize for it.)

        If so, it’d make sense then that the publishers would want to market it as a romance trilogy from the get-go, to ensure romance readers (and their wallets) don’t pass the series up because it looks too much like a standard gritty fantasy.

        Did you end up buying the book, or are you more of a library person?

        Like

  6. Hi! I’ve just discovered your blog and I think it’s very nice.

    I’ve seen lots of reviews for Captive Prince, ranging from 0.5 stars to 5 stars, so it seems to be one of those books that you either hate or love. I’m glad it worked for you!

    Ugh, yes, I agree with you on the relationship in The Wrath and the Dawn – it was one of the major problems I had with that story (there were others, too). So I’m glad to hear that the relationship here is slower.

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there, Kaja! It’s lovely to meet you! (And thank you so much; I’m all ablush 😊.)

      I’ll admit I’m disappointed by people who rate Captive Prince very low because they object to slavery and rape. It doesn’t make sense to me to give a book a low rating simply because the world it’s set in (whether the novel is fantasy, dystopian, historically-inspired, whatever) has a moral compass vastly different from ours.

      Yeah, this world is morally objectionable, but there’s an in-story reason for it to be so; it’s not there just to scandalize the reader, nor to promote or condone rape and slavery. The protagonist (Damen) confronts both of those morally-objectionable things in such a way as to change his life and his view of them, and to emphasize to the reader that consent and the general good treatment of your fellow humans is of the utmost importance.

      (Not to say Damen was ever okay with rape; he wasn’t. But his stance on slavery is deeply shaken by his experience as a slave.)

      Whoops, I’m rambling. 😅

      I do think it takes a certain type of reader to find this story enjoyable–a reader who wants to be more critical of what they’re reading, and not be ruled by instinctive horror at its brutality. If that makes sense?

      Do you have plans to read it anytime soon, or does it not really sound like the type of book for you? (It’s definitely not for everyone!)

      Hurray, someone else who isn’t a fan of TWATD’s romance! I’m two seconds away from hunting down your review of it; I must know what you thought, in detail.

      Slower relationships are always my jam, but they’re even more important when the people involved start off hating each other’s guts. If you can think of any other books that fit that bill, I’d really appreciate some recommendations! (But no pressure, though; I’m awful at coming up with on-the-spot recommendations, myself.)

      Thank you! And thank you for the lovely comment! 😄

      Like

      1. Well! Now that you wrote a reply to my comment that’s as long as an entire post, I really have to chat, don’t I? 🙂

        Uhmmm have you read Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier? There’s a lovely relationship in there that evolves in a really slow way + the heroine is basically kidnapped, there’s also rape involved (the only representation I’ve read so far that didn’t leave me cringing), and I cried when I read it, so it fits pretty much everything we’ve mentioned here. I also read the sequel and it’s amazing. I haven’t read the third part yet (there’s the original trilogy and then there are 3 more books but I’ve heard those aren’t as good) but I have it already so it’s happening soon.

        And here it is: http://ofdragonsandhearts.com/2016/10/wrath-dawn-renee-ahdieh/

        I’ve put Captive Prince on my to-buy list but that’s one looong list of books waiting to fit my book budget, so it’ll take me a while to get there. You did convince me to give it a try, though, so good job on that! 🙂 I understand what you’re saying about being put off by the horror of the story – I currently can’t read anything where kids get hurt, my mind just sort of refuses to deal with such things (I have two little kids), but I’m okay with other stuff, as long as it’s not just a plot device.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha! Yeah, I do write rambling replies, huh? Suckered you in! 😁

        Oh, Daughter of the Forest was one of my favorite books in high school! It’s been quite a long time since I last reread it, though, and I remember almost nothing about it. Thank you so much for reminding me of it! I’ll add it to my reread list.

        A+ review of The Wrath and the Dawn, I approve.

        Oof, yeah, working out a feasible book budget is rough. Hopefully you end up enjoying the book enough to justify buying it! Sweats.

        Hm, I don’t remember any little kids being hurt in Captive Prince. One secondary character is an older, high-ranking man who’s eventually revealed to be a pedophile, and he has a “pet” who is (I think) a 15-year-old boy (but looks several years younger, and is using his position as “pet” to climb the social ladder). The older man is of high enough rank that very few people are able/willing to express their disgust at his pedophilia, but both Laurent and Damen (the POV character) ARE disgusted. The book doesn’t actually show the young man engaged in any sexual acts, but if even a hint of pedophilia is enough to turn you away, this can be your warning.

        Like

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