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…
While Captive Prince certainly presents an unforgettable setting despite the unassuming cover, the slow plot threatened to let boredom overtake me. Luckily, I was saved by the complex and in-depth characters, whom I couldn’t help but sympathize with and want to learn more of. As a romance, this book lacks greatly; as a fantasy, we are presented an opulent and lavish world that, although grotesque, you can’t stop reading about. The political intrigue is intricate and although slow to uncover, keeps you reading as you discover what in the world is actually going on.
To start off with, I had no clue that the world was going to be so depraved. I came in knowing it would be “dark,” but hot damn, I was cursing up a shitstorm while reading the actions of the people.
“This was Vere, voluptuous and decadent, country of honeyed poison.”
Owning slaves, or “pets,” is the custom and they mostly satisfy the sexual urges of their masters by performing in some way or another. It’s absolutely appalling to read about, but I guess you get used to it after, oh say three quarters of the book. At least that was the case for me. The narrator, Damen, tells the story of his capture in a third person limited point of view, starting from the night his father died and his half-brother assumed the throne of his country. From there, he is proclaimed death but in actuality he is presented to another kingdom, Vere, as a gift in the form of a slave. He’s given to the prince of Vere, Laurent, who at first absolutely abhors Damen (and his countrymen in general). The things that happen – oh boy, it gets pretty intense. The book features pretty brutal and degenerate actions, including but not limited to: rape, flogging, and ring fights.
“It wasn’t possible that something like this was going to happen – that this court was so depraved that a mercenary could rape a royal slave a scant distance from the gathered court.”
Um yes, it could and DID happen.
But once I got over the twisted world (which was certainly unique, I’ll give it that), the story did not have much to offer. Damen is trying to escape, but biding his time. Laurent is going against his uncle, the Regent during the time they’re at court, which is consisted of factions that support one or the other. Damen finds his loyalties tested at every turn, and all the while he just wants to make sure the other slaves from his country (that were gifted to the Vere court) are safe.
“And what did it mean, to be a prince, if he did not strive to protect those weaker than himself?”
As slow as the story was, the intense focus on characterization really draws a reader in. In the beginning we see a ruthless, spoiled prince in the form of Laurent but as Damen gets to know his master, we also see his hidden depths and layers. Damen himself also changes and grows as he gets embroiled in the political machinations of the Vere court. There are minor characters that are actually quite three-dimensional and leaves you curiouser and curiouser as to what their hidden motives are. Pacat’s writing is so simple and easy-to-navigate. The short sentences interspersed in Damen’s thoughts make it a quick read that keeps you going. That, along with the clear characterization, is what really stood out for me in the book.
Okay so I’m a little bit miffed by the lack of romance seen in this. When people say it’s a “slow-burn,” IT’S REALLY FREAKING SLOW. As this book is greatly advertised as a M/M fantasy, I was hoping to see more action (especially with that kind of setting). However, the hatred that Laurent and Damen feel for each other seep into the second half of the book and only towards the end do they really go from mistrust to something else. I mean, it makes those parts all the more valuable to read but GUYS. After stumbling upon all the glorious fanart from Twitter and Tumblr, I NEED MORE. So yeah, I was a bit disappointed because of that. I love slow burns, but holyyyy crappp it felt like nothing progressed throughout the middle.
“It was not only that he was navigating a foreign language. It was as though Laurent was an entirely other species of animal.”
I’m definitely continuing the trilogy! Hoping the second book will totally impress me.