REVIEW: Captive Prince by CS Pacat

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.

Warnings: Noncon, Sex Slavery, Mentions of Past CSA

Category: M/M, M/F

Captive Prince is a rather famous slavefic trilogy that took a sizable reader market by storm for being a compelling slow burn epic political romance. It’s titular character Damen is given as a slave to his sworn enemy by his treasonous brother, and he and Laurent are thrown together throughout the course of the narrative in ways that bring them both together and challenge their prejudices. It’s not, perhaps, as explicit as the marketing makes it out to be and people are not exaggerating when they say that it’s a slow burn filled with sexual tension and frustration, but it’s a very compelling and satisfying story in large part because it draws it’s character arcs out so well.

This book is some absolutely stellar, fantastic writing. I adore everything about the plot, the way it’s woven together, the way Lauren’ts POV is kept secret and hidden form the reader so we see everything through Damen’s eyes. The way the political arena slowly reveals itself, the way the wars are set up like chess pieces on a board. Everything about it is so well crafted, from steeping the reader in Damen’s frustration and anguish, to cultivating a gradual and burning curiosity for the world and what is truly going on behind the scenes. It’s such a fantastic piece of fantasy political epic, and I think I’d be really hard pressed to find a better one. Hats off to Pacat for creating such a well woven narrative, I truly could not put it down once I started reading it and ended up binging all three books over the course of a single weekend.

I cannot express how engaging every single character in these books is. Damen I was immediately in love with, he’s exactly the kind of character I love to follow. His POV was the perfect lens through which to experience the story, as he gradually comes to learn more about his enemy. Conversely, Laurent is one of the most complex characters I have ever had the joy of getting to know over the course of a book, especially given that his motivations are so shrouded in mystery and his character is so unknown during the first book. The whole first book had me constantly guessing about him and what his perspective might be like, and I continued to wonder about him well into the third book as well. You spend so much time learning about these characters that they feel organic and real, and their connection to each other builds at a believable pace despite the grievances they both bare to each other. It’s a gorgeously well invested emotional journey and I couldn’t ask for better handling of character arcs.

The worldbuilding is a little less groundbreaking, as it is a fairly generic, vaguely medieval fantasy setting. Vere is kind of France-inspired, while Akeilos seems more or less Greco-Roman in nature, it’s nothing that hasn’t been explored in a fantasy setting before. What’s more interesting is how the different countries approach sex and sexuality. Vere is very sexually open, thinking little of public displays of affection and sensuality, but very modest in how they dress. Akeilons, on the other hand, dress very scantily but are very private about their sex lives. What’s also interesting is the detail about Veretians finding heterosexual relationships outside of marriage to be scandalously taboo (because they could result in bastard children) which is not an idea that I think I have seen explored before. The ways that the two cultures can clash end up being the largest part of the worldbuilding, and also contribute to the dynamic between the two main characters.

Where Captive Prince looses me, is in the smut. Unfortunately for a story with such an incredibly kinky set up, the smut (once the story gets to it) is very soft, romantic, and vanilla. Now, I wasn’t necessarily expecting this to be a hard noncon extravaganza, since I was aware that the two of them were going to grow closer and develop a more mutual relationship, but I did have hopes that that budding relationship would be, well, D/s. I wanted more of a power exchange to remain between them once they no longer are operating under Master/slave pretenses, and… I wanted Laurent to be the Top. Unfortunately, I did not get my wish, and so that aspect of the novel ended up not quite being my speed, and caused me much frustration. Besides that, there actually isn’t a lot of smut in the books, it lives up to the slow burn, and we don’t even get to see Damen and Laurent do the do until the end of book two. That alone drops this from reaching the top of my favourites list.

If you like slow burn romance and you’re not as picky as I am about who tops (it’s a curse, I swear) this is an abso-fucking-lutely fantastic novel series and is certainly one of my favourites. It’s very difficult to top this book for a good combination of political intrigue and fantastic characters, all of which conquered my heart so soundly, I couldn’t stop thinking about them for weeks. I think I’ve reread this book around three times in the short time directly after I initially read it, and I can’t recommend it enough.

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