REVIEW: Captive of the Horde King by Zoey Draven

On the unforgiving planet of Dakkar, I did what all the humans in our village did: kept my head down, worked to provide for my family, and I certainly didn’t break any Dakkari laws to risk inciting the alien race’s merciless wrath. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for my brother, and one careless mistake brings a horde of the nomadic, barbarian Dakkari straight to our doorstep, led by their powerful horde king—a cold, ruthless, battle-scarred warrior demanding retribution.

In order to save my brother’s life, I do the unthinkable. I sell myself to the horde king as his war prize. I agree to warm his furs, to travel with his horde across the wild lands of Dakkar, and to never see my family again. But as I struggle with my new reality, I discover that the surly, mysterious, dominant horde king never intended for me to be his concubine… He wants me as his queen.

Warnings: dubcon, pregnancy, sexism

Category: M/F

Captive of the Horde King is a dubcon romance novel. It reminds me of steamy harlequin bodice rippers, with all of the tropes of the genre. Young girl is taken from her village by a large, ‘Conan the Barbarian-esque’ Warrior King, is scared of him at first but gradually gets to know him and realizes that there is more to him than initially meets the eye, etc. There’s a lot of back and forth between them, a lot of arguing as they struggle to get to know each other’s values and cultural ideas, and eventually fall in love. It’s nothing especially groundbreaking but it’s a collection of tropes that I happen to have a soft spot for, so I was more than ready for the ride.

WRITING
This is told in the first person, which isn’t my favourite writing style, mostly because you run the risk of making your main character exceptionally obnoxious when you have their every thought on display. Luna can certainly fit that bill; she’s quite stubborn and bullheaded in ways that make not a whole lot of sense and felt more like the author was in a tizy to make sure you know how “feisty” she is, rather than making her relatable or feel real. Luna going on a nonsensical hunger strike, refusing to wear clothing provided for her, and generally making an ass of herself over cultural differences caused me more than a few eyerolls. It’s a very melodramatic story… but I honestly would hardly expect otherwise from a romance novel like this. It works with soap opera style conflict, and for what it was worth kept me engaged the entire way through.

I will note, however, that there is an element of gender essentialism to the text that I found a little harder to stomach; the idea that woman are nurturers and caretakers and men are strong protectors that need women to soften them… the idea that women wield secret power by keeping their men placated… the vague idea that a woman’s purpose is to produce offspring for her “mate”…. it’s in there, and it can be… distracting.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
Arokan is everything that you want a Warrior King to be. He’s gruff, and stoic. Stubborn, and set in his ways. But also kind, gentle, and compassionate. He’s gentlemanly even as he is passionate and sexually voracious. He is a natural leader in a powerful position of authority with the ability to shower riches and luxuries on his chosen lover. He is, in short, 100% wish fulfillment fantasy. And that’s certainly not a bad thing in this sort of writing! I absolutely loved him to pieces, he was exactly what I was hoping for from this narrative. His connection to Luna, on the other hand, was a little bit less explored than I’d like it to have been. There seems to be little reason why he fell for Luna and decided to make her his Queen. Aside from being impressed that she’d had the gall to stand up to him, and he liked how she looked… that’s generally not reason enough to decide on the spot that you’re going to marry someone. I felt that she didn’t really do much in their initial interaction to have garnered this much attention, and I’d have liked the author to have taken their time a little bit with Arokan’s development of feelings the way they carefully took their time exploring the development of Luna’s.

WORLDBUILDING
The world presented in Captive of the Horde King is an interesting one. It’s technically science fiction as it takes place on another planet that humans have settled, but apart from that it reads like high fantasy. The Dakkari might as well have been orcs and it would have changed very little in the story. I’m intrigued by the notion that there is in fact a federation of humans in space offworld that settled humans onto this planet (apparently they were refugees?) and the politics between them and the Dakkari who are the rulers of the planet is interesting, but barely touched on. I have hopes that future books in this series will explore that more.

One thing I will note is that the author failed to truly commit to the alien/human love angle by making the Dakkari…. pretty much just large humans. The only real differences between them and humans appear to be slightly larger bodies, long tails, and black eyes. Oh, and…. vibrating ridges around the base of their dicks? That’s a new one to me, I’ll give it that. I was disappointed when Luna made specific mention that their skin colours are similar to humans… really? Not even green skin? If you’re going to write about warrior aliens I’d like them to be truly alien.

STEAMINESS
It’s a bit of a slow burn at first, but once the sex finally starts happening and the author stops teasing us, it’s a very steamy book. It’s pretty romantic and vanilla, but it’s well written and it’s got that edge of wildness and a primal quality that makes the seduction passages more than enjoyable to read. I very much enjoyed the sexual tension in the narrative as well as the constant wondering and worrying on Luna’s part about what the act would be like before it happened. If you’re into passionate lovemaking content where the man whisks the woman off her feet with the power of his manly charms…. well, like I said: this is a bodice ripper harlequin romance novel through and through and it does not disappoint in that department.

Of course I could have gone for a darker story, personally (Putting the word “Captive” in the title gives a certain expectation!) but that aside; this was fun. It was cheesy, it was tropey, but I love these tropes and I had a blast reading it. I would buy it in print if it was available in print. I was along for every single leg of it’s melodramatic ride and I will probably end up reading future installments in this series as well.

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