Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Posted September 2, 2017 by Kim in books, review / 0 Comments

CAPTIVE PRINCE by C.S. Pascat
Series: Captive Prince (#1)
Published: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Purchased
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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 reason to hate him than anyone else…

Captive Prince is a difficult book to review alone. In my experience with this trilogy, this is the type of story that is best appreciated in retrospect. C.S. Pacat has woven together incredibly complex layers to create her characters that it takes several journeys with them across all three books to really have an idea on how to unravel their makings.

From beginning to end, Captive Prince is Damen’s story. Born the heir to Akielos but betrayed by his bastard brother, Damianos is sent to submit to the mercy of the Veretian Court as a pleasure slave to the Crown Prince. Except that while Laurent is at every turn as vindictive as he is pompous and indolent, he might just be the one person that can save Damen’s country. Unless he discovers that his uncanny gift from the new Akielon king is the very man he has more reasons to see dead than alive.

The world that C.S. Pacat creates is an interesting one, albeit not heavily explored in comparison to the relationships. There are key elements of Akielos and Vere that we are introduced to that help contrast Damen and Laurent’s lifestyle and traditions. Until the beginning of this book, Damen lived in lavish comfort. Celebrated for his victories and the pride of the king, there’s an innocent part of Damen that valued the idea of family and loyalty to the point where he never believed Kastor’s ambition for power could be so ruthless.

“[…] You exist only to please the Crown Prince, for whom this country is held in stewardship—who will ascend the throne as King.”
(28)

Laurent, on the other hand, grew up without his father and beloved older brother. Forced into precarious situations by his power-grabby uncle, Laurent adapted early to the cruel side of court politics. His easy kindness was locked away long ago. When Damen is pushed down in front of Laurent in Captive Prince, Laurent is not likable. Laurent is not our ally. Laurent is in many ways Damen’s villain, and if his identity is revealed, Laurent will be Damen’s worst nightmare in an unfamiliar land.

I love this series a lot. I’m very partial to the way these characters have been built up, and I am fascinated and enamored with the way Laurent’s mind works. C.S. Pascat’s writing has an easy flow that made for engaging reading, but pretty prose wasn’t used to soften crude actions or raw language. Captive Prince has unsettling scenes, and some readers may find it difficult to get through. The turn in the middle half of the series towards politics and outside action was much more satisfying than the start, but I can’t ignore a few of the questionable dubious consent messages in the beginning.

Damen and Laurent are constantly at odds for reasons known and unknown to the readers. The most important part for me was to see that the romance was as slow-burn as they come to the point where it doesn’t even exist in Captive Prince. Establishing that it will take a lot of work and a lot of pages for the main characters to just stand on equal playing fields lends to a lot of essential solid character progression for our difficult protagonists.

Laurent has been my favorite character since book one to book three, although I can easily see why he could be the bane of another reader’s existence. He is a mean bitch, especially in Captive Prince. Laurent is logic over emotion for good reasons while Damen is very honor is good, honor, honor, do mostly good things. Before you start this trilogy, you might have to decide what you’re comfortable reading about. If you’ve read this book, let’s discuss some of the inner workings of one of my beloved series.

Hello please beware of incoming spoilers in

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Context and Narrative

As I mentioned before, from the beginning of Captive Prince to the end of Kings Rising, the story we see is the story of Damianos Prince-Killer, born heir to a kingdom and raised to be a king. The first time the Veretian Ambassador encounters Damianos after he has been forced into another identity, he sees a man clearly different from the other slaves of Akielos.

I don’t know if that is usual practice in this place, but good men don’t torture slaves in Akielos. Slaves are trained to obey in all things, but their submission is a pact: They give up free will in exchange for perfect treatment. To abuse someone who cannot resist—isn’t that monstrous?”
(122)

The subservient role Damen initially rejects but later is forced to play is written in an interesting portrayal of restraint. Physically, Damen is built like a traditional warrior — hard muscle and a lot of raw strength. Mentally, Damen never considered himself as anyone but the king of Akielos. But if he wants to escape from Vere, he needs to endure a lot of difficult and painful situations. (least of them all was probably getting stabbed in the thigh with a dinner fork but I was like yikes because the visual in my head was so strong)

He knew what he had to do. Against ever rebelling instinct, he forced himself forward, and dropped to his knees before Laurent.

“I fight in your service, Your Highness.”
(46)

For Damen, a large part of this story is a matter of survival. He is an foreigner surrounded by enemies, and Laurent is the one person with the most reason to see him dead. If you have a difficult time sympathizing with Laurent’s character, it might be because Damen has no reason to try and understand Laurent’s motives. He originally has nothing to gain in spending precious time courting a friend in a prince who hated him on sight, and every minute wasted is another minute closer to someone discovering who he is. Without that context for his character, it might be hard to reconcile Laurent’s cold personality to his fetishized pretty looks and like him as a person. (I still hate the Regent over here.)

This is why Prince’s Gambit is such a game changer for this series. It manages to shift a tense relationship and change its playing field believably. Some of the biggest revelations for Laurent won’t come until the next two books in this trilogy, although they aren’t impossible to pick up if you look close enough. There are little pieces sprinkled through Captive Prince that piece together a little about who Laurent is at his corehonorable and surprisingly able to inspire loyalty in his men.

Laurent said: “I dislike feeling indebted to you. Trust that, if you don’t trust me.”
(193)

I couldn’t help noticing that Damen is introduced as strangely naive to the intricacies and manipulations of politics and pure human greed.  The fact that he was shocked at Kastor’s actions in the beginning perhaps speaks to an easy tendency to trust but maybe also willful blindness? I like you lots though, Damen.

“Take me to see my brother,” he demanded, and the soldiers laughed, and one kicked him in the stomach.
“Your brother’s the one who gave the order,” one of them sneered.
“You’re lying. Kastor’s no traitor.”
(5)

I don’t know what in the world made these soldiers and anyone but Jokaste place their bets on Kastor of all people. What does he offer to common soldiers that Damianos wouldn’t? (except death) When Damen seemed to trust the Regent was this upstanding guy with a good head on his evil, scheming, disturbing body and that he was only this caring uncle who wanted to steer misguided Laurent — who can believe Laurent would dare shirk border duty to avoid being killed by his dear uncle right — I was lowkey screaming DAMEN NO

HE’S BAD

NO

“Yesterday I brutalized him. Today I am swooning into his arms. I would prefer the charges against me to be consistent. Pick one.”
(210)

Anyone with half a brain and nothing to gain like most of the corrupted Council can tell that the Regent is full of shit. Boy (man) you are not a king you were not born to be king you won’t be king you’re just holding the throne for Laurent to turn of age. Laurent’s no bullshit way of speaking just makes me love him all the more too.

Rating Report
Characters
4.5 star rating
Plot
4.5 star rating
Writing
5 star rating
Pacing
5 star rating
Overall 4.75 stars

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