Captive Prince by C. S. Pacat
Fantasy, M/M Romance
Read Dec 15-17, 2017
(Mildly) Spoilery Blabber
I think I went into this book expecting something other than what it was.
This book, when lent to me by a friend, gave me the impression that it was a PWP book. (Plot? What Plot?) Basically I thought it was going to be a book written with the veil of ‘sure there’s a setting, but we know why we’re all here’. A lot of romances fall into this category, and considering that’s what I was in the mood to read, I was good with it. I didn’t go into this book expecting to be blown away by beautiful writing or fascinating plot development, let’s put it that way.
And so I started reading… and was pleasantly surprised. There is plot in this book. Like, actual plot. And a bit of world building. And some character development was well. In fact, the whole ‘gosh Emily, read it, it’s gooooood *eyebrow swaggle*’ I got from my friend when she lent it to me element took a back seat. This book is a fantasy with a romantic (would you really call that ‘romantic’?) subplot, not a thinly veiled excuse to write a bunch of sex scenes. It was interesting.
Now granted, this book can be graphic at times. The culture that is set up is very… intense. Citizens from different nations are slaves (this happens across the different countries with each other’s people), and many of those slaves and the nobility as well are uh… basically all over each other at all times. There are public shows of sex, there are depictions of same sex rape. This book is not for children, and not for the weak of heart.
It all creates a gritty read. Everything is written in a way that makes you vaguely uncomfortable, and it’s written that way on purpose. The tone of the book says ‘this is happening, this is the world, and it’s not good’. So what I’m saying is, while the culture that this book is written about celebrates these things, the tone of the book does not. It’s hard to explain. But at no point did I get the feeling that the author was trying to say ‘yeah sexual assault!’ She wrote it in a way that it wasn’t romanticized, but was written as ‘this is part of the culture’, I guess. So if that’s something you’re not okay with reading, I would avoid this book like the plague.
So if you’re still reading at this point and haven’t backed out from losing all interest (I wouldn’t blame you if you had), here is a bit of a plot overview:
This book follows a prince, Damen, whose illegitimate brother overthrows him, fakes his death to the citizens of his country, and ships him off to the country of Vere to be a pleasure slave to its prince, Laurent, under a fake identity. Damen’s motivation to reveal his true identity is minimal, as he slaughtered Laurent’s older brother in war between the two nations a handful of years beforehand.
So the book follows Damen as he tries to navigate being a slave for the first time in his life to a man who is frigid and cruel in a culture that says whatever goes.
And honestly, I rather liked this book.
I wasn’t expecting to, but I did. It’s one of those books that you buzz through really fast because the writing is addicting. You know what you’re reading isn’t five star material, but you get sucked in and you just can’t stop and you need to know what happens next.
I think that’s why my friend lent it to me, telling me it was good while swaggling her face. It is good, just not in the way that she had suggested. The ‘romance’ between the two main characters I wouldn’t even call a romance. If it is, it’s a slow burn that must developed in later books, because I didn’t get a sense of it at all in this first one. The two hate each other and the don’t do so much as hold hands, let alone jump each other’s bones the whole book.
It was an interesting dynamic between the two – hate fulled their interactions and weirdly led them to cooperating towards the end of the book. Hatefully, haha. I could definitely see the ‘hate to love’ trope appearing for these two eventually, but I would not by any means call this first book a romance, even though it is categorized as such. It was a fantasy, based in geopolitical intrigue for sure.
The prince of Vere is the prince, but his uncle, the Reagent, currently holds the thrown. The man, while initially appearing to be almost decent, later shows himself to be a disgusting, manipulative individual, and you find yourself almost rooting for Laurent, who has a few major personality flaws of his own. It was weird how the author got me to like a character I would normally strongly dislike.
So even though there were so many reasons why I should find this book appalling, listed above, I found myself buzzing through it and, for the most part, liking it. The writing is addictive, the characters, at least the main two, are weirdly fun to read about, and the setting, while hard to read sometimes, drives the plot forward. Overall, I dug it. It was good.
I want to read the other two in the trilogy – hopefully will borrow them as well. I hope, I hope I hope I hope that the culture the book is written about is turned on its head, that the tone that author creates of ‘this is gross’ is a predictor for it being overthrown. That would be super neat.
Rating: 4/5 stars