This review contains mild spoilers.
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 epitomises the worst of the decadent court at Vere. But in the lethal web of Veretian politics, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen is caught up in a dangerous play for the throne, he is forced to form an alliance with Laurent to survive and save his country.
For Damen, there is just one rule: he must never reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else …
So many people have fantastic things to say about Captive Prince. I opened it expecting to be transported to an incredible fantasy world, and to fall in love with brilliant characters. Instead, I had a very different experience. One thing I don’t often hear about when people mention Captive Prince is the amount of rape involved, or the child molestation.
I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I used to work as a stenographer for the courts. After two years in that job, it took a lot to rattle me. Since changing jobs and getting some distance, I’ve come to realise that I had just become desensitised to a lot of things, probably in an effort to keep myself sane. And reading this book brought a lot of horrible memories screaming back to me.
I’m still not sure whether it was luck of the draw or something else, but I had to type a lot of rape and child molestation cases. And as I read this book, I remembered vivid details. I could hear multiple witnesses in my mind, crying in the witness box as they told their stories. As a result, I spent a lot of time feeling emotionally drained and sick to the stomach while I was reading this book.
Let’s put that reaction to the side so I can focus on the other aspects of the novel. The world that C.S. Pacat has created is interesting, and doesn’t shy away from the gritty realities of a slave nation. But there was a little too much insinuation for my liking, and not enough explanation. It seemed that certain elements were skipped over to intentionally create an element of mystery. I wanted to know more about the wars between Akielos and Vere and why they started in the first place. I wanted to know more about Damen’s family life back in Akielos and see examples of his relationship with his half-brother.
While I’m sure that Damen and Laurent will grow into the relationship that everyone raves about, I can’t see it at this stage. And I don’t think I want to. I know it’s a well-loved trope in literature, but I can no longer stand storylines where physically, emotionally or psychologically abusive bad boys turn out to be wounded puppies reeling from their own trauma and who just need love and companionship to turn them around. Maybe this is more of my bad typing experiences speaking (domestic violence was also a staple in my case portfolio), but any relationship between the two of them seems destined to be a toxic mess.
After attending Supanova Brisbane and hearing C.S. Pacat speak, I developed a lot of respect for her. She seems incredibly intelligent and the stunning insight behind a lot of her panel responses blew me away. And I desperately wished that I could love her book but it’s just not possible for me at this stage.
A few people have told me that Captive Prince is a world-building novel and that the sequel, Prince’s Gambit, will hit me right in the feels. But, unfortunately, the story was not brilliant enough to overcome my emotional reaction to it and I have no desire to continue reading. I don’t know when I will have the strength to push through the emotional wreckage that this book wrought, but I do know that it will be a long time before I enter Pacat’s world again, if ever.
I rate it ★
Please note: comments have been removed from this review and no new comments will be approved. This review represents my opinion of the book and I fully acknowledge that other people may disagree with my comments. If you have read my review, you will know that this book brought up some sensitive personal issues for me. I have spent time reading the book and writing this review and I have no desire to dwell on this topic any longer.