I received a recommendation to read Captive Prince Volume one and two by S.U Pacat from both Janine at Dear Author and Brie and Romance Around the Corner (and if you follow those two links you can read their reviews). Huge thanks to them, as I’m sure I would not have picked up this series on my own.
Before I continue I will say there are some rape scenes and some pretty brutal treatment of slaves in volume one. Was it hard to read? Oh yes. But those scenes have a great impact on the overall story. I feel like they are treated with care – so I accepted them. Anyway, moving on.
Volume one starts with our first hero Damen, the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But his power hungry half brother, catches him off guard, drugs him, kills everyone close to him (his country thinks Damen is dead as well) , strips him of his power and sends him to an enemy land as a slave. He gets sent to the court in Vere, and is now owned by Prince Laurent. Laurent is an ice cold, frigid twenty year old, and in less than a year, will rise to become King, That is if he can play his Uncle’s games for a little while longer. He is golden blonde, with pale white skin, thin and agile. Pretty much the opposite of Damen. A big fact in this book – Damen killed Laurent’s brother on the battlefield years ago. Laurent has vowed revenge. Of course no one knows “slave Damen” is really this prince that killed his brother.
Let me stop here and discuss Damen. Damen is a very big, strong, olive-skinned man used to being a prince, now a slave. No one in Vere recognizes him, so he is truly passed off as a slave. He is beaten, drugged and raped. He is stubborn and passionate, and has a very hard time keeping his mouth closed. He is abused, humiliated, yet never breaks. Laurent looks upon him with disgust, and while others at court assume Damen tends to Laurent in bed, it’s quite the opposite. Laurent barely lets Damen get near him. The sexual tension that evolves from this is pretty great. (especially in volume two).
The entire story is told through Damen’s eyes which is brilliant. I’ve never been so happy to have a story told only through one protagonist as in this one. Why? Because there is so much mystery and intrigue in this story, that the way the reader uncovers facts, just as Damen does, is done terrifically well. As I was reading through the comments section in Janine’s review a point is made that is well said. The comment in effect says we experience who the villain is and who has power through Damen’s eyes. And as the reader we trust that, because you can’t help but feel for Damen. Damen is the wronged man. Damen is the one that you want to escape and regain his glory. And I think what the author does, especially in volume two is just so tricky and mind blowing – you will finish the book and just have a little chuckle. And then total outrage because Volume three is not out yet. (Coming out in 2014 I hear)
Volume One really explores a slave culture. Honestly, it made me very uncomfortable at times but intriguing nonetheless. Damen’s home city of Akielos has slaves, but while they are owned property, they are treated better than those in Vere:
In Akielos, slaves were discreet, public performances were erotic without being overt, the charms of a slave to be enjoyed in private. The court did not gather to watch two of them fucking. Here, the atmosphere was almost orgiastic. And it was impossible to block out the sounds.
There is a lot of discussion you can get into about the slaves. It is obviously a very big part of this story. They have just a big of a role in court as the nobility. Besides how they are treated by the nobility, I found it very interesting how they treat each other. There are so many dynamics between each of them, the nuances, the games they play. I think the author does a really nice job of that.
Also in volume one the author really takes great lengths to give us such rich and vibrant details of the setting. The extravagant court, and the riches. The greed and over indulgence. I love that Damen looks upon Vere with disgust, and Laurent looks upon Akielos the same way. They each have such disdain for the other’s culture and at the beginning you think they are such different people. But they have at least one common goal between them at the start – they each are the rightful heirs to a throne. Laurent almost old enough to take ownership and Damen, wrongfully stripped.
Is this a romance book….yeeesssss…although I hesitate to really go into Damen and Laurent’s relationship. It’s something you have to discover on your own. Be patient. Be very patient because there is a huge payoff. I won’t say when, or how..but the way she crafts their relationship is amazing. As I said, you are in Damen’s head – and he is a stand up guy. But, even better is how the author writes Laurent. The reader’s journey to discover Laurent and how the author very delicately pulls back very thin layers of him one after another throughout both volumes. Laurent is so intricate and intriguing. So cold, smart, and strong. He has moments of such dry wit that made me laugh. And then boom! We get to the vulnerable layer and you will drop your kindle and just flail on the couch for a few minutes to let it all soak in.
In conclusion let me say – read both volumes. I think Volume two is a stronger book. Remember in volume one things are a little dark and scary but the payoff in volume two is totally worth it. Both with the conflicts Damen and Laurent face and their relationship. Don’t be put off by the fantasy aspect of it. The world isn’t huge. When I first started volume one I had convinced myself I would be overwhelmed by the names of all the cities and characters. But the author doesn’t overcomplicate that. Although when you get to the end of volume two I think it’s fair to say this is a complicated, intricate dance we were all just put through. I am dying for Volume Three.
Volume One: B+
Volume Two: A