Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1)
Author: S.U. Pacat (C.S. Pacat for the new edition)
Cover Artist: Benji Greig
Publisher: Gatto (Berkley for the new edition)
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Length: 240 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by LenaLena
Review Summary: Possibly the best Enemies-to-Lovers story ever.
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 . . .
I have been reading Captive Prince for almost 2 years. I checked: I started reading it in May 2011. And I was 3 years late to the game, because Pacat (aka freece) started posting Captive Prince chapters to her livejournal page in May 2008. By the time I heard about it she was 16 chapters into book 2 and it only took another year for her finish that book, one chapter every few months. Believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the exquisite agony of waiting for a book to finish like that. And while Volume 1 and 2 are finished and published now, we have been waiting for almost a year for the first chapter of Volume 3 and given the way book 2 ended, that has really been quite nerve wracking.
Captive Prince personifies both the best and worst things about a story told through web serial. The worst is the waiting. For years, if you’re unlucky enough to find the story early. And reading the story one chapter at a time makes for a choppy experience, which is why I reread both books for the purpose of this review. The best? It’s hard to imagine finding a story like this being offered through regular publishing channels, if it had not already acquired a fan base through the web postings.
Captive Prince is a Fantasy trilogy-to-be with one story arc spanning the 3 books. Warning: there is no resolution (or happy couple) at the end of this first volume.
In the beginning of book 1 we find Damen, the crown prince of Akielos, imprisoned and enslaved and sent out to the court of archenemy Vere where he is handed to crown prince Laurent, whose brother he killed in battle 6 years ago. There is instant mutual loathing between Damen and Laurent. Not only are they natural enemies, Laurent is conniving and cruel. Damen is fighting against the chains that bind him and completely out of his depth in the court of Vere. Volume 1 is an elaborate introduction to the social and political landscape in Vere and how it has produced a man like Laurent, who has to survive another 10 months before his uncle and regent has to pass the throne to him. Damen gets caught in the political games between the two men and bears the brunt of the resulting fallout. By the end, though, Damen and Laurent have established a grudging respect for each other and a very tentative trust. There is sex in this book, but not between Damen and Laurent. (Also, it is implied that a side character gets raped, off page, for those of you with triggers).
Captive Prince Volume 1 tells a story in which the reader, along with Damen, finds out that nothing is as it seems, that there are layers upon layers of intrigue and deception. The writing is clear, concise and engaging, without dumping buckets of angst over the pages. Volume 1 is a little heavy on the court life and slave-fic, for my personal tastes, but I know there are plenty of people who enjoy that more than me. Despite that, this a more than solid set up for the rest of the story, which promises to be an Enemies-to-Lovers story of truly epic proportions. And by epic I mean not only ‘great and awesome’, but also ‘of substantial length’, like the epic poetry of yore. If you like your m/m romance ‘fun size’ and wrapped up in less than 150 pages, do not bother with this book.
Volume 2 starts with Damen and Laurent riding for the restless border region at the head of a ragtag army filled with Laurent’s uncle’s men. Volume 2 will not be officially reviewed here because there is a small, meaningless episode of non-explicit m/f sex in the latter half of chapter 10. It’s along lines of the well known ‘Tribe-of-Amazons-Demand-your-Virile-Slave’s-Seed-for-Breeding-Strong-Warriors’ fantasy trope, but, you know, that could be a deal breaker for you. That would be a total pity, though, because Volume 2 is fantastic and a solid 5 stars. ETA: The review rules have changed, see the review for Volume 2 here!
Of course, intrigue and complications still abound at the end of book 2 and it leaves you on the edge of your seat with no relief in sight.
So here is my proposal: Y’all buy these books so Ms Pacat can take a leave of absence from whatever her day job is and get to writing Volume 3 full time. It’s a win-win, believe me, for you, me and Ms Pacat. If needed, just close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears and go ‘la la la la la la la la’ when they enter the Amazon camp in chapter 10.
There are 3 ways to enjoy these books. There are paperbacks with maps. Beautiful maps. But they do not have the bonus chapters that the ebooks do. Unless you’re into slave fics, the bonus chapter of Volume 1 isn’t that important. But under no circumstances should you miss the extended version of chapter 19 of Volume 2 that is only available in the ebook. It is essential for understanding Laurent.
If you don’t have the $3.99 to buy these books, you can still read both of them (minus bonus chapters) for free online here.
ETA: Captive Prince has been acquired by Penguin. Which means that A) book 3 will not be posted online, but will be published as paperback and ebook at a later date. The good news is that Pacat is now writing it full time. B) If you want to read volume 1 and 2 for free you need to get a move on. The free online version will be taken down later this month (June 2013).