Ooh, boy. I don’t even know where to begin.
I can’t remember when I first heard about Captive Prince, but I can tell you it had something to do with fandom. I am the type of fangirl that ships men with men and women with canon, so me finding my way into this series surprises no one that has ever bothered to pay attention.
The Captive Prince trilogy by C. S. Pacat comprises of three books, Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, and Kings Rising, plus four in-universe short stories. It’s the story of two princes from warring countries somehow managing to find love in the midst of being usurped out of their birth rights by their closest family members. Prince Damen is the would-be king betrayed by his half-brother and sent to be a slave in service to Prince Laurent, the untrusting younger brother of the golden heir that Damen had killed just six years before.
The one thing you really have to know before reading this story is that it’s super gay, considering that it’s written by a women. Like, most of the relationships in this series is men with other men, to the point where one country thinks it’s taboo to be intimate with anyone of the opposite sex if you’re not married. If that’s not your cup of tea, I would recommend Elise Marion’s Chained trilogy, which is a similar type of story, but heterosexual, less rape, and happier endings all around. Not to say that Captive Prince doesn’t have a happy ending, but it just barely shows up at the end of the third book.
That being said, I remember not wanting to read this series because someone said that there was some BDSM involved, and that’s really not something I care to read about. There is not much BDSM here, but it really takes a backseat to the outright sex, violence, and sexual violence. There is mention of pedophilia, but the physical aspect of it is done entirely off-screen. The author wanted to make sure that you understood that the unnamed villain was a villain, but didn’t actually want to write the worst of his villainy. I don’t blame her.
As far as characters go, they’re all relatively likeable. You’re supposed to find Laurent very bratty and standoffish, but the reasoning behind it becomes pretty obvious. Damen is a great protagonist, but the author keeps him oblivious to a secret that’s telegraphed to the audience from the middle of the first book. I understood what the reveal in the third book was meant to do, but that still feels excessive and unnecessary. Ultimately it’s a toss up for audience interpretation: either Damen is blind to Laurent’s trauma, or the author misused a major reveal.
All in all, I enjoyed the Captive Prince trilogy, but I feel like Pacat is too much in love with a swift ending. A post-series short story is needed to get a true epilogue-style happy ending, and a second is needed for Laurent to finally be crowned king. I appreciated the other two world building stories, but I really wonder if it would have killed the author to just add a few more pages to finish off the main story.
Ultimately, the Captive Prince trilogy is a great entry into the LGBT Fantasy genre. It’s not a genre-defining masterpiece, but it is definitely worth recommending to interested parties.
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