Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1)
Penguin Books AUS
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher
Damen, short for Damianos is the heir to the throne of Akielos. In a move of savage betrayal, Damen’s half-brother, the illegitimate Kastor betrays both Damen and the King. Damen is captured while Kastor seizes the throne for himself, publicly claiming that Damen is dead. However rather than kill Damen, his half brother sells him into slavery anonymously.
Stripped of his identity and control, Damen is ‘gifted’ to the crown prince of neighbouring Vere. Laurent has not yet reached the age by which he can ascend the throne and so his uncle rules in his place until Laurent comes of age. Akielos and Vere were once at war and now a fragile peace exists.
Prince Laurent seemingly epitomizes the very worst of the court at Vere and Damen is subjected to beatings and humiliation. Before long however Damen realises that there’s quite a power struggle taking place. Although he was gifted to be a ‘pleasure slave’, Laurent has specifically never used him for that purpose – not has he seemed to ever want to. Others at court aren’t so discerning and Damen finds himself caught up in how to help other slaves that were also gifted by his half-brother to Vere. Surprisingly Laurent assists – leading Damen to discover that there’s much more to this spoiled and unpleasant young man that meets the eye.
No matter what Damen knows that he must never, ever reveal his true identity to Laurent. Despite the fact that the two once warring nations are now establishing an uneasy truce, Laurent perhaps has the most reason of all for wanting Damen dead.
I have to admit, this is perhaps not something I’d probably have chosen to read but enthusiasm and a good pitch will get me every time so I bumped the first in this very popular series up my TBR pile. I received a bind up of the first two books in this series in one volume – the first was published here in Australia this month and the second will be out in July. Although you’ll have to wait until July to read my review of book 2 I can tell you now, I won’t be waiting until July to read it!
This book sucked me in from the very first page, where the Veretian Ambassador to Akielos is being shown the ‘gift’ that the new King is giving to Vere’s heir apparent. Damen is a warrior, he has been trained to fight and defend but he has also been utterly blindsided by treachery, drugged and had his power and authority stripped from him. When he realises where he’s going he knows he has to keep his mouth shut – his half-brother could’ve easily had him killed but instead chose something that would humilate and degrade him much more. While he’s alive, there’s hope he can one day escape, return to Akielos and seize the throne that is rightfully his. And so Damen bides his time. Takes most of the punishment a bored Laurent dishes out. He was ‘gifted’ with a reputation of being wild, the assumption being that Laurent would enjoy breaking his spirit.
The dynamic between Damen and Laurent is the basis of this story and although this first volume is quite short, a lot happens between them. Laurent is extraordinarily handsome but cold and strongly rumoured to be asexual. He takes no pleasure slaves, seems to have had no lovers. I’ve formed my own opinions on why this is and I’m so keen to see if book 2 will confirm my suspicions. Laurent is seemingly not interested in Damen’s body but isn’t above offering it to others in ways to humiliate Damen. Each nation views the other as little more than savages and whilst there might have been a very tentative peace established, there’s still a lot of mistrust and hatred under the thin veneer.
Both Damen and Laurent seem to have early assessments of the other that slowly they begin to question the more time Damen spends as Laurent’s slave. Their interactions are not lengthy and I have to admit, it does seem to progress more slowly than I would have thought, however this isn’t a negative thing at all. This opening volume takes time to establish the intricate characters of both men and the difficult situations in which they find themselves, because despite not being the slave, Laurent is at times, just trapped as Damen is. He is almost, but not quite of the age where he can ascend the throne but until he is, he’s subject to the whims and rules of the Regent, his Uncle. There’s a very subtle power play going on between Laurent and his uncle and Damen swiftly realises that he’ll need to choose a side – and it had better be the right one. Laurent is a mystery to Damen – he’s ice cool and seemingly spoiled but he also has the loyalty of his servants and a razor sharp mind beneath his golden good looks.
I enjoyed the politics in this – both the obvious and the hands being played behind the scenes, especially towards the end of the story when Damen comes to realise precisely why Laurent has avoided the things he has. I can’t say how hard it was to put the book down when I finished the first story and not go immediately on to the second. I knew I had to write this review first so the events of the two stories didn’t blur in my mind later but I’m desperate to know what happens next to Damen and Laurent and what we’re going to learn in the second story. I know there are so many big reveals to come, Damen’s true identity probably just being the tip of the iceberg. I hope their enforced close proximity in book 2 gives progression in other areas too!