Audiobook Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Narrator: Stephen Bel Davies | Length: 6 hours and 48 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios (June 26, 2017) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
First let me say, I was very wrong about what I thought this book was about—or rather how the story was going to be structured. For some reason, I thought this was a young adult book, and I was expecting the typical captive hero meets forbidden love interest from a rival county and they go on an adventure to change the course history or what-the-fuck-ever for both of their countries. That was not this book. I read this with a couple of friends, and we were all under the impression this was your typical young adult book. One friend stopped reading pretty early when we quickly learned otherwise because she finds stories like these triggering, and I don’t blame her for that.
Captive Prince follows two princes—Prince Damen of Akielos and Prince Laurent of Vere. Following a coup orchestrated by Prince Damen’s half-brother, his court is told he’s dead. In reality, he’s gifted to Prince Laurent as a pleasure slave. Everyone is unaware that Damen is the actual prince of Akielos and not just a pleasure slave named for him. Prince Laurent hates Akielos, so their relationship starts as a naturally antagonistic one. While both countries have pleasure slaves, the slaves of Damen’s country are trained to be gentle and agreeable. In turn, it’s seen as a grievous offense to abuse a slave in Damen’s country. In Vere, a country that thrives on political backstabbing and manipulation, slaves are often subjected to cruelty depending on the whims, interests, or disinterests of their masters. Damen doesn’t reveal his true identity since Vere has severe views of him due to a past battle that saw the people of Akielos prevail over Vere thanks to Damen. He struggles with being a slave while trying to let go of enough of his ego and willful nature to gain the trust he needs to eventually to escape. Vere is not kind to Damen, and Laurent makes his stay more miserable. Damen soon finds himself an unwitting pawn in political intrigue in the royal house involving Laurent and the regent king who happens to be Laurent’s uncle.
This book has an obvious pairing in mind with Damen and Laurent, but honestly, I’m not feeling it at this point. The master and slave narrative in a situation that deals with forced enslavement and not consensual relationships in a BDSM setting can be prickly. It’s too easy for the narrative to turn into some gross apologist story that asks readers to sympathize with the “master” inflicting horrors on their slave, and I haven’t decided if this story is that or not. Laurent is a dreadful human being even if he does use his power to do random good things. I might’ve been a little more in favor of the relationship even with Laurent being a major asshole if the story hadn’t asked me to accept this romance is probably still on even after Laurent brutalized Damen (which Damen did do something totally unacceptable before, but the brutal retaliation was a bit much).
It boils down to this. Overly romanticized, graphic sexual violence can be shaky ground with me and books. I would be lying if I said even I didn’t indulge from time to time. I have guilty pleasure reads that I wouldn’t necessary recommend to other people, but there comes a point when it can be too much and repulsive rather than romantic and/or sexy. This book has sort of hit that point for me not only with the slavery situation, but other very prickly subjects such as underaged pleasure slaves. However, there were parts of the story that intrigued me and little nuggets of things I think I spotted in the story, which means I’ll probably read the next book(s). Another plus for this is that if you can overlook that one scene, it’s kind of refreshing that Damen and Laurent didn’t fall into each other arms immediately. If you can overlook the sexualized violence of this book, this is obviously meant to be a slow burn type of romance.
I purposely did not rate this story because I have so many mixed feelings. This book made me feel so many things, and even made me confront some personal prejudices I have when it comes to things like this—such as the fact that if either character had been female (especially if it had been Damen who has darker skin and regarded as a barbarian) I would’ve quit the story as soon as I started. So, I did have to do some self-reflection because I have been absolutely brutal on stories similar to this with heterosexual couples.
Current mood about this book: