‘Love Conquers All’
I am sure most people are familiar with that expression. While it may sound cheesy and a bit worn out, in my opinion it describes the plot of Australian writer C.S. Pacat’s trilogy Captive Prince perfectly, even though the story is anything but cheesy.
The novels follow Prince Damianos (Damen) of Akelios, who is supposed to inherit the throne after his father. However, he is captured by his half-brother, who wants to seize the throne, and is then sent to the enemy country Vere as a pleasure slave. In Vere, nobody knows about Damen’s identity, but he is also unable to reveal himself since he is on enemy territory. Apart from that, his new ‘master’ Laurent, the Prince of Vere, would kill him instantly for personal reasons. So, Damen is forced to endure captivity until he gets entangled in Vere’s political situation and a fight for the Veretian throne. Over the course of the novels Damen and Laurent have to work together in order to survive and to save their countries. But things get even more problematic when they start developing feelings for each other and secrets are slowly being revealed.
Their love story has many great hurdles. They are both crown princes to their rival nations, so they are under a lot of pressure from their courts and councils. But first and foremost they are battling their own demons from the past and present. Damen, who was sold out to the enemy by his own brother has to deal with the aftermath of his slavery including torture, humiliation and sexual assault through Laurent and other Veretians. Additionally, he is thrown into a different culture, in which a different language is spoken and which has in – Damen’s eyes – unspeakable customs. Laurent’s trauma started when he was a young boy just having lost his father and his older brother Auguste. He was sexually abused and manipulated by his own uncle, the Regent, who tried to seize Laurent’s birthright: the Veretian throne. So basically their traumas reside for a great part with each other. One the one hand Laurent being the one using, humiliating and nearly killing Damen and on the other hand Damen being the one killing Auguste during the war and therefore being one of the reasons for Laurent’s assault. This is why a great part of the story deals with guilt. Damen feels guilty for falling in love with Laurent despite his enslavement but also because he believes Laurent to be unaware of his identity. Laurent, however, knew who Damen was from the beginning and therefore feels guilty for falling in love with his brother’s killer.
I chose this trilogy because, to me, it is simply awesome. The plot is very intricate and has, in my opinion, many unseen twists. Additionally, the characters and their development are portrayed well. I also like the setting since I am a fan of kingdoms, courts, royals and their politics. Of course, I also like it because of Damen’s and Laurent’s love story, which I think is a great realization of the trope ‘enemies to lovers’. Be warned though, the story contains a lot of crude language and explicit depictions of violence (torture), slavery, trauma and (non-consensual) sex, so it is certainly not for everyone.
But ultimately I love this story because it was not so much about two men falling in love, which many other (queer) romances focus on, but rather about two people caught up in their dark pasts, weaving through intricate deceptions and mind plays to in the end learning to forgive themselves and accept their feelings for each other.
Pacat, C.S.. Captive Prince. New York: Berkley, 2015. Print.
Pacat, C.S.. Prince’s Gambit. New York: Berkley, 2015. Print.
Pacat, C.S.. Kings Rising. New York: Berkley, 2016. Print.