Series: Captive Prince #3
Published by Berkley on February 2nd, 2016
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Damianos of Akielos has returned.
His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.
On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.
Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity—can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?
WHAT THE SUGAR-GLAZED FUCK WAS THAT ENDING.
I DEMAND AN EPILOGUE.
YOU CAN’T JUST–
Somebody send help.
This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write in quite some time. Kings Rising destroyed, mended, destroyed, and mended me over and over again. Hence, I’m an utter and complete wreck. The Captive Prince series is one of the most addictive series I’ve ever read. I binge-read the sequels without pausing to catch a breath. Regarding this review, I was torn between revealing as little as possible and throwing every epic quote in your lovely faces. Moreover, after racing through this epic m/m fantasy romance, I now feel heartbroken over how fast it ended. I need more.
After the awesomeness that was Prince’s Gambit, I had high expectations for Kings Rising and, for the most part, it delivered. The last instalment takes us across the Veretian borders to Akielos and wades deeper into the emotional turmoil between Damen and Laurent.
Unlike the sequel, Kings Rising commences with several ‘earthquakes’. We are immediately thrown into battle and there’s considerable tension between the characters (not just our boys), as Veretians and Akielons are forced to fight side by side. While the soldiers slowly learn to respect each other, Damen and Laurent engage in emotional warfare due to another earth-shattering revelation. It physically pained me. Do you see that right there? Did someone break a window, you ask? Oh no, that’s my poor little heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. Bring the glue, I say.
Yet even with a wrench driven between them, the two main characters finally open up about their feelings and their weakness for each other, a personal growth that was somewhat neglected in the sequel despite the romantic development. They are, after all, in the same boat. Two rising kings who must prove themselves in the eyes of their generals, their soldiers, and their kingdom (no pressure, right?). Throughout the book, there is a lot of ache and vulnerability, attack and defence. And while my heart ached for Damen, I mostly adored Laurent’s fragility in Kings Rising which was even more evident than in Prince’s Gambit. This book is the romance in its truest form, hearts and souls finally laid bare.
‘How can you trust me, after what your own brother did to you?’
‘Because he was false,’ said Damen, ‘and you are true. I have never known a truer man.’ He said, into the stillness, ‘I think if I gave you my heart, you would treat it tenderly.’
… and Laurent’s.
“Don’t,” said Laurent, “toy with me. I—have not the means to—defend against this.”
“I don’t toy with you.”
For me, this final instalment is the one most driven by the romance. The political intrigue and scheming are present but pushed to the backseat. Laurent’s slick mind doesn’t get as much time on stage as in the previous books, although his snark is certainly present. In accordance with this, the pace feels slower as the unlikely allies make their way to cut the head of the snake. However, the decrease of a plot is masterfully concealed by the sizzling tension, the banter, and the humour, as the barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’ start to blur.
Laurent was standing in the doorway wearing a chiton of unadorned white cotton.
Damen dropped the pitcher.
It shattered, shards flying outward as it slipped from his fingers and hit the stone floor.
Laurent’s arms were bare. His throat was bare. His collarbone was bare, and most of his thighs, his long legs, and all of his left shoulder. Damen stared at him.
‘You’re wearing Akielon clothing,’ said Damen.
‘Everyone’s wearing Akielon clothing,’ said Laurent.
The side characters contribute considerably to the quality of Kings Rising. Nikandros’ loyalty to Damen who struggles with shedding his slave demeanour. Makedon drinking Laurent under the table (pssst, the Akielons know how to hold their drinks alright). Sweet little romances between supporting characters. Encounters with old friends. Laughter, old stories, and bonfires. In a way, this is both the gloomiest and happiest instalment of the Captive Prince series.
The conclusion, however, doesn’t quite match the cleverly worked out rest of the series. The ending holds epic elements yet also feels a bit anti-climatic. The pacing is off, as Pacat suddenly gallops through the ending when this is what readers most want to see played out. The confrontation with the Regent and Kastor had potential for more, I should say. However, in other aspects, the ending is excellent as the plot comes full circle.
However, I do have one last remark to make regarding the series as a whole but which concerns Kings Rising in particular. The concept was, for the most part, well thought through, in my opinion. A piece that did not entirely click with the rest of the puzzle was Damen’s hidden identity. Throughout the series, Damen is hardly recognized by anyone, least of all his own subjects, and things just don’t add up. View Spoiler »How is Laurent the only one who remembers Damen, despite having been only a young teenager when he saw him, but high-ranking generals who would’ve actually encountered Damen on the battlefield didn’t? In addition, most of Damen’s subjects don’t recognize him, either. Hence, for me, this plot twist is so forced. « Hide Spoiler In my opinion, this is not exactly spotless logic.
And it goes without saying that I need an epilogue. The last page simply killed me.
Kings Rising was an overall worthy finale of one of the most epic fantasy romances I have ever read. Though slower in its pacing, Damen’s and Laurent’s ambiguous relationship is heart-stopping as ever. This book is filled to the brim with backstabbing, violence, and the small slither of hope of two men who struggle to hold on to their thrones as much as to each other.
And for those of you who are pressed for time, here’s my lengthy review shortened to 3 gifs: