Prince’s Gambit by C.S. PacatPrince's Gambit by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince #2
Published by Berkley on July 7h, 2015
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Pages: 404

The second novel in the critically acclaimed trilogy from global phenomenon C. S. Pacat—with an all-new chapter exclusive to the print edition.

With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…

5 Stars

Laurent fought like he talked. The danger lay in the way he used his mind: there was not one thing he did that was not planned in advance. Yet he was not predictable, because in this, as with everything he did, there were layers of intent, moments when expected patterns would suddenly dissolve into something else.

As unexpected as Laurent’s sword fight skills was my enjoyment of this book. To be frank, I would have adored this series from the start if it had commenced with Prince’s Gambit instead of Captive Prince. Because God almighty, this book was glooorious.

Let’s have a quick recap of my initial dislike of this to-be-romance.

A snippet of my Captive Prince review:

“[…] However, the severe mistreatment inflicted by Laurent in the first half of the book cast a shadow over the relationship development between the two men. I think I will love this romance, as the characters have chemistry and are absolutely engaging, but I do have an issue with it: It reminds me a lot of Stockholm Syndrome (also referred to as captor-bonding, I believe) where victims start sympathizing and co-operating with their captors/rapists, sometimes even defending them in police investigations. No matter how beautiful their love will be, I will not be able to get over Laurent’s initial behaviour, I think.

If I had taken the first book into account, I would have rated this 4/4.5 stars instead of 5. As an individual piece of work, however, Prince’s Gambit is undoubtedly a 5-star read. I was intent on not giving into this abuse-turned-love relationship, no matter how sweet and slow burn it was going to be. Pacat somehow managed to make me throw my carefully laid out reservations overboard and join the fan club. Her exquisite storytelling wormed its way past my defences the same way Damen broke down Laurent’s. Fine. I’m just going to have to deal with my heart overruling my head. It’s fine. I’ll live. I’m ok. (My brain just isn’t fond of coming in second, ok?).

One of my previous concerns reading Captive Prince had been the overdose of redundant violence. In the sequel, there were sword fights and battles, the sort of brutality that is intriguing to me. Compared to the graphic content the first instalment, the rape culture was subtle this time, more of an insinuation than a full display. In this sense, the violence was overall perfectly balanced with the plot – it was neither inexistent nor overpowering.

Damen was as admirable and lovable as ever, yet his actions sometimes surprised me nevertheless. Damen progressed as was to be expected whereas Laurent underwent an even more marvellous character development. The depth of his character is hinted at in Captive Prince but to see the layers pulled back one by one was nonetheless enthralling. A first glimpse is given by Laurent’s impeccable combat skills, which had been believed to be inexistent in the first book. Then, like a row of dominoes falling, one by one, his true core started showing – in his gain of respect among the troops, in his schemes and strategies, in his dealings with allies, and, most of all, in his interaction with Damen.

“It’s not naive to trust your family.”
“I promise you, it is,” said Laurent. “But I wonder, is it less naive than the moments when I find myself trusting a stranger, my barbarian enemy, whom I do not treat gently.”

The romance progressed slowly. On its tiptoes. With a shy smile on its face. Damen’s and Laurent’s interactions had always held tension. It had been a tension fed by contempt at first, followed by a silent joining of forces, and an exhilarating development of actual fondness. Laurent is repeatedly tested in his bonding with Damen, making it apparent that his iron-willed self-control is not just a weapon he wields but a shield as well.

“I… find it difficult to let go of control.”
“No kidding,” said Damen.

The ache in this book is palpable. Damen struggles hiding his true identity while Laurent struggles letting down his defences. The character growth, along with the blossoming of romance, was simply amazing.

To me, Prince’s Gambit was everything Captive Prince should have been. A quick-paced plot filled with the lush fruit of war: battle strategy, negotiations, and betrayals, with Laurent always seeming to be one step ahead of everyone else. Two main characters growing in their key roles, learning to rely on each other. And the sparks of a beautiful, tentative romance.

And now excuse me while I go knock myself out with Kings Rising. This series is so addictive and these characters so consuming, it’s bordering on downright unhealthy it’s unhealthy.

My advice to anyone who picks this up: Don’t do it if you have work. Because this will keep you from work. And then you’ll flunk your exams or get fired. And then you won’t have the money to buy more addictive books. Eyes on the long-term goals here, people!