I can count on one hand all the books I’ve managed to read in one day. I don’t even need to count all five digits. It really doesn’t happen all that often unless I find a book that I can’t put down. I did try- the day I started reading Captive Prince I had actual things to do apart from reading. I had a list of things in fact, and there were five or six times where I closed the book and went to do those things but I couldn’t quite shake the story out of my head. It’s easy to sink your teeth into a good book but rarely does a good book sink its teeth into you.
Captive Prince is a historical novel set in a time and place that has the decadence of Ancient-Rome and Ancient Greece combined. On the day his father dies Damen, heir to the throne of Akielos, is betrayed by his half-brother. To maintain his power, Damen must die but his half-brother chooses to do something even more surprising. Damen is sent to the court of a rival country to act as bed slave to the Prince. If he is to survive he must keep his identity secret, especially from Prince Laurent.
This book reminded me in some ways of Kate Quinn’s Mistress of Rome in the way slavery was portrayed. Before reading, I had wondered whether the narrative would mainly focus on debauchery but it doesn’t. Instead it looks at the experience of the slaves and the injustice they endure. Damen’s experience is naturally different to the other slaves- he is a prince used to the freedoms of leading- and it’s interesting to see him try and navigate the world he’s been thrust into where he no longer has a voice.
Political intrigue weaves through the book. A power play between Prince Laurent and his uncle never seems to be far from the surface and Damen, who is naïve to their underhandedness, often becomes a prop in their struggle.
Laurent is a hard to pin down as a character. Where Damen is open, and we have the advantage of seeing things from his perspective, Laurent is guarded and unpredictable. He’s been brought up in a nest of snakes and it’s made him manipulative and wary in turn. Seeing these two characters go head-to-head was extremely satisfying. Although I know their relationship has the potential to develop romantically in the later instalments of the trilogy I like that there were only hints of it here. Given their temperaments, positions and the animosity between them I think it would have been out of place this early on.
I’m looking forward to a slow burn over the next two books!