The Captive Prince trilogy
The Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, and Kings Rising make up a trilogy by C.S. Pacat that starts out in real Game of Thrones fashion, throwing readers into a world that seems to be full of abhorrent violence and voyeuristic sexual scenarios. As Rhapsody in Books points out, though, as you read on, you find out that the nastiness is part of the overarching drama; in fact, you have been thrown into a world in which great wrongs have been left unrighted, and if you read on, you will see a new order restored.
The Captive Prince is Damianos, prince of Akielos, whose brother has sold him into slavery in Vere, a rival country whose prince Damianos slew in battle a few years ago. The prince of Vere, younger brother to the man Damianos slew, now owns Damen, as he is called as a slave. Damen finds out how this new kingdom works from the bottom up, and when, halfway through the first book, he is given a chance to side with the Regent of Vere against its prince, Laurent, he chooses the prince, mostly because he is already neck-deep in the political intrigue that culminates in the third book, and partly because he is, against all reason, falling in love with Laurent, who seems cruel and capricious.
The style of Veretian politics is more subtle than Damen believes he has been used to in his own country, but as he is drawn to the defense of the Veretian prince, Laurant, he finds out that some of what he believed to have been straightforward in his own life was the result of political intrigue. Damen and Laurent, in Prince’s Gambit, both mature by learning how far they can trust each other. In one conversation, Laurent says to Damon “every time I see you fight, I wonder how it is Kastor got you in chains and onto a ship to my country.” Damon tells him “I didn’t see it coming” and reflects that “he had never, in those days, sought to put himself inside the mind of Kastor, of the men around him, their ambitions, their motivations; those who were not openly his enemies, he’d believed, were basically like himself.” Then Damon says to Laurent, “I’m sure you would have sidestepped it….I remember the night your uncle’s men attacked you. The first time he tried to kill you. You weren’t even surprised.” And Laurent replies “I was surprised…the first time.” Over and over this happens to Damen, and to the reader—we are made aware that Laurent is playing a very long game, that the storm about to break in this story has been gathering for a very long time. We begin to sympathize with Laurent a little bit, as we see how hard and how cleverly he has fought for his kingdom.
In Kings Rising, Damen/Damionos and Laurent find out who they can trust and how far their own strength can take them, both separately and together. In a very satisfying ending, each has to risk everything for the other, and Laurent has to kill Kastor when Damionos finds he cannot do it. At the end, Laurent is the one who makes the offer of his kingdom and himself: “It was one kingdom, once.” And the answer is “’yes,’ said Damen, feeling light-headed at the question.”
If you like your fantasy filled with court intrigue and based on swordplay and feats of strength and guile, these are three fine books with which to while away some hours.