Monday, April 11, 2016

#CBR8 Review #09: Captive Prince #1 by C.S. Pacat

I got about a third into the second book in this trilogy when I realized that I really did not care enough to finish it, despite zipping right through the first book to see what direction it was going to take. Turns out, I don’t seem to like the direction that things appear to be heading in (I mean, I can’t know for sure, but I have a pretty good idea based on some spoilers/stuff from fans that have popped up on my tumblr dash, which is where I first heard about this series to begin with). Consequently, I am jumping ship for a few reasons.

The Captive Prince trilogy is about a young Prince of Akielos named Damen, whose half-brother desperately wants the throne to the kingdom. So much so, that he announces Damen’s death, and sends Damen off to be a palace slave in Vere, a country that has had a long-standing feud with where Damen is from. This is supposed to be a sign of peace between the nations, as new treaties between them have just been signed. But Damen knows that if anyone were to discover his identity in this enemy territory, he would be dead. The rest of the tale focuses on Damen coming to learn about the culture of Vere, in particular the culture of sexual slaves or “pets” for royalty. Damen has essentially taken up the spot of the pet of the Veretian Prince, Laurent, who is cold, cruel, and manipulative. Yet, other manipulations and jostling for power seem to be taking place in this nation, and Damen has now found himself swept up in it. Yet, his main goal of escaping and returning to Akielos ever remains.

The tensions within this book are very real, Damen himself is a likable character, and the plot has a lot of potential to be very interesting. And yet, I don’t think I can continue reading it, as there are a few things that are off to me. 

The first thing that I noticed in this book was that it began with a list of characters and what titles/positions they held: rather than introducing and explaining characters as they came, most (though not all) are simply referred to by name, almost as though you are expected to remember everyone after a brief glimpse at the character list. Being that I was reading this on an electronic reader, it would be an ordeal to flip back and forth to refresh my memory when new people came up, and because of that, I came to not deem a lot of the side characters to be memorable enough or important enough to stay in my mind as I did not really have an introduction to them. It’s a nit-picky thing, but I found it to be a little annoying. 

Apart from this little nuisance, however, there are other things about this series that I just can’t get my head around or come to enjoy. One of these things comes in the form of the cultures present in the book, in relation to slaves and what most societies today consider sexual crimes: the Veretian culture is brutal, and has sport essentially based on the act of rape. I know that this is put in the story to contrast Damen’s view of slaves (yet there are still things in the Akielan culture that is questionable), and I know that it is meant to be shocking and showing how being brought up in different cultures makes you believe in different ways of life. But just because something is shocking does not mean it is good writing. That is not to say that C.S. Pacat’s writing is bad, but that if you are going to use the potential your story has to try and create shock-value, there needs to be something else with substance behind it to back it up. And I just don’t know that there was enough other substance for me, personally.

Another facet to this book is that it is very character-driven, so not a whole lot “happens” plot-wise, though the character development and happenings of this book lead to a new setting and more action within the second book (at least, that’s what it seemed like in the little bit of the second novel that I read before stopping). Damen and Laurent are both incredibly interesting characters, and Laurent especially I wanted to know more about: why he is the way he is and what some of his motivations are. There are a few clues about this dropped out so I have some idea as to what some of his background might be, leading him to his current state and personality. There is definitely a lot of potential here to make it an interesting character story, yet despite all the drama and slow chipping away at characters, I feel like there are some inevitabilities that you can easily see coming as hints are placed along the way. This comes especially in the form of the relationship you see forming between Laurent and Damen: I can’t help but feel like there is going to be some reveal to Laurent’s past and motivations, and that the two are coming closer and closer, despite the cruelty and humiliation that Laruent has inflicted on Damen. But that line from Brooklyn-Nine-Nine rings in my head: “Cool motive, still murder.” And so, I just don’t want to see certain things come into fruition that I feel are inevitably going to happen. Of course, I may be wrong, but I don’t know if I really want to find out. Earlier I said that I was jumping ship, but it turns out I may just not be boarding one particular ship to begin with, if you catch my drift.

All in all, this book isn’t bad, but I there were just a lot of roadblocks stopping me from really enjoying it. And perhaps the remaining two in the trilogy have some surprises and twists in store. But there are just so many other things I would be reading and so many other characters I would rather spend time with than those in this world. Which is unfortunate, as I was really excited to get into this trilogy. Maybe I’ll try again another day, as there is definitely potential and some good things about The Captive Prince, just not enough for me to want to keep going at the moment.

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