Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.
Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.
For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else...
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THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
THEOMEDES, King of Akielos
DAMIANOS (Damen), son and heir to Theomedes
KASTOR, illegitimate son of Theomedes and Damen’s half brother
JOKASTE, a lady of the Akielon court
ADRASTUS, Keeper of the Royal Slaves
LYKAIOS, a female slave in the household of Damianos
ERASMUS, a male slave
THE REGENT of Vere
LAURENT, the heir to the throne of Vere
RADEL, overseer of the Prince’s household
GUION, a member of the Veretian Council and Ambassador to Akielos
AUDIN, a member of the Veretian Council
HERODE, a member of the Veretian Council
JEURRE, a member of the Veretian Council
CHELAUT, a member of the Veretian Council
NICAISE, a pet
GOVART, a former member of the King’s Guard
JORD, a member of the Prince’s Guard
ORLANT, a member of the Prince’s Guard
VANNES, a courtier
TALIK, her pet
ESTIENNE, a courtier
BERENGER, a courtier
ANCEL, his pet
TORGEIR, King of Patras
TORVELD, younger brother of Torgeir and Ambassador to Vere
FROM THE PAST
ALERON, former King of Vere and Laurent’s father
AUGUSTE, former heir to the throne of Vere and Laurent’s older brother
"WE HEAR THAT your Prince,” said Lady Jokaste, “keeps his own harem. These slaves will please any traditionalist, but I have asked Adrastus to prepare something special in addition, a personal gift for your Prince from the King. A gem in the rough, as it were.”
“His Majesty has already been so generous,” said Councillor Guion, Ambassador of Vere.
They strolled the length of the viewing gallery. Guion had dined on mouth-watering spiced meats wrapped in grape leaves, the noonday heat fanned away from his reclining form by attentive slaves. He felt generously willing to admit that this barbaric country had its charms. The food was rustic, but the slaves were impeccable: faultlessly obedient and trained to efface and anticipate, nothing like the spoiled pets at the court of Vere.
The gallery was decorated by two dozen slaves on display. All were either naked or barely clad in transparent silks. Around their necks the slaves wore gold collars decorated with rubies and tanzanite, and on their wrists golden wrist-cuffs. These were purely ornamental. The slaves knelt in demonstration of their willing submissiveness.
They were to be a gift from the new King of Akielos to the Regent of Vere—a highly generous gift. The gold alone was worth a small fortune, while the slaves were surely some of the finest in Akielos. Privately, Guion had already earmarked one of the palace slaves for his personal use, a demure youth with a beautifully slender waist and heavily lashed dark eyes.
As they reached the far end of the gallery, Adrastus, the Keeper of the Royal Slaves, bowed sharply, the heels of his laced brown leather boots drawing together.
“Ah. Here we are,” said Lady Jokaste, smiling.
They proceeded into an antechamber, and Guion’s eyes widened.
Bound and under heavy guard was a male slave unlike any Guion had ever seen.
Powerfully muscled and physically imposing, he was not wearing the trinket-chains that adorned the other slaves in the gallery. His restraints were real. His wrists were lashed behind his back, and his legs and torso were bound with thick cords. Despite this, the force of his body looked only barely contained. His dark eyes flashed furiously above the gag, and if you looked closely at the expensive cords that bound his torso and legs, you could see the red weals where he had fought, hard, against his restraints.
Guion’s pulse sped up, an almost panicked reaction. A gem in the rough? This slave was more like a wild animal, nothing like the twenty-four tame kittens who lined the hall. The sheer power of his body was barely held in check.
Guion looked at Adrastus, who was hanging back, as though the slave’s presence made him nervous.
“Are all the new slaves bound?” asked Guion, trying to regain his composure.
“No, just him. He, that is—” Adrastus hesitated.
“He isn’t used to being handled,” said Adrastus, with an uneasy sideways look at Lady Jokaste. “He hasn’t been trained.”
“The Prince, we hear, enjoys a challenge,” said Lady Jokaste.
Guion tried to quell his reaction as he turned his gaze back to the slave. It was highly questionable whether this barbarous gift would appeal to the Prince, whose feelings towards the savage inhabitants of Akielos lacked warmth, to say the least.
“Does he have a name?” asked Guion.
“Your Prince is, of course, free to name him whatever he likes,” said Lady Jokaste. “But I believe it would greatly please the King if he were to call him ‘Damen.’” Her eyes glittered.
“Lady Jokaste,” said Adrastus, seemingly in objection, though of course that was impossible.
Guion looked from one to the other of them. He saw that he was expected to make some comment.
“That is certainly—an interesting choice of name,” said Guion. In fact he was appalled.
“The King thinks so,” said Lady Jokaste, stretching her lips slightly.
They killed his slave Lykaios with the quick slice of a sword across her throat. She was a palace slave, untrained in combat and so sweetly obedient that, had he commanded it of her, she would have knelt and bared her own throat for the stroke. She was not given a chance to obey or resist. She folded soundlessly, her pale limbs lying quite still on the white marble. Beneath her, blood began slowly to spread out over the marble floor.
“Seize him!” said one of the soldiers who poured into the room, a man with lank brown hair. Damen might have allowed it simply out of shock, but it was in that instant that two of the soldiers lay hands on Lykaios and cut her down.
At the end of the first exchange, three of the soldiers were dead, and Damen had possession of a sword.
The men facing him wavered and held back.
“Who sent you?” said Damen.
The lank-haired soldier said, “The King.”
“Father?” He almost lowered his sword.
“Kastor. Your father is dead. Take him.”
Fighting came naturally to Damen, whose abilities were born of strength, natural aptitude and relentless practice. But these men had been sent against him by one who knew all of that very well, and further, was not stinting in his judgement of how many soldiers it would take to overcome a man of Damen’s calibre. Overwhelmed by numbers, Damen could only last so long before he was taken, his arms twisted behind his back, a sword at his throat.
He had then, naively, expected to be killed. Instead he was beaten, restrained and—when he fought free, doing a gratifying amount of damage for one who had no weapon—beaten again.
“Get him out of here,” said the lank-haired soldier, wiping the back of his hand across the thin line of blood at his temple.
He was thrown into a cell. His mind, which ran along straight and candid lines, could not make sense of what was happening.
“Take me to see my brother,” he demanded, and the soldiers laughed, and one kicked him in the stomach.
“Your brother’s the one who gave the order,” one of them sneered.
“You’re lying. Kastor’s no traitor.”
But the door of his cell slammed shut, and doubt raised its head for the first time.
He had been naive, a small voice began to whisper, he hadn’t anticipated, he hadn’t seen; or perhaps he had refused to see, giving no credence to the dark rumours that seemed to disrespect the honour with which a son should treat the final days of a sick and dying father.
In the morning they came for him, and understanding now all that had occurred, and wishing to meet his captor with courage and bitter pride, he allowed his arms to be lashed behind his back, submitting to rough handling and moving forward when he was propelled by a hard shove between the shoulders.
When he realised where he was being taken, he began to struggle again, violently.
The room was simply carved in white marble. The floor, also marble, sloped faintly, terminating at an unobtrusive carved runnel. From the ceiling hung a pair of shackles, to which Damen, forcefully resisting, was chained against his will, his arms pulled up above his head.
These were the slave baths.
Damen jerked against the restraints. They didn’t budge. His wrists were already bruised. On this side of the water, a miscellany of cushions and towels were arranged in an appealing tumble. Coloured glass bottles in a variety of shapes, containing a variety of oils, glimmered like jewels amid the cushions.
The water was scented, milky, and decorated with slowly drowning rose petals. All the niceties. This could not be happening. Damen felt a surge in his chest; fury, outrage, and somewhere buried beneath these, a new emotion that twisted and roiled in his belly.
One of the soldiers immobilised him in a practised hold from behind. The other began to strip him.
His garments were unpinned and drawn off swiftly. His sandals were cut from his feet. The burn of humiliation hot as steam across his cheeks, Damen stood shackled, naked, the moist warmth of the baths curling up against his skin.
The soldiers withdrew to the archway, where a figure dismissed them, his chiselled face handsome, and familiar.
Adrastus was the Keeper of the Royal Slaves. His was a prestigious position that had been bestowed on him by King Theomedes. Damen was hit by a wave of anger so powerful it almost robbed him of vision. When he came back to himself, he saw the way Adrastus was considering him.
“You wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me,” said Damen.
“I’m under orders,” said Adrastus, though he was holding back.
“I’ll kill you,” said Damen.
“Maybe a—a woman—” said Adrastus, backing up a step and whispering into the ear of one of the attendants, who bowed and left the room.
A slave entered a few moments later. Hand-picked, she matched all that was known of Damen’s tastes. Her skin was as white as the marble of the baths, and her yellow hair was simply pinned, exposing the elegant column of her throat. Her breasts were full and swelled beneath the gauze; her pink nipples were faintly visible.
Damen watched her approach with the same wariness with which he would follow the movements of an opponent on the field, though he was no stranger to being serviced by slaves.
Her hand rose to the clasp at her shoulder. She exposed the curve of a breast, a slender waist, the gauze sliding down to her hips, and lower. Her garments dropped to the floor. Then she picked up a water scoop.
Naked, she bathed his body, soaping and rinsing, heedless of the way the water spilled against her own skin and splashed her round breasts. Finally she wet and soaped his hair, washing it thoroughly, finishing by rising up on her toes and tipping one of the smaller tubs of warm water over the back of his head.
Like a dog, he shook it off. He looked around for Adrastus, but the Keeper of the Slaves seemed to have disappeared.
The slave took up one of the coloured vials and poured some of its oil into her palm. Coating her hands, she began to work the stuff into his skin with methodical strokes, applying it everywhere. Her eyes remained downcast, even when her strokes deliberately slowed and she moved against him. Damen’s fingers bit into his chains.
“That’s enough,” said Jokaste, and the slave jerked back from Damen, prostrating herself on the wet marble floor instantly.
Damen, manifestly aroused, weathered Jokaste’s calmly appraising gaze.
“I want to see my brother,” said Damen.
“You have no brother,” said Jokaste. “You have no family. You have no name, rank or position. By now, you should know that much at least.”
“Do you expect me to submit to this? To be mastered by—who—Adrastus? I’ll tear his throat out.”
“Yes. You would. But you won’t be serving in the palace.”
She gazed at him.
Damen said, “What have you done?”
“Nothing,” she said, “but choose between brothers.”
They had last spoken in her rooms in the palace; her hand had pressed to his arm.
She looked like a painting. Her blonde curls were coiled and perfect, and her high smooth brow and classical features were composed. Where Adrastus had held back, her delicate sandals picked their way with calm and sure steps across the wet marble towards him.
He said, “Why keep me alive? What—need—does this satisfy? It’s neat enough, except for that. Is it—” He bit down on it; she deliberately misunderstood his words.
“A brother’s love? You don’t know him at all, do you. What’s a death but easy, quick. It’s supposed to haunt you forever that the one time he beat you was the one time that mattered.”
Damen felt his face changing shape. “—What?”
She touched his jaw, unafraid. Her fingers were slender, white and faultlessly elegant.
“I see why you prefer pale skin,” she said. “Yours hides the bruising.”
After they locked him into the gold collar and wrist-cuffs, they painted his face.
There was no taboo in Akielos regarding male nudity, but the paint was the mark of a slave, and it was mortifying. He thought there was no greater humiliation than when he was thrown to the ground in front of Adrastus. Then he saw Adrastus’s face, and saw the esurient expression.
“You look . . .” Adrastus gazed at him.
Damen’s arms were bound behind his back, and further restraints had restricted his movements to little more than a hobble. Now he was sprawled on the ground at Adrastus’s feet. He drew himself up onto his knees, but was prevented from rising further by the restraining grip of his two guards.
“If you did it for a position,” said Damen, flat hatred in his voice, “you’re a fool. You’ll never advance. He can’t trust you. You’ve already betrayed for gain once.”
The blow snapped his head to one side. Damen ran his tongue over the inside of his lip and tasted blood.
“I did not give you permission to speak,” said Adrastus.
“You hit like a milk-fed catamite,” said Damen.
Adrastus took a step back, his face white.
“Gag him,” he said, and Damen was struggling again, in vain, against the guards. His jaw was expertly prised open, and a thickly cloth-bound iron bit forced into his mouth and swiftly tied. He could make no more than a muffled sound, but he glared at Adrastus over the gag with defiant eyes.
“You don’t understand it yet,” said Adrastus, “but you will. You’ll come to understand that what they are saying in the palace, in the taverns and in the streets is true. You’re a slave. You’re worth nothing. Prince Damianos is dead.”
DAMEN CAME BACK to himself in stages, his drugged limbs heavy against the silk cushions, the gold cuffs on his wrists like lead weights. His eyelids raised and lowered. The sounds he heard made no sense at first, the murmur of voices speaking Veretian. Instinct said: Get up.
He gathered himself, pushing up onto his knees.
His muddled thoughts, arriving at this conclusion, could make nothing of it at first. His mind was harder than his body to muster. He could not immediately remember anything after his capture, though he knew that time had passed between now and then. He was aware that at some point, he had been drugged. He searched for that memory. Eventually he found it.
He had tried to escape.
He had been transported inside a locked wagon under heavy guard to a house on the edge of the city. He had been pulled from the wagon into a closed courtyard and . . . he remembered bells. The courtyard had filled with the sudden sound of bells, a cacophony of sound from the highest places in the city, carrying in the warm evening air.
Bells at dusk, heralding a new King.
Theomedes is dead. All hail Kastor.
At the sound of the bells, the need to escape had overwhelmed any urge to caution or subterfuge, part of the fury and grief that came upon him in waves. The starting of the horses had given him his opportunity.
But he had been unarmed and surrounded by soldiers, in a closed courtyard. The subsequent handling had not been delicate. They had thrown him into a cell deep in the bowels of the house, after which, they had drugged him. Days had bled into one another.
Of the rest he recalled only brief snatches, including—his stomach sank—the slap and spray of salt water: transportation aboard a ship.
His head was clearing. His head was clearing for the first time in—how long?
How long since his capture? How long since the bells had rung? How long had he allowed this to go on? A surge of will drove Damen from his knees onto his feet. He must protect his household, his people. He took a step.
A chain rattled. The tiled floor slid under his feet, dizzily; his vision swam.
He struck out for support and steadied himself, one shoulder against the wall. With an effort of will, he did not slide back down it. Holding himself upright, he forced the dizziness back. Where was he? He made his hazy mind take inventory of himself and his surroundings.
He was dressed in the brief garments of an Akielon slave, and from head to toe, he was clean. He supposed this meant he had been tended, though his mind could supply him with no memory of it happening. He retained the gold collar and the gold cuffs on his wrists. His collar was chained to an iron link in the floor by means of a chain and a lock.
Thin hysteria threatened for a moment: he smelled faintly of roses.
As for the room, everywhere he looked his eyes were assaulted with ornamentation. The walls were overrun by decoration. The wooden doors were delicate as a screen and carved with a repeated design that included gaps in the wood; through them you could glimpse shadowy impressions of what lay on the other side. The windows were similarly screened. Even the floor tiles were parti-coloured and arranged in a geometric pattern.
Everything gave the impression of patterns within patterns, the twisty creations of the Veretian mind. It came together then, suddenly—Veretian voices—the humiliating presentation to Councillor Guion, “Are all the new slaves bound?”—the ship—and its destination.
This was Vere.
Damen stared around himself in horror. He was in the heart of enemy territory, hundreds of miles from home.
It didn’t make sense. He was breathing, without holes, and had not suffered the regrettable accident he might have expected. The Veretian people had good reason to hate Prince Damianos of Akielos. Why was he still alive?
The sound of a bolt being thrown back jerked his attention to the door.
Two men strode into the room. Watching them warily, Damen indistinctly recognised the first as a Veretian handler from the ship. The second was a stranger: dark-haired, bearded, wearing Veretian clothing, with silver rings on each of the three joints of every finger.
“This is the slave that is being presented to the Prince?” said the ringed man.
The handler nodded.
“You say he’s dangerous. What is he? A prisoner of war? A criminal?”
The handler shrugged a Who knows? “Keep him chained.”
“Don’t be foolish. We can’t keep him chained forever.” Damen could feel the ringed man’s gaze lingering on him. The next words were almost admiring. “Look at him. Even the Prince is going to have his hands full.”
“Aboard the ship, when he made trouble, he was drugged,” said the handler.
“I see.” The man’s gaze turned critical. “Gag him and shorten the chain for the Prince’s viewing. And arrange an appropriate escort. If he makes trouble, do whatever you have to.” He spoke with dismissive words, as though Damen was of minimal importance to him, no more than a task on a checklist.
It was dawning on Damen, through the clearing drug-haze, that his captors did not know the identity of their slave. A prisoner of war. A criminal. He let out a careful breath.
He must stay quiet, inconspicuous. Enough presence of mind had returned to him to know that as Prince Damianos he would be unlikely to last a night alive in Vere. Better by far to be thought a nameless slave.
He allowed the handling. He had judged the exits and the quality of the guards in his escort. The quality of the guards was less significant than the quality of the chain around his neck. His arms were lashed behind his back and he was gagged, the collar chain shortened to only nine links, so that even kneeling, his head was bowed, and he could barely look up.
Guards took up position on either side of him, and on either side of the doors, which he faced. He had time then to feel the expectant silence of the room and the tightening string of heartbeats in his chest.
There was a sudden flurry of activity, voices and footsteps approaching.
The Prince’s viewing.
The Regent of Vere held the throne for his nephew, the Crown Prince. Damen knew almost nothing about the Prince except that he was the younger of two sons. The older brother and former heir, Damen well knew, was dead.
A scattering of courtiers was entering the room.
The courtiers were nondescript except for one: a young man with an astonishingly lovely face—the kind of face that would have earned a small fortune on the slave-block in Akielos. Damen’s attention caught and held.
The young man had yellow hair, blue eyes and very fair skin. The dark blue of his severe, hard-laced clothing was too harsh for his fair colouring, and stood in stark contrast to the overly ornate style of the rooms. Unlike the courtiers who trailed in his wake, he wore no jewellery, not even rings on his fingers.
As he approached, Damen saw that the expression that sat on the lovely face was arrogant and unpleasant. Damen knew the type. Self-absorbed and self-serving, raised to overestimate his own worth and indulge in petty tyrannies over others. Spoilt.
“I hear the King of Akielos has sent me a gift,” said the young man, who was Laurent, Prince of Vere.
“An Akielon grovelling on its knees. How fitting.”
Around him, Damen was aware of the attention of courtiers, gathered to witness the Prince’s receipt of his slave. Laurent had stopped dead the moment he had seen Damen, his face turning white, as though in reaction to a slap or an insult. Damen’s view, half-truncated by the short chain at his neck, had been enough to see that. But Laurent’s expression had shuttered quickly.
That he was only one of a larger consignment of slaves was something Damen had guessed, and the murmurs from the two courtiers nearest him confirmed it, gratingly. Laurent’s eyes were passing over him, as though viewing merchandise. Damen felt a muscle slide in his jaw.
Councillor Guion spoke. “He’s intended as a pleasure slave, but he isn’t trained. Kastor suggested that you might like to break him at your leisure.”
“I’m not desperate enough that I need to soil myself with filth,” said Laurent.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Break him on the cross. I believe that will discharge my obligation to the King of Akielos.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
He could feel the relief in Councillor Guion. Handlers were quickly motioned to take him away. Damen supposed that he had presented rather a challenge to diplomacy: Kastor’s gift blurred the line between munificent and appalling.
The courtiers were making to leave. This mockery was over. He felt the handler bend to the iron link in the floor. They were going to unchain him to take him to the cross. He flexed his fingers, gathering himself, his eyes on the handler, his single opponent.
“Wait,” said Laurent.
The handler halted, straightening.
Laurent came forward a few paces to stand in front of Damen, gazing down at him with an unreadable expression.
“I want to speak to him. Remove the gag.”
“He’s got a mouth on him,” warned the handler.
“Your Highness, if I might suggest—” began Councillor Guion.
Damen ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth after the handler released the cloth.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?” said Laurent, not quite pleasantly.
He knew better than to answer any question posed in that saccharine voice. He lifted his eyes to Laurent’s. That was a mistake. They gazed at each other.
“Perhaps he’s defective,” suggested Guion.
Pellucid blue eyes rested on his. Laurent repeated the question slowly in the language of Akielos.
The words came out before he could stop them. “I speak your language better than you speak mine, sweetheart.”
His words, carrying only the barest trace of an Akielon accent, were intelligible to all, which earned him a hard blow from the handler. For good measure, a member of the escort pushed his face right down to the floor.
“The King of Akielos says, if it pleases you, call him ‘Damen,’” said the handler, and Damen felt his stomach drop.
There were a few shocked murmurs from the courtiers in the chamber; the atmosphere, already prurient, became electric.
“They thought a slave nicknamed for their late Prince would amuse you. It’s in poor taste. They are an uncultured society,” said Councillor Guion.
This time Laurent’s tone didn’t change. “I heard that the King of Akielos may marry his mistress, the Lady Jokaste. Is that true?”
“There was no official announcement. But there was talk of the possibility, yes.”
“So the country will be ruled by a bastard and a whore,” said Laurent. “How appropriate.”
Damen felt himself react, even restrained as he was, with a hard jerk aborted by chains. He caught the self-satisfied pleasure on Laurent’s face. Laurent’s words had been loud enough to carry to every courtier in the room.
“Shall we have him taken to the cross, Your Highness?” said the handler.
“No,” said Laurent, “Restrain him here in the harem. After you teach him some manners.”
The two men entrusted to the task went about it with methodical and matter-of-fact brutality. But they had a natural reluctance to damage Damen totally beyond repair, being that he was the Prince’s possession.
Damen was aware of the ringed man issuing a series of instructions, then departing. Keep the slave restrained here in the harem. The Prince’s orders. No one is to come in or out of the room. The Prince’s orders. Two guards at the door at all times. The Prince’s orders. Don’t let him off the chain. The Prince’s orders.
Though the two men lingered, it seemed that the blows had stopped; Damen pushed himself up slowly to his hands and knees. Gritty tenacity made something of the situation: His head, at least, was now perfectly clear.
Worse than the beating had been the viewing. He had been more shaken by it than he would admit. If the collar-chain had not been so short—so impossibly secure—he might have resisted, despite his earlier resolve. He knew the arrogance of this nation. He knew how the Veretians thought of his people. Barbarian. Slave. Damen had gathered all his good intentions about himself and endured it.
But the Prince—Laurent’s particular blend of spoilt arrogance and petty spite—had been unbearable.
“He doesn’t look much like a pet,” said the taller of the two men.
“You heard. He’s a bed slave from Akielos,” said the other.
“You think the Prince fucks him?” Sceptically.
“More like the other way around.”
“Pretty sweet orders for a bed slave.” The taller one’s mind stuck on the subject as the other grunted noncommittally in reply. “Think what that’d be like, getting a leg over the Prince.”
I imagine it would be a lot like lying down with a poisonous snake, thought Damen, but he kept the thought to himself.
As soon as the men left, Damen reviewed his situation: Getting free was not yet possible. His hands were untied again, and the collar-chain had been lengthened, but it was too thick to separate from the iron link in the floor. Nor could the collar be opened. It was gold, technically a soft metal, but it was also too thick to manipulate, a constant, heavy weight around his neck. It struck him how ridiculous it was to collar a slave with gold. The gold wrist-cuffs were even more foolish. They would be a weapon in a close fight and currency on the journey back to Akielos.
If he stayed alert while pretending to compliance, opportunity would follow. There was enough length in the chain to allow him perhaps three steps of movement in every direction. There was a wooden carafe of water well within reach. He would be able to lie comfortably on the cushions and even relieve himself in a gilt copper pot. He had not been drugged—or bludgeoned all the way to unconsciousness—as had happened in Akielos. Only two guards at the door. An unbolted window.
Freedom was attainable. If not now, then soon.
It must be soon. Time was not on his side: The longer he was kept here, the longer Kastor would have to cement his rule. It was unbearable not to know what was happening in his country, to his supporters, and to his people.
And there was another problem.
No one had yet recognised him, but that didn’t mean he was safe from discovery. Akielos and Vere had had few dealings since the decisive battle of Marlas six years ago, but somewhere in Vere there would surely be a person or two who knew his face, having visited his city. Kastor had sent him to the one place where he could expect to be treated worse as a prince than as a slave. Elsewhere, one of his captors, learning his identity, might be convinced to help him, either out of sympathy for his situation, or for the promise of a reward from Damen’s supporters in Akielos. Not in Vere. In Vere, he couldn’t risk it.
He remembered the words of his father on the eve of the battle of Marlas, warning him to fight, never to trust, because a Veretian would not keep his word. His father had been proven right that day on the battlefield.
He would not think of his father.
It would be best to be well rested. With that in mind, he drank water from the carafe, watching the last of the afternoon light slowly drain from the room. When it was dark, he lay his body, with all its aches, down on the cushions, and, eventually, he slept.
And woke. Dragged up, a hand on his collar-chain, until he was on his feet, flanked by two of the faceless, interchangeable guards.
The room was flaring into brightness as a servant lit torches and placed them in the wall brackets. The room was not over-large, and the flickering of the torches transformed its intricate designs into a continuously moving, sinuous play of shape and light.
In the centre of this activity, regarding him with cool blue eyes, was Laurent.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A prince is usurped before ascending throne after his king father died (good stuff and a light read for anyone who doesn't like to long paragraphs dedicated to description). From the protagonist's vantage point, the reader understands the prince's plight and curses the enemy kingdom as the character does. Likable protagonist, wonderful world-building, and leaves this reader willing the sequel.
The weakest in a strong series, but not a bad book. Heavy adult content, not for the faint of heart, but if you can tolerate the content of the 1st book, the next two are smooth sailing full of intrigue.
OH MY. I stayed up all night reading this book. In fact, there were several times I put it down to actually sleep, to find only 20 minutes of non-sleep later that I couldn't resist its siren call and had to pick it up to keep reading. Captive Prince is about Damen, a Prince who everyone believes is dead, but has been secretly shipped off to serve as a slave for another countries' Prince, Laurent. The two countries used to be at war, but there has since been a treaty for peace. Cue political intrigue and secrets and betrayal! The romance doesn't really come into play in this book, and with good reason. It's realistic for it to take time with these two characters. But the story itself is just so smart and well-written, and the characters' voices are so strong. This book was a surprising 5 stars from me. I'm ready to devour the next one.
~Reviewed by ANN & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog Pacat takes something that I love - M/M Romance and puts her spin on it so that it becomes this living, breathing thing. The first thing you notice when you start reading Volume One is the rich details. Pacat does not skim anything. A story that is not for the faint of heart, CAPTIVE PRINCE takes on the notion of slavery and puts it front and center. Let me warn you now, it's graphic and sometimes unpleasant, but nevertheless you become so attuned to Damen's character that you cannot bare to look away. Damen is a warrior of his own kind. As the rightful heir to his kingdom, he has been stripped of his identity when his half brother gains control and is sent to their enemies' territory to become his slave. A chilling thought, that but once again, the writing hook you in. I also think the big reason why readers become so entranced by this book is because it's told through the eyes of Damen. We see some vulnerability, yet Damen never really backs down through it all. Strength and power are all relative when it comes to this fantasy world. I think if this story were told from a different perspective, it wouldn't hold the same appeal and it definitely wouldn't be so entertaining. Prince Laurent is desperate to break Damen. Seeking revenge for his brother's death, Laurent doesn't simply want an eye for an eye. He wants Damen to suffer. Now I know you're wondering if there could be a HEA. That has yet to be determined in this volume. But I can tell you that there are traces of a romance blooming. It's not clear at first. In fact, you may think the opposite when they first meet, but Pacat lays details that are there if you look closely enough. For this alone, I'm willing to read on to find out. It's been awhile since I've read a good fantasy book and this is what it is. Pacat weaves an intricate world filled with politics and unknown lands yet to be discovered. Rich descriptions bring this world to life and page by page, Pacat makes a fictional fantasy world feel real for readers. If you're not reading for its characters, then read it for its worldbuilding. This is truly an extraordinary book! Favourite Quote: "A golden prince was easy to love if you did not have to watch him picking wings off flies."
If you havent read it yet start now because ive read it atleast 5xs &its great!
Idk what the other reviewers were reading but it wasn't all that great. It was average. Nothing much to say about it. Just meh. I won't buy the second one.
It's a good book. I couldn't put it down at all.
I remember the day I walked into a book store, glanced at the romance shelf that probably has a thousand books, and this book catches my eyes. I read one paragraph of the description on the back cover and was sold. This book (and the following two books in the trilogy) is truly amazing from the plot to the characters to the world building to the writing style. I honestly have never realized English could be this gorgeous before this. This trilogy becomes my favorite books of all time. Hands down. 10 out of 5 stars. Although I never really recommend this to anyone because it has some contents that may trigger many people, I truly believe, deep down inside, that everyone can enjoy this series if you just open your heart and let it suck you into its universe. Going on an adventure with Damen and Laurent is definitely one of the best journeys in my life.
I am at quite a loss for words in regards to my feelings about this book, but I will try my best. The beginning of the book was very abrupt. The reader is plopped into the conflict without knowing a thing about any of the characters. The writing felt very choppy as well. Mostly it just felt like craziness. You can see what is happening to the main character, but you have no concept of what his personality or background is. It makes for a very emotionless and confusing read. While you do get a general feel for the characters as the book progresses, it doesn't feel intimate at all. It feels more like reading a grocery list interspersed with slavery and sexual abuse that just leaves you aghast and unsure of what it is you are actually reading. The characters were one dimensional. Absolutely no depth. And most of what is happening is cringeworthy in the worst of ways. The world-building is pretty much non-existent. I try to picture these kingdoms and I just can't. I can almost see this being a decent read, even with the graphic subject matter, if only it had been executed in a better way. Without knowing the characters the reader cannot feel for them. It mostly felt like smut to me. No real substance to the story. I have no clue if I will continue this series or not. This series just may not be for me.
I love the story, the detail, the pure power moves displayed by all of the characters. . . such a good series
This book was recommended to me from a friend and I loved it. Compelling arguments and descriptions that just make the world pop into your mind. A must read for those who love twists and turns
This series absolutely has to be one of the best I have ever read. The character development and the characters themselves are of a whole new level one, that I have never read before. The plot is engaging and all three books will leave you satisfied, but of course wanting more because it's just the kind of book you never want to end. A must read.
This book lays the foundation for a solid series centered around intrigue, spattered with the right amount of action. I was totally drawn in by the characters and the artfully unfolding plot, as well as the beautifully descriptive language. There is not as much physical movement through The Captive Prince as intellectual movement, but with all the questions raised awaiting answers as the story unfolds, I was never bored. Also, although some of the more brutal aspects the story were difficult to read at first, the author handles them with enough delicacy to help the reader not be too off put. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy and finding out how things are resolved.
When I first started this book, I didn't really know what I was getting into. I picked it as a recently-downloaded ebook for an 8 hour train ride back from visiting a friend and figured, what the heck. Why not? Little did I know that I'd quickly go from wondering why I'd picked this book to read to wondering why I would ever pick another book again. The novel follows the story of Prince Damianos of Akielos after an uprising occurs. He's shipped off to the enemy land of Vere where he's held captive as a slave to the crown prince, Laurent. Damianos, known as Damen in his slave name, has to keep his identity a secret to the lands of Vere, lest he lose his head. That's the general summary, but that definitely isn't what drew me in when I decided to read this book. I'd heard of the book from a friend of mine, who insisted that it was worth the read, and despite the intrigue I found at the summary, had I picked this book up in any other scenario, I don't think that I would have given it the same chance that I did thanks to the recommendation. In terms of the book itself, I found it a little bit slow at first. Initially when I was reading it, I found myself stopping and wondering if it was worth it, but that doubt was easily wiped away. A lot of the confusion was due to keeping up with all the names and places that the book throws at you early on, but once you start learning how they all connect, it's easy to keep track of them and everything becomes focused on the plot. My favourite parts of the book are nestled in the dialogue. Laurent's quick, witty words and Damen's biting refusal to play along with the rules of his new home show that there is so much more behind these characters than what meets the eye. Not only are the main characters a treat, but each and every character they interact with has such a distinct personality that they easily reflect the way that humans inherently are. From shy and quiet Erastmus to bold but young Nikandros, the pets of Vere all have their own intricacies to them, and their owners are just as intriguing. There's not a single character that comes to mind that's boring or bland when you read through Captive Prince, and that's exactly what I look for when it comes to novels. Not only that, but the author's depiction of the scenery of the world is truly amazing. The way C.S. Pascat describes the intricacies of Vere and how they compare to the land of Akelios where Damen hails from is breathtaking, and she uses an immense amount of vocabulary to provide the readers with the best picture possible so you can fully immerse yourself in the book. I found myself losing track of the train that I was on because I was so sure that I was in the palace of Vere, experiencing everything that Damen was. Everything about this book had me completely hooked on it, and after the first few chapters, I didn't want to put it down. I'd finished the entire thing on the train and started the second one before I'd even arrived home, and trust me, once I was back in my hometown, I didn't want to sleep because all I wanted was to keep reading. If you're looking for an enticing start of a series with witty characters, lush scenery, and a thrilling plot, Captive Prince is definitely the place to start!
This is a slow building first book in an great trilogy. Laurent is such an intriguing character that slowly unfolds through the books.
I was hooked!
Captive Prince Volume I by C.S. Pascat is a story that is part fantasy and part historical (I think). Set in the city of Vere, the book begins with a military coup the ends up with Damen otherwise known as Prince Damianos of Akielos being given to neighboring and enemy Prince Laurent of Vere as a slave. To say that it feels like you’ve been dropped mid scene with the opening words is an understatement. From the very beginning the aura of political intrigue is present, if not overwhelming at times. Through the interaction of the first characters we’re introduced to, we understand that Damen’s brother has killed their father, the king, and ascended to the throne as the rightful heir … now that Damen has been disposed of. Drugged and abused, and also chained and imprisoned, Damen arrives in enemy territory confused and intent on escape. There is much world building that needs to be established in order to give the reader a real feel for the setting, building that leaves a bit to be desired. I found myself often confused and had to continually flip the pages to figure out who was who. With little to no backstory at the beginning, it was difficult to follow they why’s and how’s of what was going on. As the story progressed, I was able to get a feel for the motivations of the main characters as well as the plot of the book. If you are looking for romance, or even some erotic romance, this is not the book for you. Laurent is cold, calculating, and almost evil, and Damen is definitely not at all interested in pleasure, forced or otherwise. These two can barely stand to be in the same room with one another, let alone have any chemistry whatsoever. This is only Book One of a trilogy so maybe the relationship will progress into something romantic, but as this book ends, I don’t see how. I don’t always have to, or even enjoy, sex in the books I read, but I do need to see a connection at the very least and in this book, I just didn’t feel it. I did enjoy the political intrigue … to a point. Once I was able to discern who was who and belonged to which kingdom, I was engaged. C.S. Pacat’s writing is solid, and I found myself not wanting to stop until I knew how the book would end because I was interested to see how things played out. If you enjoy worlds full of palaces and kingdoms and battles and servants, then give Captive Prince a try.
Recently bought this book but... it wasn't anything special. It was very boring, slow, and just lacking in a strong story. I believe the author is all over the place with their characters and story. Plus, there aren't enough pages to even call this a book. I'm so upset. Won't be buying from this author again.