Review: “Captive Prince” by C.S. Pacat
If I had a dollar for every time a fangirl lamented that they wished traditional fiction was more like slash I would have like $40… at least. Jokes aside, I do know a lot of us fangirls are looking for original fiction that utilizes the tropes and sexual freedoms found in slash without just filing off the serial numbers of works that were written as fanfiction. Original slash is hardly a new phenomenon, but C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince is one of the best original fics I have ever read, and I have read A LOT.
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the truthful 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…
Here’s the deal with this story. Captive Prince is the first published book in a trilogy that was originally posted as a free online serial. It was written for the original slash community, which kind of a sister-community to fanfiction because it employs many similar tropes and ideologies. But instead of subverting established universes, the authors create their own. While these stories don’t often garner as much fandom attention as their fanfiction counterparts, there are some gems to be found, and C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince is a diamond.
C.S. Pacat’s livejournal states that she loves “antiheroes, princes, sword fights, political machinations, chases, escapes, adventure and romance” and that is a pretty accurate description of what you’re going to find in Captive Prince. If you enjoy those things, I guarantee you will love this book. It’s everything you could possibly want from a high-fantasy escapist thriller, with the added bonus that it will piss off any homophobic fanboys that get wind of it.
While the story would be described in the fanfiction community as slavefic – and that is definitely a significant element – I think it would be more accurately described as epic fantasy. I mean, there’s a map in the front of Penguin’s edition of the novel for goodness sake. The social, political, and even geographical intricacies of the world C.S. Pacat has created are as good as – or possibly better – than any recognizable fantasy series.
So what’s with the slavefic? Well, it’s like someone created an intricate fantasy world, with fantastically dynamic characters, and then decided to write a slavery AU about them. Of course, then it gets overtaken by plot, and suddenly you realize that sex slavery is actually the least interesting thing about this story. I am not ashamed to admit that I came for the slavefic but I stayed for everything else because this book has got it going on.
Anyway, for the few people that read this that are not part of the fanfiction community, slavefic is described by fanlore as “a fanfiction genre in which one character is enslaved to another or has to pretend to be a slave. It usually refers to stories in which slavery is used as narrative kink, rather than historical fiction dealing with slavery accurately”. In the case of Captive Prince there is slavery as an established cultural institution – Damen, the book’s protagonist, is forced into slavery and given to Prince Laurent.
Due to the nature of the slavefic genre, there are a bunch of warnings that come hand in hand with my Captive Prince recommendation. Although everything that happens has narrative worth and makes sense in the context, your safety and happiness are more important than anything else, so if any of these things trigger and/or upset you then maybe reconsider reading this book.
Warnings: slavery, rape, non-consensual sex, child abuse, bondage, violence, abuse, torture and humiliation.
Try not to let that scare you off, because most of the horrible stuff is not explicit – although there is some – but I think it’s important you know what you’re getting into. Much of this story is rather confronting, which is actually one of the things that makes it so powerful, but it is also understandably distressing. If you’re looking for a lighthearted fantasy romance, Captive Prince is very much not that so be warned.
The point of this convoluted mess of a review is that C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince is fantastic and you should read it if you love slash or fantasy or political thrillers.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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