Prince’s Gambit is the second installment to the Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat. As per usual, spoiler alert for anyone who intends to read it.
I enjoyed it so much more than the first, now that the characters are fully established and we can take the time to watch their development. Both main characters, Damen and Laurent, are definitely more likable this time around, but they still have their flaws.
I was quite pleased when Laurent actually points out Damen’s hypocrisy in regards to slavery, saying that Damen enjoys slavery in others, but not in himself. Slavery itself plays a much smaller role in book 2 than it had in book 1. Prince’s Gambit has our main characters off to the borderlands between Vere and Akeilos, both of which are poised for war. The Regent, Laurent’s uncle, has shipped him off there in hopes that Laurent will die and he can continue to rule unchallenged. Along the way the Regent actively plans multiple attacks on Laurent to dispatch him, but the prince is extremely clever and with Damen’s help manages to survive them.
The relationship between Damen and Laurent expands significantly in this volume, giving them ample opportunity to solidify trust in one another. I love the development of their relationship and it was fascinating to watch tiny cracks in Laurent’s proverbial armor form and let out a little bit of light. Laurent is very tightly reined throughout these books, for good reason, considering he’s constantly in fear for his life (and, if I’m correct, also was living with his abuser). Literally everyone thinks he basically has ice in his veins since he’s extremely cold and standoffish to just about every single person and has reportedly never taken a lover. It’s not until Damen saves Laurent’s life, dispatching one of his own countrymen in the process, that Laurent’s trust in Damen really seems to set in. Damen, for his part, is fairly constantly afraid that Laurent will figure out that he is actually the prince of Akeilos and the one that killed Laurent’s older brother in battle. I will theorize that Laurent actually knows who Damen is, since he seems to be aware of a lot more than most people realize and it would certainly explain his horrendous treatment of Damen in Captive Prince.
The characters do have sex in this book, but it’s rather unlike any sex scene I’ve read before and not just because the characters involved were both males. Damen is so keenly aware of Laurent (honestly, he had to be for his safety earlier on) in every sense it just elevates things to another level. As much as Laurent wants to be fully on board with things, and is on some level, he’s incredibly resistant to the concept of letting someone else have control because historically that would have led to his death. He trusts Damen and wants to be with him, but there’s such an internal conflict going on through the entire thing. If my theory is correct and Laurent was abused as a child, then this adds another very important element to this interaction since it marks the first time he’s ever trusted anyone since the death of his older brother. The fact that he might know who Damen is brings double the emotional toll going on here because it means that Laurent has fallen in love with the man who took away the most important person in the world to him. Since this is the culmination of a very slow-burning romance, it has allowed there to be so much more than what is typically involved in these scenes in other romances. There is just so much more between them that made it completely perfect. What else makes it more is that the next day it will all be over. Jord, Laurent’s Captain has discovered Damen’s true identity and gives him the ultimatum of leave or he’ll reveal it to Laurent, so it’s meant to be their final night together. Now, of course that’s all ruined, but the emotional toll it takes on both character before that happens is immense. There were just so many things going on in this scene, so many layers that create absolute perfection.
As a side note, I have not fangirled over a book in years, but I was absolutely hooked on this one. Apologies to those nearest to me because I have not shut up about this book since.
We also find out how Kastor, Damen’s half brother, managed to secure the throne since majority of the people were in support of Damen. Turns out that it was the Regent who gave him troops. Based on this, I’m almost 100% positive that the Regent pulled a Hamlet and managed to maneuver things to get his own brother murdered so that he could be King.
I will be moving onto King’s Rising, the third installment of this trilogy as soon as Amazon gets it to me. I just really can’t express how much I love this book. Damen and Laurent are my OTP.
Thanks for stopping by!
*Note: I’ve since finished reading Kings Rising and have to say that Prince’s Gambit is my favorite of the trilogy, which is really rare for a middle book, but it’s still very much worth it to read book 3 🙂