***Warning!! This book review contains spoilers from the previous title of this trilogy, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***
To see my review for book #1 – The Captive Prince – Click HERE
Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars
To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you’re willing to give up.”– C.S. Pacat, “Prince’s Gambit”
So, right off the bat, it must be known that this trilogy is a total MOOD read.
It’s very niche and specific, and you have to be in a particular place to be able to really enjoy these books. I’m not going to lie, these books are kind of sleazy, perverted, and horny underneath the usual fantasy aspects of courtly intrigue, evil plots to overthrow kingdoms, oppression and slavery, epic battles, secrets revealed, complex and morally grey characters, and long journeys on horseback. A mild warning: there’s lots of penis references or penises mentioned throughout, like, everyone is aware of each others penises. It can be a turn off for certain readers, but don’t we live in a phallic dominating world anyways?….never mind, let’s not get into that.
You see a panther opening its jaws, you don’t get your dick out.”– C.S. Pacat, “Prince’s Gambit”
As for me. this trilogy just got so much better in the 2nd book! Prince’s Gambit fulfilled everything I wanted for these books, but of course, STILL left me wanting even more!
Damen and Laurent’s relationship continues to develop at an achingly slow pace, but I love the enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story arc, so believe me when I say it’s all worth it in the end.
The first book taught me patience,
This book taught me pain
And I know the next one will teach me love–but I’m sure there will be a lot of pain with it too…
What It’s About:
Damen and Laurent are on the road with a select number of soldiers, some men are Laurent’s and some belong to the Regent: Laurent’s creepy, corrupt uncle who rules their country named Vere. In the previous title, his uncle coerced Laurent into serving a small territory close to their border, but unbeknownst to Laurent and Damen, he’s sent assassins and part of his army after them to kill them all off before Laurent comes of age and can completely ascend to the throne. Laurent’s cruel situation with his uncle comes to light, and is revealed how he may be just as captive as Damen in certain ways.
His uncle’s plan, of course, begins to backfire and causes Damen and Laurent’s alliance to only grow stronger. They begin to trust each other, confide in each other, and become inseparable. Others amongst their soldiers begin to notice, and suddenly Damen seems like the lady doth protest too much when they ask him if anything is going on between the two of them.
More characters are introduced, and some get more attention this time around, but what isn’t new is there are still plenty of hidden agendas amongst everyone. Damen’s biggest secret–his real identity as the Prince of Akielos–is still kept under wraps, which is good, because who knows what would happen if Laurent finds out that it was Damen who’d killed his older brother in battle a few years prior. It’s okay though, because the two of them spend too much time staring longingly and broodingly at each other to worry about it ever coming up!
More secrets are revealed, more enemies make their presence known, plots are discovered, and even more bitter betrayals threaten everything in order to bring peace back to the realm as war appears on the horizon.
Trigger Warning: Child Abuse, Rape, Violence, Dismemberment, Heartbreak
What I Liked:
- The Slow-Burn Romance Continues! It’s one of the main driving points of the story, but more happens in this sequel that leans towards an eventual romantic relationship between Damen and Laurent. The first book didn’t have any; it was more about them starting off as sworn enemies turned reluctant allies, but this book has them growing closer as they travel across the land, narrowly escaping danger, and both secretly deal with their growing attraction for each other, even if they refuse to admit it to the other. It does move at an incredibly slow speed, so impatient readers will get frustrated at how little they receive from the author until the very end. There are a couple side-romances to somewhat fill the void while you wait and see what goes down between our two protagonists as the tension builds.
- More Battles! The first book was more about the hedonistic indulgences of Laurent’s kingdom, along with its cruelty and political intrigue; Damen figures out what a truly effed up world he’d been transported to. This title includes all that plus more with high octane, gritty battles between soldiers that makes it a much faster paced read in that regard!
- So Much More Complexity! The first title just set the scene for us that included the slavery, the court politics, and the underhanded scheming, but this book includes all that plus so much more! Evil plots are revealed, even more betrayals occur, complex characters and their motives being revealed, more heartbreak and violence; everything just feels enhanced and exaggerated in this second title that makes it so much more interesting of a read!
What I Didn’t Like:
- Maybe Needed More Romance?…Honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot I didn’t like about this book, but maybe I wish there was a little more romance between the two main characters? A stolen kiss here or there? Something to satisfy or tease us to help build up towards Chapter 19, and maybe not make it feel like it takes forever to get to that point.
Everything about this book is so much better than the first, and the real plot is revealed that brings up the point of how nothing is truly as it seems; we as humans only see what we want to see. The author excellently crafted a well plotted, intricate piece of LGBT fantasy literature that’s hidden beneath hedonism, sexual imagery/themes and erotic undertones. I can understand that it’s not for everyone and it caters to a more specific kind of audience, but I can say I was a part of it because of how much I’d enjoyed it!
There’s slow romance to the point of it being more frustratingly slow than any other one I’ve read before, but that just makes what we’re given all that more satisfying. It’s like having ice cold water after a long journey through the desert.
I’ve grown really fond of Damen–despite the gigantic secret he keeps from Laurent–because of his courage, his honor, and willingness to do what is right even when the odds are stacked against him. It’s also just a nice change of pace to read a protagonist who’s already well adjusted into his queer sexuality, and that part of the story isn’t about him or Laurent coming to terms with it.
The ending of this title certainly raises a bunch of questions, and sets it up to have quite an intriguing next chapter in this complex story! I dove into it immediately because I had to know what would happen next! What do Damen and his friends showing up mean? How does Laurent and Damen’s relationship develop? Does Laurent know? So many questions!
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell