Title: Captive Prince Volume One
Author: C S Pacat
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Source: Review copy via NetGalley
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...
I read this overnight while suffering from a bout of insomnia. I didn't have much of an idea what to expect, and so was a little surprised at the subject matter. Essentially this is the story of two princes from neighbouring countries maintaining an uneasy alliance. A coup lands the prince of Akielos a slave in neighbouring Vere. In Akielos palace slaves are trained in subservience and there is a contract of sorts, with masters being expected to treat their slaves well. In Vere, slaves are known as Pets and are completely at the whim of their masters, who may trade them to others. Pets are always the same sex as their masters, to avoid the chance of illegitimate children. Rape and violent treatment are not uncommon, and the Pets themselves scheme and compete to get the highest ranked masters. Damen is shocked at the culture of rape and violence in Vere and does what he can to improve the situation for his fellow slaves. However, his greatest challenge is dealing with his own master, the crown prince Laurent. Damen and Laurent may have achieved an uneasy alliance, but if Laurent finds out Damen's true identity, his life will be forfeit.
If I'd had a better idea of the subject matter before reading, I might have passed this by, but I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. It features the political intrigue common to fantasy books of the type, and it was refreshing to see same-sex relationships portrayed as normal, and even desirable.
Even though some of the subject matter was confronting, Damen's likeability and downright goodness went a long way to making up for that.
If you like fantasy and don't mind adult content, it's definitely worth a read.