Cephalopod Coffeehouse March 2016–KINGS RISING-A Review

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m so excited to share the final book in the Captive Prince trilogy from C. S. Pacat. As you know I fell into the rabbit hole on this series, binge reading the books in hours apiece. KINGS RISING was no less stunning than the first two books. Catch my reviews for CAPTIVE PRINCE and PRINCE’S GAMBIT so you can get better oriented to this captivating fantasy/political thriller that has a dash of M/M romance.

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3)About the book:
Damianos of Akielos has returned.
His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity – can it stand against the Regent’s final, deadly play for the throne?

My Review:
You absolutely must read this series. Oh, wait. You must read it in order. When you read it, that is. Because you must read it. I had never heard of the author, but what began as whispers in the M/M community soon became a resounding gong of praise for the books that were once an internet phenomenon but are now traditionally published.

For those who haven’t read any of the books, crown Prince of Akielos, Damianos, was captured by his elder half-brother’s guard, chained and sent as a sexual slave to Crown Prince of Vere, Laurent, under the pseudonym “Damen”. Vere and Akielos have had a truce since Damianos struck down Laurent’s elder brother in battle, and Laurent swears he will kill Damianos. Damen must keep his identity hidden to preserve his life, escape, and claim his throne, now that his father has died. That’s rather difficult because Laurent–while he wants little to do with Damen–is unwilling to release him. Further, Laurent is in imminent peril. His uncle, the Regent king, seems to want to remain on the throne and is willing to sacrifice Laurent in border patrol in order to cement his own reign.

As the book opens, Damen’s true name has been revealed in the company of Akielian troops and he takes control of a fort, prepares to battle the Regent’s army and command his smaller garrison win against awful odds. His commanders believe that Laurent is using him, and their worry is great considering the unconscionable issue of Damen, their king, being a slave to a prince–no matter how frigid all believe Laurent to be. Will Laurent try to kill Damen now that he knows his identity? It’s a real fear that Damen suffers–especially as the months of living together and campaigning have brought a particular closeness to Damen and Laurent–one that Damen is loathe to sever. One that endangers Damen’s alliances with his own generals, and causes the Veretians to balk, as well.

It was an amazing set of political gymnastics keeping the combined forces of Veretians and Akielians together, and just when it seems they will win back their thrones the full treachery of both Damen’s brother and the Regent of Vere becomes known. I wasn’t shocked, as I fully expected those revelations–due to excellent foreshadowing–but the manner of revelation springs yet another trap that threaten both Damen and Laurent with execution. The machinations were amazing, and kept the pace incredibly taut. Further, the love story between Damen and Laurent is not easy. They must work at it, and build it, just as with their alliances. It is a quiet affair, because there is so much scrutiny, and yet it is packed with sexual tension, longing, loss and satisfaction. That said, it’s not terrifyingly graphic, so those who are not fans of same-sex pairing do not need to shun the books. In the whole three-book series, I bet there are less than 10 pages of actual sex (that’s 1% of the page volume…)

As a series, this is one I’d enjoy again and again. The storytelling is superb, and the resolution is hopeful and mostly happy.

Interested? You can find KINGS RISING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in retail booksellers/libraries all over.

Thanks for popping in my friends! Be sure to hop over to my fellow book reviewers and see which are the best books they’ve read this month.

The Plot Thickens–PRINCE’S GAMBIT-A Review

Hi there! I’m really excited to share a review for the second volume of C.S. Pacat’s Captured Prince trilogy. PRINCE’S GAMBIT is a fantastic sequel that had no hope of slowing down. You know how much I loved CAPTIVE PRINCE, well, this book’s BETTER!!!

Prince's Gambit (Captive Prince, #2)About the book
With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…

My Review:
This is the second book in a fantasy M/M series that needs to be read in order.

Damen, who is also Prince Damianos of Akelios, was captured and sold into sexual slavery followed by a coup masterminded by his elder half-brother. Damen now slave to the Crown Prince of Vere, Laurent, must hide his identity in order to stay alive. Laurent’s most fervent wish is to kill the Akelians, and is particularly frustrated that Prince Damianos, who killed his elder brother Auguste, died before Laurent could claim his vengeance. Damen’s fervent hope is to return to Akelios and regain his throne, striking down his brother.

At age 20, Laurent is months from gaining his own throne from his uncle, the Regent king, who has served for the past seven years. Laurent’s not interested in his slave Damen, except to torture him, at first. They have reached a rapprochement in the first book, as Damen convinced Laurent that he can help him survive the treacherous Akelios-Vere border patrol the Regent king has pressed Laurent into performing.

Laurent wants to live. Damen knows that keeping Laurent alive will prevent war between Vere and Akelios. Damen knows that Akelios will fall if war erupts, divided in loyalty as it has been by his brother’s ascendancy. Damen is a born leader, having been proven a top commander and combatant in the wars against Vere. Laurent knows that Damen is strong and has a quick mind, but no one will follow the orders of a slave. That said, the commander of Laurent’s troops–a rag-tag batch of mercenaries–is a pawn to the Regent who’s likely been told to maintain disorder, enabling a poor defense for the Prince. Laurent fully expects that he will never see the crown, if his uncle has any say in the matter.

As with the previous book, the plot is rife with cunning and duplicity. Laurent must stay three steps ahead of his uncle’s schemes, and he seems to do so. Damen, against his better instincts, advises Laurent admirably. He knows that he can slip off across the border and regain favor with his own people, but the entanglements the Regent has put in motion threaten to destabilize the entire region, and will undoubtedly cause war.

Damen trains Laurent’s troops, under the guise of another officer, as well as becomes the ultimate protector of Laurent–who engages in espionage more than once. Damen’s internal conflicts are many and fierce. Laurent is his sworn enemy, and would kill him if her knew his identity. Yet, their close quarters raises feelings of respect and admiration for the man that had brutally punished him previously. Also, the more that Damen is placed in battle, the more that his adversaries begin to see he is not a pleasure slave. He is a battle-hardened warrior, and resembles greatly the lost prince–threatening his anonymity.

I absolutely loved this story. The twists and turns are astounding. Laurent will stop at nothing to keep his life, and land, from war, even fighting his own lords to destroy the Regent’s influence. The Regent is just as duplicitous, and has the might of the land on his side. Laurent, Damen and their troops are often outnumbered, and usually out-matched, and yet they persevere due to Damen’s martial acumen and Laurent’s bravado. I could not turn the pages fast enough.

The book series is a M/M romance, and we do see the elements build here. The first book: no intimacy. This book, some intimacy. Laurent is called the Ice Prince for good reason. (I’m betting that he hasn’t had a “lover” in many years because he’s a molestation survivor.) That said, the long hours of travel, training, strategy and escape have welded Laurent and Damen together. Damen wants to escape and is simultaneously drawn to Laurent, not entirely out of duty. The print edition has a bonus chapter that really gets into the nitty-gritty of their intimacy. #Love

Still, it’s a very, very small part of this story. Expect so much more.

The book, as part of a larger series, ends on a cliffhanger. The third book, Kings Rise, will decide who survives. My money’s on Damen and Laurent. And not only as kings who share a border. I’m thinking these two will share a royal bedchamber as equals, too.

Interested? You can find PRINCE’S GAMBIT on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
C.S. Pacat is a Melbourne writer. Her first series the Captive Prince trilogy began its life as an original web serial. Self-published in 2013 to critical and commercial success and acclaim, the Captive Prince trilogy was acquired by Penguin, and will be published worldwide in 2015.

You can find Ms. Pacat on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Crime Most Foul–CAPTIVE PRINCE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m catching up with the whirlwind that is C.S. Pacat. Her CAPTIVE PRINCE trilogy began as a net sensation and is now a three-book M/M fantasy romance adventure that is a bestseller. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole on these books, and cannot be more grateful. Fantastic fiction. Let us press on!

Captive Prince (Captive Prince, #1)About the book:
“This was Vere, voluptuous and decadent, country of honeyed poison”

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…

My Review:
This is a fantastic read. It’s not a M/M romance, per se, but the beginning of one, perhaps.

The action begins with Prince Damianos of Akelios being captured, stripped and bound as a pleasure slave to Prince Laurent of Vere. Akelios and Vere are enemy nations under a tentative truce since their last war 6 years ago. The decisive battle in this war was the one where both the king and first born son were killed, and Damianos had bested the prince in hand to hand combat on the field. Prince Laurent, only 13 at the time, was too young to take the crown and Vere has been held by the Regent king, Laurent’s pedophilic and profiteering uncle. “Damen” as Damianos is dubbed, has been made a particular gift for Laurent–who at 20 years of age is ten months shy of his coronation–by Damen’s half-brother who has unlawfully assumed control of Akelios. See, everyone thinks Damianos has died, tragically, allowing the crown to fall to the usurper.

This is a taut political drama with plenty of intrigue. Laurent wants nothing to do with Damen. He hates all Akelians due to the loss of his father and brother in battle with them. He also hates his uncle, which this reader suspects has something to do with the Regent king’s sexual proclivities and Laurent’s own frigidity.

This is not a romance. Damen is smart enough to understand that his life hangs in a very dangerous balance. Were any of the Veretians to learn his identity he’d be killed. In the meantime, Laurent spares little thought to brutalizing Damen. There is a wary respect that develops as Damen makes requests that confuse and intrigue Laurent, particularly regarding the disposition of two dozen Akelian pleasure slaves that languish in Vere. True to the insight of Tsun Su, one can expect that Laurent knows his life is also in a precarious position. Ten months remain until he takes the throne and it seems his uncle has played a very deep game to cement his further rule.

This book is titled Volume One, and is part of a richly-written series. It ends with Damen and Laurent at a rapprochement. Laurent needs soldiers who will defend him against his uncle’s schemes, and Damen knows that Laurent staying alive is the only thing keeping Vere from waging war on a divided Akelios. Keep you enemies closer, indeed.

Interested? You can find CAPTIVE PRINCE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
C.S. Pacat is a Melbourne writer. Her first series the Captive Prince trilogy began its life as an original web serial. Self-published in 2013 to critical and commercial success and acclaim, the Captive Prince trilogy was acquired by Penguin, and will be published worldwide in 2015.

You can find Ms. Pacat on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!