Oh my God. It’s been a while since I disgustedly threw a book out the window!
What the hell did I just read? I am used to smutty novels and BDSM is always in the books in the form of Fifty Shades or The Beauty’s Punishment but this book is a whole new level.
Slavery isn’t sexy. Corporal punishment isn’t sexy. Rape isn’t sexy, and it certainly isn’t entertainment. This book is utterly disgusting.
The story plot:
The main story goes like this: Damen is a prince and the heir to the throne of Akielos. But when the king dies, Damen is captured and bundled off to Vere, disguised as a slave, while his half brother takes the throne. Vere is an enemy to Akielos and Damen must continue pretending to be a slave if he wishes to live.
Enter Prince Laurent – heir to Vere and a pampered, spoiled and vindictive brat who becomes Damen’s new master. Laurent is extremely unlikable at first, but Pacat manages to successfully grow him into a well-rounded and eventually likable character.
Well, who needs plot anyways…
There are so many things wrong with Captive Prince, it’s hard to know where to start. I’m having trouble understanding how this book can be praised by so many people, especially by those who promote LGBT relationships in books, consider themselves feminists, and are outspoken against violence against women being used as a plot device.
I love seeing LGBT relationships in books, but the characters in Captive Prince are either sex slave owners or sex slaves themselves. Personally, I don’t think that’s the kind of “relationship” we should be promoting, regardless of whether it’s LGBT or not. I fail to see how a book with graphic same sex rape scenes is beneficial to the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign. We need positive portrayals of LGBT characters, yes, but we don’t need degrading ones.
There has been a lot of criticism in recent years of gratuitous sexual violence against women in books, movies, and TV shows, as it is both offensive and harmful to the feminist movement. But apparently sexual violence is only a problem when directed against women, while it’s fine to have graphic scenes that serve no purpose other than to “entertain” the reader, as long as men are the ones getting raped? (Although how someone could find these scenes entertaining is beyond me.) When I define feminism, I think of women being valued as highly as men and being treated with as much respect — not more.
Since I’ve seen people argue that the book isn’t that bad because the main character doesn’t actually get raped himself, I’d like to point out that forced oral sex is still rape. I’m not sure why this is such a hard concept, but my guess is that it’s connected to the fallacy that men can’t be raped in the first place. In Captive Prince, Damen has oral sex forced on him, and although he does have an orgasm, that doesn’t change the fact that, as a sex SLAVE, the act is in no way consensual. It is rape, any way you look at it. Orgasming does not equal consent, and that’s a dangerous idea to perpetuate.
“He didn’t reprimand Damen. He didn’t seem particularly displeased with barbaric behavior, as long as it was directed outward. Like a man who enjoys owning an animal who will rake others with its claws but eat peacefully from his own hand, he was giving his pet a great deal of license.
As a result, courtiers kept one eye on Damen, giving him a wide berth. Laurent used that to his advantage, using the propensity of courtiers to fall back in reaction to Damen’s presence as a means of extricating himself smoothly from conversation.
The third time this happened Damen said, ‘Shall I make a face at the ones you don’t like, or is it enough to just look like a barbarian?”
Rape isn’t the only thing trivialized by Captive Prince. I also find the portrayal of slavery quite offensive. As far as I can tell, all the kingdoms in C. S. Pacat’s world support slavery, and the slaves are used for sex. At one point, Damen compares slavery in his home country of Akielos to that in Vere, where he himself is a slave. According to him, slaves in Akielos know that they’re trading their personal freedom for “perfect treatment” by their masters, as if this somehow makes it okay. Not only that, but the life of a sex slave is glorified in the short story included in the paperback, which gives the background story of a minor character from the book. Claiming that slavery is “not that bad” because the slaves are “treated well,” they “enjoy their work,” and it’s “for their own good” is complete bullshit. That argument didn’t work when the U.S. had slaves, and it doesn’t work here. Just like rape is rape, slavery is slavery.
The first two thirds of the book essentially has no plot, but instead features explicit rape scenes, alludes to even more, and throws in a beating or two to mix things up. All of a sudden, C. S. Pacat seemingly changes her mind and decides she wants to write a real fantasy novel, rather than rape erotica. At this point, the book actually does become captivating — the good kind. The potential for a solid fantasy is definitely there, I found the book hard to put down despite my revulsion, and I can see why people are quick to let themselves “forget” how the story starts. Unfortunately, no amount of engaging plot or world building can make up for the rape and sexual slavery in the first two thirds of the book, nor can a slave owner suddenly become a believable love interest for the slave. I’m assuming that’s where the story is headed, at least: Laurent has a tragic back story; he’s not really a bad guy, he’s just misunderstood; he doesn’t actually rape his slaves himself but lets others do the raping for him; he secretly has feelings for Damen, etc. Let’s stop right there. Shipping Laurent and Damon is the equivalent of shipping a Nazi concentration camp guard with a Jewish prisoner. I know this is a current trend in the romance genre, but how much (justified) outrage has there been at these novels? I fail to see how the upcoming “romance” in the Captive Prince trilogy is any different, and to be honest, I’m horrified by all the praise it has received.
I’ve seen many reviews calling it a “slow burn” romance but I felt zero chemistry between our two princes. ZERO.
“Torveld favoured Laurent with another of those long, admiring looks that were starting to come with grating frequency. Damen frowned. Laurent was a nest of scorpions in the body of one person. Torveld looked at him and saw a buttercup.”
The fact that Captive Prince is being touted as a romance novel is the worst of a long list of faults and is incredibly insulting and insensitive to real victims of both rape and slavery.
I’m giving this book one star, but only because zero stars would make it look as if I just forgot to rate it.