Author: C.S. Pacat
Rating: 3.5 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Purchased by Reviewer
Blurb: 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?
Review: Laurent knows Damen’s identity. Damianos doesn’t need to hide. Everyone knows and he’s got an Akielon army waiting for him. Damen is… relieved. He isn’t happy, but he’s relieved he’s no longer a slave. He’s got what he wanted. Then the politics start. Kastor and the Regent are still plotting against Laurent and Damen. Invariably, the Regent is always a disturbingly chilling 10 steps ahead. Because of course he is. What with him being pure evil. The Crown Prince of Vere and the rightful King of Akielos form an alliance. They are effective. They’re also really in love with each other and have no clue how to get past what they think they should be hurt about. Damen can’t get over his guilt, but he doesn’t have a lot of choices as they’re being manipulated into a showdown. What they need to do, is not fall into the traps set by the Regent. Unfortunately, the Regent has set a lot of traps.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this series and these books. The love story between Laurent and Damen is riveting. Seriously. I picked up the first book and wasn’t done until I put down the third book 5 days later. I couldn’t stop. And the flip side of that is I sent a lot of messages to friends detailing the things I felt to be plot holes, poor characterization, and even horrible choices of lube. Please, don’t break something to get to the oil inside. There will be shards of broken crockery/glass in the oil. That would be a poor life choice.
I felt the Regent was possibly one of the worst villains I’ve read in years. I didn’t find him at all compelling as he’s unmitigated evil. He’s like the big ball of black energy from The Fifth Element and Kastor is Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg inviting him in. The Regent does everything he can to steal Vere from Laurent, and we learn he’s also in the process of stealing Akielos. On top of all that he rapes children. There is no room for a moral dilemma with a character this evil. There is also less room for our heroes to be nuanced or have their own shades or streaks of grey. The Regent had to be stopped by any means necessary. End of story. I did like that both Laurent and Damen grappled with their own feelings of guilt in regards to each other, but at no point did they have to accept in each other something that just wasn’t right. Everything was justifiable, whether or not we knew it at the time.
So, throughout the series we’re both told and shown Laurent wins people’s hearts and minds. There are people who have hitched their wagon to the Regent, to be sure, but Laurent not only has the banner of the Crown Prince, he’s beautiful and can work a crowd like nobody’s business. As Laurent and Damen conquer the lands on either side of the border between Vere and Akielos we see this happen again and again. Laurent’s personality and their combined military might are an unstoppable force. Suddenly, the Regent is in Akielos. All this time the Regent has undercut Laurent by saying he’s in league with the Akielons. Then the Regent goes to Akielos. Laurent can’t go back to the Veretian capital and take control because the Regent’s loyalists are there. But Laurent wins everyone over wherever he goes. But the loyalists are in the capital. But Laurent wins everyone over. Yeah, that’s a big plot hole. Anyway, this move drives Laurent and Damen further into the Regent’s plans. Because the Regent knows everything. Until he doesn’t and then he’s executed for treason. Just like that. And that sudden change takes place over the course of about ten pages. I can’t really stress enough how disappointed I was by the characterization of the Regent and how it impacted the story. One thing I can say about the plot hole that drives Laurent and Damen into Akielos, I certainly didn’t see it coming.
So, I’ve complained and picked at things. I could go on, but I want to talk about what kept me reading. Laurent and Damen were fascinating. Damen’s need to protect his tormentor was interesting to see develop. Laurent’s reluctance to show vulnerability to the man who changed the course of his life for the worse was painful and beautiful. To see that both men needed to adopt traits of the other to become effective and fully rounded leaders was pretty cool. They completed each other. I actually found myself resenting they were stuck in a book with what I felt to be a ludicrous villain and mediocre world building. I don’t think I really cared that I predicted the big reveals of this book back in book one. Well, yes I did care, but, ultimately it was like a scenic drive when you know your final destination. It was still scenic.
Read these books. No, I’ve not rated any of them very high, and my reviews spend a lot of time picking them apart, but you need to read them. Really! I feel Laurent and Damen’s relationship makes everything worth it. Like a big family dinner and you know you’re only going to like one dish you’re served but you go anyway and just gorge on that one thing while you side eye the mashed turnips. (Yes, I just compared the books to a scenic drive and now a family dinner. I will use all the analogies, thank you!) I think it’s pretty obvious I had problems with the series, but I also think it’s pretty obvious I loved Laurent and Damen.