What do you write about a book which threw all that you thought you knew about the characters out the window, put you through an emotional wringer and ends on a cliffhanger that makes you want to pick the next book right that minute. And that’s exactly what I did. To say that I love this book would be an understatement.
The plot picks up right after the ending of Captive Prince. Damen and Laurent start off their journey towards the border knowing full well what they are going to find at the end. They have to navigate a haughty captain, incompetent soldiers, tricky terrain and mercenaries hell bent on killing them – and in the midst of all this also deal with their changing relationship.
We get to know Damon much better in this book now that he has a semblance of freedom. He is honest, loyal, straightforward, a strong warrior and a brilliant military strategist. He is a very honorable man and strives hard to keep his promise to Laurent about protecting him. He is a natural commander and succeeds in turning a ragtag bunch of scrappers into a loyal guard capable of defending their Prince. As he encounters various attempts on their life and destruction of entire villages, he realizes he has been a warmonger and responsible for so many deaths previously and slowly, a lot of his attitudes and prejudices towards the people of Vere change. He comes to respect the soldiers and view them as friends rather than his enemy. He also gradually gets to know Laurent better, figuring him out behind the walls that he has built up and discerns his true feelings for Laurent.
Laurent is a total revelation in this book. I really did think he had no redeeming qualities but through Damen, we see that he is so much more than the ice cold facade that he puts up for others. He is sly and slippery, his mind works on a whole other plane, he is a great political strategist and master manipulator. But he is also that little boy who loved reading books, worshipped his older brother and lost all his family in one day; a boy who had no one who loved him except his cunning uncle with ulterior motives – all of this made him grow up very fast, repress all his emotions and present this stoic image of a person always in control. But through his cautious friendship with Damen, he becomes aware of how much he wronged Damen,he begins showing these little vulnerabilities and starts growing into the kind of leader no one believes he is capable of being.
The way their relationship grows from reluctant allies to cagey friends to gentle lovers is a delight to read about. They are just awesome together and I couldn’t get enough. They tease each other, poke and prod and argue but also respect each other at the end of the day. Their friendly banter, their struggle to hide their attraction but unable to do so was so heartwarming. There are many amazing moments that they share, full of sexual tension which are unforgettable. Every time Damen wished that they had been in a different time where he could have courted Laurent made me feel so sad. And when Laurent said that he considered Damen to be as good a man as his brother, I was awed by his honesty and his character development.
*** Spoilers begin***
And then there is chapter 19… and my paperback also had an additional chapter 19 1/2 at the end… which just overwhelmed me with all kinds of emotions. Damen and Laurent know that they have just one night together, so when they make love, it’s beautiful, sweet and gentle, but also sad and bittersweet. They bare their souls to each other, see each other completely with all the flaws and insecurities, cherish the love they have. There is so much tenderness expressed in every thought, gesture and word, it just made my heart ache.
I read a lot of NA novels and have encountered many sex scenes before, but I have to commend the author here because she took a barbarian warrior and a scheming ice cold prince and showed us that they can fall in love and be so generous and caring towards each other. This book definitely has one of the best lovemaking scenes I have ever read.
The writing in this book overall gets so much better. Without all the triggering content from book one, the plot becomes more about the journey and uncovering the Regent’s subterfuge. There is a lot of action, moves and countermoves, betrayal and heartbreak and despair. Through this thriller of a ride, the author gives us great character development, forcing us to acknowledge how much they have changed and make us fall in love with them. And then came that ending…. it was so unexpected but also so much like Laurent and the amount of far reaching consequences it can have, just made me pick up King’s Rising in the next second.
All I can say at the end is if you read the first book, forget everything you felt about it and dive right into this one and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Damen was aware that what he was witnessing was nascent kingship, the first flexings of command of a prince born to rule, though Laurent’s brand of leadership – equal parts consummate and disturbing – was nothing like his own.
To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you are willing to give up.
Never had he wanted something this badly, and held it in his hands knowing that tomorrow it would be gone.
“I never questioned the way my father saw the world. It was enough for me to be the kind of son he was proud of. I could never bring shame to his memory, but for the first time I realize I don’t want to be….” His kind of King.
It was like being pleased by a thorn bush, feeling fond of every prickle.
It felt, in all the lies between them, as if this was the only true thing. It didn’t matter that he was leaving tomorrow. He felt remade with the desire to give Laurent this; to give him all he would allow, and to ask for nothing, this careful threshold something to be savored because it was all Laurent would let himself have.