I’ve been reading online fiction since it was a thing, and I don’t mean ebooks. Like most of my friends, I started with fanfiction, and then found the absolute wealth of stories people post online. The thing is, if you were looking for any kind of m/m romance in the late 90s/early 2000s, that was basically your only option. Gay fiction was “literature”, and definitely not romantic. Frequently dealing with social issues, the AIDS epidemic, and other gay-specific issues, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted actual romance novels, just with a hero and a hero instead of a hero and a heroine. M/M romance didn’t really take off until closer to 2005, and even then, it was fairly slow and definitely niche to start with. You have no idea just how happy I am that it has taken off as a genre of its own, with amazing authors getting well-deserved recognition.
I’m adding C.S. Pacat to that list of amazing authors, and I am so glad that the Captive Prince series has turned into such a success story. I remember first reading it not long after it started – I think I even still had a livejournal account at that point!
For those that aren’t familiar, here’s the summary of Captive Prince, the first book in the series:
“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.
Overall, the story follows Damen as he is enslaved and abused, as he becomes a valuable member of Laurent’s household, and ultimately becomes free once more. The story is more than just the two men involved, it’s the story of two countries, political intrigue, and an ongoing war. And it’s fascinating. What I really enjoyed was watching the relationship between the two main characters evolve, and it’s really interesting how, as Damen spends more time with Laurent, the reader also sees more behind the prince’s cultivated mask. This trilogy is one of the truest I’ve read a while in third person – the reader gets only what Damen sees and experiences. Laurent “looked amused” not “was amused.” Brilliant.
There are a lot of explicit or sensitive topics involved – I mean, slavery, including sexual slavery, is a major part of the different societies, not to mention the violence of war – but nothing is gratuitous or out of place. Pacat has built a world where the different countries have different views of fighting, slavery, and sex, and it all works well together.
Now for King’s Rising – after re-reading the entire series, the finale is like coming home. There’s so much going on, and I love that it doesn’t lay everything out as finished. It gives the reader room to imagine what happens next in this world, with enough of a hint to see where the author is coming from, and where our heroes seem to be heading. Plus, I get my happily ever after. And what more do you want from a romance?
Something amazing about online fiction in general, and the Captive Prince in particular, is the fandom that can grow up around it. Captive Prince has some of the best fanart I’ve seen for books since Harry Potter. Usually, literature that gets fanart is something massively popular, like, as I said, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings. The internet is full of amazing creators, and the community that built up around the first two parts of the Captive Prince series created some lovely works (here and here are two examples). There’s even fanfiction for the series!
Have you read any of this series before? Or anything similar? What about online fiction? Any other success stories you’ve heard of?
Buy it at Amazon