Unexpected and brutal and funny and heartbreaking and smart. Everything we expect from this series, topped with feelings. Warning: Here be spoilers!
An advance reading copy of this book was generously provided by Penguin Random House via Netgalley.
I have been waiting YEARS for this day. Well, not years. But a long time. And yes, nowhere near as long as others (I’m looking at you, original fans). But dear lord, when Kings Rising was delivered to my Kindle courtesy of the publisher, I sank to my knees and said a word of thanks. The formatting may be a bit shit (it’s a Netgalley copy, but the real thing has already been released???) and it came after I had the chance to buy it, but hey, it’s here in my hands and who the hell cares about anything else.
Kings Rising by CS Pacat is about Damen and Laurent reclaiming their rightful thrones. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. But oh oh oh, it’s so much more. The book picks up straight after the Prince’s Gambit ends, with the Nikandros kneeling at Damen’s feet and the Veretians at Ravenal hearing the name Damianos echo through the crowd. It’s really difficult for me to think of these books as three separate entities when they’re so cohesive, they scream of their internet serial origins.
Anyway, this book takes us from Vere to Akielos and again, Pacat takes us on a mothereffing journey. The world building, as usual, is flawless. Akielos has blue seas and white buildings and in my mind, it’s Greece, and ughhh, so vivid. But I’m left in awe of her style more than anything. Like, it’s so good I just feel lucky that I get to experience her writing?
The relationship between Laurent and Damen is taken to new levels in this final instalment of the series — and thankfully so. The previous books were a lesson in UST (unresolved sexual tension), and reading them was the most beautifully painful thing I’ve ever experienced. Until Kings Rising. Previously, we saw the world through Damen’s eyes. We experienced his heartbreaking naiveté and noble spirit. We saw him grapple with his feelings for Laurent, and in return, we saw the rigid control of Laurent thaw as the two became confidantes. After Prince’s Gambit, they’ve finally made love and though that may have slaked their lust (and ours, kinda but not really), nothing is settled. We have a terrified Damen who hates that he’s lied to Laurent, and we have a Laurent who is so keenly intelligent that of course he knows.
YES. LAURENT KNOWS.
Because how could he not?
And even though we knew/strongly suspected, Pacat still manages to surprise us. She does the reveal in such a beautiful, heartwrenching way that you’re left breathless. It’s so starkly simple but laden with FEELINGS. Classic Captive Prince. There were these moments between them that I had to stop reading to just process what was happening. It was overwhelming bearing witness to their relationship as they battled wills. They would weaponise the other’s words, taking phrases from their most vulnerable moments and lash out at the other. But they were words that meant something to US so it hurt all the more to see them do it. And then when they finally decided that fighting each other was useless, it became too much to bear.
Damen tells Laurent, ‘I think if I gave you my heart, you would treat it tenderly.’ And Laurent responds, ‘When you make love to me like that, I can’t think.’
But this is what Pacat does. She takes these sweet, sweet moments and makes them unbearable because she has this killer style that is so stark but so evocative at the same time. She can make you need to take a break just by saying, ‘He flushed, hard.’ Because Laurent having an uncontrollable physical reaction is IMPORTANT. There’s this bit when Laurent comforts Damen (!!!!!) and all of a sudden, they’re hugging but the word is never used but they’re pressed against each other and hugging isn’t a word that suits Laurent but the moment is all the more effective for it. I just don’t know any other author who can make me freak out with a simple ‘Hello, lover.’ She is unexpected and brutal and funny and heartbreaking and smart and the books just exemplify how sharp she is.
And like the transition from Old Skool romance to New Skool, with an unattainable and enigmatic hero, we get the same transition in Kings Rising. Where we had previously viewed Laurent only through Damen’s eyes, now we get a glimpse into the diamond-bright mind of Laurent.
Except it’s a tease. We get a hint of who he is before he’s taken away behind the silk screen of Damen’s lust/love. I loved not only witnessing the rigid control but EXPERIENCING it. Seeing exactly how Laurent manages to measure his actions and reactions. We always think of Damen as strong, you know, because he’s so physically amazing. But it’s not a word I had applied to Laurent before. Clever, beautiful, wicked, fast, resilient — sure. But this book shows us his true strength and how much he can resist and has been through to become the ice Prince of Vere. It shows just how much that ice-prince image is cultivated, and that really, Laurent is a twenty-year old who has been forced to adapt to changing circumstances and Damen is the only person he can allow himself to trust. Kings Rising escalates this to another level.
It’s these brief moments away from Damen where we realise how much of a beautiful, innocent butterfly Damen really is. When he finds out about Laurent’s history with his uncle, his reaction is huge. But as readers, we’re sitting here asking, How the hell could you not know? And then his blind trust in people. Like, what the hell dude? Has Laurent taught you nothing?? But he’s our big, naïve barbarian and we love him for it. And what a blessing it is that our big, naïve barbarian likes to get sweaty when he’s mad/confused/anxious/sad/happy. The first few chapters are Damen basically dealing with his unrequited love and lust by taking off his clothes and fighting imaginary opponents. And all of this delicately sets up the scene where his boyfriend comes in and is all, Fight me, big boy, and they fight and it’s so angry and hot and beautiful and sad.
Anyway, 1200 words later and I still haven’t managed to do this book justice. There’s no question that Kings Rising lives up to the previous two books — they’re so seamless that it’s just a continuation that only gets better. My only complaint is that the book was so short. I’m so so sad to say goodbye to these two boys. (Yes, boys. Laurent is 20!!!). Books that make me feel like this are pretty rare so I think I’m just going to reread it…nothing else will come close until CS Pacat releases another book. So thank you, Ms Pacat, for this amazing look inside your mind because it looks like a killer place to be.
PS Can we please start a petition asking CS Pacat to write and release a scene where Damen bottoms for the first time? Please? Because there’s a moment…a part of the book…where….oh god, I can’t even talk about it! (sobs)
PPS You have to forgive me for the previous PS because, for real, I tried to keep this review real clean even though all I wanted to talk about was Laurent………….kneeling…………………… in front of Damen……………….
Content advisory: Overwhelming feelings!