‘But if he wins?’
TW: Sexual assault.
[I have also included a couple of screenshots of the sexual assault scene because I discuss my feelings on it, so please do not read this review / skip the WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE section if you feel the scene/my screenshots will potentially cause harm.]
So the final short story in the Captive Prince series almost divided the fandom. There were many of us who were dreading the final story, many of us who were irked at the chosen MC, and just as much who trusted in the author and were excited.
I was kinda ‘meh‘ about the whole thing. I trust in C.S. Pacat, but I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to returning to the toxic world of the first book in the series, which this final short story does.
But I still read it, because it’s the last book in the Captive Prince series and that series means more to me than anything.
WHAT I LOVED
No one was more surprised than me when I fell in love with the MC, Ancel. We all remember Ancel, right? A Pet from the first book, Captive Prince, who flirts with the R*gent … and participates in sexually assaulting Damen (on Laurent’s orders, although Damen blamed Ancel for the incident).
So yeah, you can see why I was a little apprehensive about reading a four-chapter story from his perspective, but, my god, the guy was awesome. I love his ambition, how he knows want he wants in life and will do anything to achieve it. He starts the short story as a prostitute and rises to the position of a Lord’s lover, or ‘Pet’.
When I first read Captive Prince, I thought Ancel had been at court for years, but as we learn in Pet, Ancel had just arrived with his ‘master’, Berenger.
Speaking of Berenger, I LOVED THAT GUY. Seriously, he is now one of my favourite characters of the series, and I can’t believe how talented a writer C.S. Pacat is that she can make a reader fall in love with two characters in the span of 40 pages.
We don’t know much – or anything – about Berenger in the only book he makes an appearance in, Captive Prince. He’s just a Lord of the court, and I never got the impression that he was a supporter of Laurent, although I did squeal in happiness when that’s made apparent in Pet.
Most of all, I loved the budding relationship between Berenger and Ancel. When Ancel first becomes Berenger’s Pet, Berenger declines Ancel’s sexual advances, claiming that he just needs someone on his arm when he goes to the royal palace in Arles. Ancel is pretty happy to just mooch off of Berenger’s money without performing sexually for him – like the ultimate version of sugar daddy we would all love to have – but slowly, very slowly, they come to care for one another.
I love how Ancel doesn’t even realise he’s falling for Berenger, but the reader can tell. It’s something Pacat is extremely talented at doing – when Damen clearly fell in love with Laurent but the giant animal didn’t know!
I did enjoy the few instances we see Damen and Laurent (not including THAT scene), especially the frequent mentions of how muscly and big Damen is, and how Laurent wears severe clothing.
Also, HI NICAISE! I missed that cutie, and reading him again had me tearing up.
AND, perhaps the best thing for me, is that Pet showed that not everyone was happy with the R*gent, and that Laurent had many more supporters than we thought. The R*gent’s disgusting court was actually despised by many of the nobles, and many of them could see the R*gent for who he actually was.
Although I don’t think we should have ended with this story, I did enjoy how the entire series came full circle with Ancel’s final line, ‘But what if he wins?’
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I.E. JUST THAT SCENE
Did we really need to reread the scene in which Ancel – and by proxy, Laurent – assault Damen, but through Ancel’s perspective?
Honestly, the whole scene came across as titilating, when it very much isn’t.
In my opinion, Pacat attempted to ‘make amends’ for the original scene in Captive Prince by rewriting this scene. If you’ll notice, despite that fact that Ancel had been performing fallatio on Damen, Damen only gets aroused once he hears Laurent’s voice and Laurent sits beside him.
The entire scene reads as though Damen and Laurent are ‘challenging’ one another, and that the scene is supposed to be tense and dramatic as they make eyes at each other; perhaps it is also setting up for Laurent and Damen’s eventual romantic development?
I’m not really sure?? But what I am sure of is that Pet is trying to tell us that we’re supposed to blame Ancel for this event, not Laurent.
I don’t think we can fully blame just Ancel for this assault, which the story is trying so hard to do. I think Laurent can be equally blamed because he was the one who ultimately made the decision to okay it. You know how in The Summer Palace, Laurent apologised for having Damen whipped by attending him? Yeah, Laurent should have also apologised for having him sexually assaulted (although one can make the argument that Laurent, by attending Damen, was apologising for everything in the Arles palace, but idk.) 😐
I kinda understand why Pacat included the scene – it’s one of the only scenes in which Ancel is in in Captive Prince and it’s a pretty big one too, so omitting it from his story might be strange, plot-wise?? Especially because the story is set from Ancel’s perspective, and we are following along with what happened to Ancel during Captive Prince sooooo … It makes sense in a ‘literary’ sense, if you will, but I also think Pacat has a duty to protect her readers and shouldn’t have included this scene, and especially not romanticise it. I think Pacat knows how upset many people were with Ancel being chosen as MC, because we all kinda of expected this scene to come up again, so surely she would have known how people would have felt with the inclusion of the scene.
To me, it feels like fanfiction non-con and I’m not here for it, but I’m also not about to dictate what an author can or can’t write in her own books. Feel free to disagree with me – this is just my opinion, and we all read text differently. I personally would have loved the story to end with a flash-forward to their present where we can see how the Pet system has been abolished, and all the amazing changes Laurent undoubtedly would have made to his uncle’s gross court.
- Ancel lying about being a virgin TWELVE TIMES
- Ancel securing business trades by sleeping with people
- ANCEL HAS LONG HAIR – LAURENT DOESN’T BUT ANCEL DOES (I will fight you if you say Laurent has long hair)
- ANCEL IN THE GODDAMN RING PRETENDING TO HAVE SEX WITH A LORD – EVERYONE WAS FREAKING OUT, WHAT A DRAMA QUEEN
- ‘You’d be my first’ – sound familiar?
- ‘I’VE HAD BETTER’ – ANCEL YOU BITCH
- Ancel moulding himself and his personality into someone he thinks Berenger would be attracted to.
- ANCEL DRESSING IN A PLAIN SHIRT AND PANTS AND BERENGER LIKE 😳
- Berenger teaching Ancel how to ride a horse
- ANCEL PRENTENDING TO READ
- Berenger being a really good Lord – knowing his people’s names, helping them with buying stuff, and helping in birthing their animals.
- Ancel trying to get Berenger to wear something other than brown
- Courting in the gardens
- ANCEL DISTRACTING EVERYONE WITH THE FIRE STICK SO BERENGER CAN TALK TO HERODE
- NICAISE 😭
- THE ENTIRE FUCKING KISSING SCENE 😍
- Ancel getting JEALOUS
- Lady Vannes protecting Berenger
- Despite THAT scene, I love how we’re constantly reminded how big Damen, and his dick, is ,,, like WE GET IT!
- ANCEL PROTECTING BERENGER IN FRONT OF THE R*GENT
- Berenger supporting Laurent and trying to protect Ancel
- Ancel finding out the real reason Berenger wanted to break their contract
Berenger: ‘You look handsome.’
‘What is it?’
‘Your first gift,’ said Ancel, with a sweet smile, coving the stirrings of victory. ‘My lord.’
Ancel nodded and half listened while Berenger said—blah blah the Prince, blah blah the alliance with Akielos—
‘Well, I’m going to need a lot more jewels,’ Ancel said, his annoyance returning with a snap. ‘I know you like boring young men in cotton shirts, but I can’t wander around the palace looking like this.’
‘Do you even like horses?’
‘I can’t read,’ said Ancel.
‘I see,’ said Berenger.
Perhaps the reason Berenger had no lover was that he was too tired, after meeting every person in the province, and memorising all of their names.
‘The court,’ Berenger began to explain to him, two days before they departed, ‘is very different, the entertainments can be—debauched—’
‘I’ve seen pets fucking before,’ said Ancel. ‘I am a pet. Remember? I’ll cover your eyes if you’re shocked.’
‘Luxury suits you,’ remarked Berenger.
‘I think so too,’ said Ancel, in blissful agreement.
Berenger then knelt for the Prince, who was standing to the left of the throne, a severe young man in harsh clothing.
Lord Orsin stopped by and requested an introduction, bowing low as he took Ancel’s hand and saying, ‘I see Berenger’s landed one to watch.’
‘Whatever you’ve heard,’ said Ancel, ‘I was better.’
‘I’d sleep with you right now. I might even enjoy it for once.’ He stopped.
‘High praise,’ said Berenger, dryly.
‘Of course, with you, I’d—’
‘Oh, of course,’ said Berenger.
‘In the poem, the lover is given only a single flower.’
‘What a terrible gift. I’d much rather have jewellery,’ said Ancel, wrinkling his nose. ‘Or clothes. Even the horse was better.’
Berenger’s mouth quirked, his eyes shifting from the flowers, amused and warm. ‘Yes, you’re a little more expensive.’
‘I think,’ said Berenger, ‘that the only person in this place who shows me their real face is you.’
Berenger was beginning to frown. Ancel thought, with a burst of irritation, I know you don’t want to, but can’t you just pretend? How hard was it? Ancel pretended all the time.
His lips were tingling from kissing Berenger, and that didn’t seem to make sense.
The kiss deepened. Ancel closed his eyes. He could imagine exactly what Berenger liked, lovemaking in the dark with a young man in a plain shirt. If they ever—Ancel would have to feign at least a degree of innocence, physically experienced but emotionally unprepared, looking up at Berenger and saying it’s never been like this before.
He imagined that: imagined Berenger kissing him in private. A strange shaky feeling grew in him. Berenger would kiss with the same seriousness as he was now, he probably fucked like that too, strong and steady.
‘I’m the best pet at this court.’
The Prince’s slave stayed where he was, with the air of one tolerating an intrusion that would be gone soon. — OMFG DAMEN, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE INCONSPICUOUS!!
‘A whole night with the Regent?’ Ancel twirled the stick. ‘Aren’t you jealous?’
‘I’m not jealous,’ said Nicaise. ‘You’re old.’
‘How do you know about any of that?’
‘Just because I like nice things, and don’t read the boring books you like, doesn’t mean I’m stup—’
‘This isn’t a game, Ancel.’
‘Why would I hate you? You’ve always been honest with me. You never tried to hide what you were.’
‘A whore,’ said Ancel.
Berenger didn’t argue. Berenger didn’t say anything at all, just looked back at him. Ancel lifted his chin.
‘So what if I am? I’m not ashamed of it. I’m good at it. I can make men want me.’ His voice felt raw. ‘It just doesn’t work on you.’
‘It works on me,’ said Berenger.
It was Berenger who spoke. ‘When I saw you in the ring, I thought you were incredible. You were fearless, powerful. You took on every lord in the room, and beat them. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.’
And, my favourite:
‘But what if he wins?’