Book Review: The Summer Palace by C.S. Pacat

Guys, we need to talk about this book–this epilogue to the freaking fantastic Captive Prince series. It was so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so good. Everything I had been hoping and waiting for. I got up at 5:50am this morning so I could read this beauty that I had pre-ordered. Boy was I NOT disappointed.

Pacat’s writing is gorgeous. Honestly, it’s truly a work of art. I could practically taste the summer palace atmosphere on my tongue when reading her prose. And Damen. Laurent. OMGOISDLKJFSOIEWRRRRR.

Let me back up. If you haven’t read The Captive Prince, The Prince’s Gambit, or Kings Rising, stop every single thing you’re doing right now and go read those books. You won’t be sorry. The series is one of my top favorites of all time and I’m willing to bet it will be one of yours. What follows will include spoilers, so you’ve been warned.

This epilogue picks up (most likely) several months after the end of Kings Rising. Damen’s stomach wound has healed, Laurent has done an admirable job shoring up their kingdoms and their cultures are beginning to mix. Damen arrives at the Summer Palace to find Laurent waiting for him–Laurent having been waiting breathlessly and watching the road for Damen’s arrival.

What follows is a beautiful dance of memory and touch and gossamer feelings. Fluff. Lots and lots of precious, adorable, much-needed fluff after the rip-your-heart-out ride that was the main series. Everything in this short story felt needful and necessary. Each word, each remembered incident, each moment. Some of my favorite quotes were:

“Are you courting me?” said Damen. He felt foolish with happiness. He knew courtship was new to Laurent, didn’t know why it felt so new to himself. “I haven’t done this before,” said Laurent.


Having made the decision to let Damen in, Laurent had not gone back on it. When the walls went back up, it was with Damen inside them.


It was so close to his own thoughts– that everything he knew was gone, but that this was here in its place, this one bright thing.

TEARS. I mean, come on. How can you read those and not stumble over yourself to get to this book???

It was such a sweet, glorious ending to such an incredible series. It showed so much tenderness and care between Damen and Laurent that I was left speechless. These two have been through so much together and it was a joy to see them able to heal and relax together after such a hard journey.

I am very much looking forward to the next short story to come our way and to more of C.S. Pacat’s work in general.

In case you’re interested, my review of The Captive Prince series.

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Series Review: The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat


Okay, you’ve been sufficiently warned.

We need to talk about these books. I finished them last month, but I have needed some transition time to ponder and marinate in them a bit. These books were I  one word, breathtaking.



Some people are opposed to the term, but for these books I feel it is very important to highlight the various triggers present. There are several present that may disturb or upset you.

Slavery: If you have problems with depictions of slavery, including sex slavery, be warned that there is ample representation of this in these novels. They are not, however, glorified in any way. The author does an excellent thing job (through the main character) of showing disgust for how slaves are treated in Vere.

Non-consentual sex: This speaks for itself, but be warned that there is abuse and hints at abuse in these books. Again, not glorified, but some may find this ubiquitous. It goes to prove the base debauchery of this culture and its lack of regard for human equality.

Graphic Violence: In my opinion, this isn’t ubiquitous either, but serves to illustrate the cruelty of certain characters and how damaged they truly are.


BOOK ONE REVIEW : The Captive Prince

4 Stars (though 4.5, truth be told)

Not gonna lie, this book starts off pretty brutal. There are some major trigger warnings here (mentioned above) including sexual abuse. However, this book reminded me greatly of the debauchery of Rome and all the ways people were used as slaves in the past. It was despicable. The book did not glorify these things, as I said. It fully pointed out how depraved such acts are.

The main character is likeable. The antagonist was extremely complex with hints of a damaged past. The only reason I knocked off a star was because some of the more explicit material was difficult for me to get through, not because I wasn’t completely glued to it. This book was one of the hardest reads I’ve ever done, but it was so, so worth it for its complexity, dignified beauty, and hope for our main character’s plight even when it seems so hopeless.

Our main character is Damen–a prince who through political machinations becomes a slave to the crown prince of Vere (a neighboring, fierce nation who is at odds with Damen’s own). He is horrifically treated, particularly in the beginning, and the prince of Vere, Laurent, proves to be a cruel and calculating master.

Laurent’s country is currently ruled by his uncle the regent. Throughout the course of story, we receive hints of a difficult past between the two. Not least of which is the regent’s desire to see Laurent fight at the border between Vere and Damen’s kingdom.

Book 1 ends with the full indication that Laurent and Damen are headed for a possibly fatal battle.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and could do nothing during my days except think deeply about this horrific, painfully beautiful, utterly engaging read.

I started Book 2 immediately after Book 1.


BOOK TWO Review : The Prince’s Gambit

5 Stars

HOLY…oh my gosh. This book. This is easily one of my favorite books EVER. I just can’t even do it justice. READ IT. READ THIS SERIES NOW.

In all seriousness, though, this book was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever come across. It dealt with very difficult themes in a masterful way. This was truly the best example of slow-burn and the hard road to recovery after abuse that I’ve ever seen. Consent was dealt with in such a way that I was in awe.

Damen and Laurent dealt with so much hardship in this novel and the subtext of their attraction that built in book 1 blossomed into something deep and meaningful in this second installment that I was lost for words.

Here we find Damen and Laurent on the road to the border, preparing various plans and tactics for the battles ahead. Surprisingly, Damen chooses to often willingly help Laurent with his strategies and the two grow closer during their extended time together.

We begin to see the nascent beginnings of the sort of king Laurent could be if given the chance. Damen begins to view him in a new light. I fell completely in love with Laurent in this book, you guys. I just wanted to hold him and promise him that the world is still beautiful–just as Damen does in his own way.

Book 3 had to come immediately after I finished Book 2. I couldn’t possibly wait.


BOOK THREE : Kings Rising

5 Stars

By the time I read this book, Damen and Laurent’s story had claimed its place among my all-time favorite series. It is a story of struggle, war, and overcoming impossible odds. I was rooting for them every step of the way. It will definitely be a series to reread countless times in the years to come.

In this book, we have Damen stepping back into his role as Damianos–crown prince of Akielos. Damen is intensely afraid of how Laurent will react to knowing his true identity, but we come to learn that Laurent has known the entire time (as I suspected even in book 1). The two are drawn into an all-out border war between Vere and Akielos. We learn that the Regent has been colluding with the imposter “king” of Akielos to undermine both Damen’s and Laurent’s claims to their respective thrones.

It becomes a race against the clock to overcome the challenges set by the Regent’s men and save both their countries from ruin. Damianos and Laurent end up somehow beating the odds and working together to save not only their countries, but themselves.

I was completely done in by this book. It has a happy ending–one that will no doubt send you into fits of tears. I don’t want to give anything further away.

Just do yourself a favor right now. Go buy all three books and get to reading. Help support the work of C.S. Pacat — one of the finest modern authors I’ve found.



This book taught me a lot about perseverance through terrible trials. It taught me how a cruel, damaged human being can become a redeemed man. It taught me more about love and life and sorrow and heartache and resolution than many a book in recent memory. I hope that you enjoy this series as much as I did. I can’t wait to reread it again some day.

Find the series on Amazon and most other places books are sold.