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Wednesday Reading

I finished reading Captive Prince: Volume One and Captive Prince: Volume Two by S. U. Pacat in the last week and enjoyed them quite a bit, particularly the shameless moments of homage to Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond chronicles, both in Prince Laurent's general aspect and in a couple of specific moments; Damen, the pov character, is luckily for him no Jerott Blythe. It has that classic fannish slash dynamic of slender blond hero and large muscly olive-skinned hero, and big guy being subject to the whims of little guy. I was also reminded of a Carol Berg trilogy that begins with Transformation - in that one, the Prince has red hair and the slave is from a species? human type? who have magic, but it's been stripped from him because his people were conquered. Like Damen, despite being captive he has amazing fighting ability. It's a more complex portrayal, however, since the slave aspect and the conquered peoples aspect are treated in more depth (the three books are huge epic fantasy size), and there's no physical relationship between the main characters, only a very intense sort-of friendship.

Be forewarned that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and there's no date yet for volume three. However, spoiler and speculations and gender thoughts:



Spoiler:
For those of you who are worried, Damen and Laurent do get to have sex before the cliffhanger at the end of Volume Two.

Speculation:
It seems pretty clear to me that Laurent was sexually abused as a child by his uncle the Regent. It would be a cool twist if he actually wasn't, and all those hints mean something else.

I also thought that maybe Nicaise, the Regent's current toy, might be an illegitimate sibling of Laurent's, though it would work just as well if Laurent just recognized himself in the boy. If they were siblings, though, that would go with the whole twisted psychology of Dunnett. Otherwise, is Nicaise just a bit Marthe?

Thoughts on Gender:
Laurent's size and aspect would seem to make him fill a female role, if you go with the idea that slash has one man "played" by a woman. However, he's in a position of power like a male in our society, and is also very pale-skinned, blond, blue-eyed, while Damen's country is considered backward, his skin is darker (though not brown), he's a kinder person in general and openly protective towards children and slaves, and he's less intelligent, though to be fair everyone is less intelligent than Laurent because he is Lymond. For those reasons, Damen could be considered to be "female." I like the way both characters have both female and male elements in how they behave, in how they present themselves, and in how we're invited to think of them. I haven't figured this all out yet, if indeed there is anything to figure out beyond "here is a story, read and enjoy."

There's also a lot going on with submission as a role (Damen as a slave waiting for a chance to escape, making choices to help Laurent), the slaves in Damen's country who are trained to be "perfectly submissive" in both sex and everything else, and with Laurent needing help from Damen at various points.

I'll be thinking about this for a while.



I'm partway through my re-read of Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler for the WisCon Xenogenesis panel - this one has a lot in it about slavery and power, in the ways the child protagonist is vulnerable to adults even though he has alien abilities. And also themes of survival: the humans whose descendants will be physically changed are contrasted with the humans who want purely human offspring, but who are prevented from reproducing by the aliens.

Next up in a book for anonymous review which I can't tell you about.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
sartorias
Apr. 17th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
I think that Laurent and Damen are guys from the female gaze, very much so. So gender signals are mixed--the Lymond analog has to be cruel, tough, blah de blah but we get plenty about his pretty eyes, pretty hair, eyelashes, slender wrists, etc.
thistle_chaser
Apr. 17th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
Woot! Transformation looks really good, ordered! Hopefully by the time I start reading it, the third book will be out.
oracne
Apr. 17th, 2013 03:43 pm (UTC)
The Berg trilogy has the advantage of being complete! Not sure if they're all out in e-book, though. My copies are paper.

Berg is a dab hand with char-torture.
thistle_chaser
Apr. 17th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
Oh! I misread. Great! The first one is in ebook format, so I'd guess the others would be as well.

I do enjoy character torture. (Which feels like an odd thing to write...)
oracne
Apr. 18th, 2013 12:20 pm (UTC)
Me, too. An excellent tortuous standalong Berg is SONG OF THE BEAST.
thistle_chaser
Apr. 18th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks! *grabs a copy*
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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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