I'm having trouble writing this review because I have so many conflicting feelings about it. Though this book doesn't have a lot of hype surrounding it currently, I knew going in that lots of people love it but it also has it's fair share of haters. I also knew enough about the triggering content, so I went in with an open mind and I think that definitely helped.
This is a world where all kingdoms have slaves, the only difference being how they are treated by their masters. Pleasure slaves are the norm, with their ages being as young as thirteen. Rape is used as a performance for the entertainment of the nobility. Court intrigue is at it's finest. Every word has layers beneath it. There is no loyalty and betrayal seems to be lurking everywhere.
The best part of the book are the two main characters. Damen is very much out of his depth initially, a prince betrayed by his half-brother and gifted as a slave to the enemy. Being the personal pleasure slave of Prince Laurent is not easy, considering he hates the kingdom of Akielos and it's prince Damianos more than anything. Laurent is also very cunning, brutal, selfish, an expert at wordplay and always three steps ahead of everyone. Throughout his enslavement, Damen has to navigate this pit of vipers, keeping his identity a secret and figure out any possible opportunities for escape.
Both these characters are very captivating to read about. None of them are really good but Damen has some empathy towards his people and definitely displays some morals when forced to fight or violate others younger or weaker than him. Laurent frankly has no redeeming qualities but his scheming mind is just so fascinating. The development of their relationship from brutal enemies to reluctant partners who need to keep each other alive for the sake of their kingdoms is very engaging and I can't wait to read more of their interactions.
The writing throughout the book is very gripping. The plot is intriguing, very fast paced despite there being no action sequences. Sometimes, the author tries to use very obscure and complicated words which didn't really enhance the experience for me and I was able to enjoy the story better once I stopped googling them. I also feel guilty for liking this book which has so much violence, gore and inhumane treatment of people but I also can't deny the fact that I finished it in a single sitting, without once getting up from my couch. And I'm so looking forward to see how the romance angle will be established because currently, it's difficult to picture Damen and Laurent as anything other than possible friends.