The Prince’s Captive by Celeste Baxendell (Runes of Pain and Peace Book 1)
Marcella’s only value is that she looks like her cousin, the clan heir. When her cousin has a vision about being captured on her way to unite the clans, she sends Marcella in her place. But Marcella’s captor isn’t what she expected. He wants peace, and doesn’t believe that torturing her is the way to get it. After a lifetime of living in fear of his people, can she really trust him?
Gavril wants peace more than anything, and he believes his captive is the answer. But when he discovers she’s not who she’s supposed to be, has he lost his chance? Or will he be able to convince her, and the king, that she’s not as worthless as she seems?
“Why hadn’t he told anyone she was worthless? Why was he still treating her like she wasn’t?”
These two seriously give me all the feels. Baxendell writes real, raw characters, and Gavril and Marcella live up to that reputation. Gavril is amazing, protecting Marcella even before he knows she’s not the enemy he’s after. Marcella just wants to live, but it’s hard to stand up to test after test when you have nothing to live for.
This book is packed with all the best tropes: Hidden identity; only one horse; he falls first; touch her and face the consequences; language barrier. I never knew these were my favorite tropes until now.
I loved the world-building. Roman-based cultures, each with similar beliefs, but different enough to think the other is heinous for how they deal with certain things. The language barrier is handled well, with both the reader and Marcella stressing over what hasn’t been understood.
The ending is a cliff-hanger, but the next book is due out in September so we don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens to these two. Because I NEED to know what happens to them!!
(Also, I’m going to need blond Liam Hemsworth cast as Gavril, mkay?)
5 Roses. Amazing. Baxendell knows how to write a compelling story that draws you in and doesn’t let go.
A few in-world swears, nothing major. There are in-world slurs implying certain things about the female prisoner.
No kissing, but there’s a hand-brushing moment worthy of the Darcy hand-flex.
Injuries, but not dwelt on in any gory detail. Minor scenes of torture; implications of abuse.
(Thank you to the author for the ARC of this book. This is my honest review.)