Read back to back to back with the other two books, Kings Rising is a great series ender. All three books together create a massively compelling read. This is not a perfect book—there are actually some pretty big flaws up in here—but at least in terms of the emotional satisfaction possible to get from the story, I think Pacat really nails it here.
This trilogy consumed my life for the three to four day period I read it in. I know that time frame would have been shorter if I hadn’t foolishly tried to wait a couple of weeks before starting this book in order to prolong my enjoyment of the story (I only made it a day before caving). I’m glad I ended up giving in and doing all three in a row. It really enhanced the experience of the story, and I know I got even more sucked up into it than if I’d read them further apart.
Spoilers for the first two books to follow, please don’t read this review unless you want to get spoiled all to hell.
This is the endgame: Damen’s true identity as Damianos of Akielos has been revealed to everybody, and now that he’s no longer a slave, it’s up to him to decide how and when he’s going to take back his throne, and how much his plans will involve Laurent. (Spoiler alert: a lot. A lot a lot.) Not even the revelation that Laurent has known his true identity since the moment they first met will stop Damen from helping Laurent defeat his uncle, and in turn, take back his own throne. Damen holds one of Laurent’s forts with the help of a northern ally that is still loyal to him, and brings troops and resources to bear. He and Laurent make an alliance that both Veretians and Akielons balk at at first, and it takes a lot of work and finesse to make their alliance not only successful, but plausible. Neither side of this tentative alliance is happy at first, and that includes their two kings.
Now that the two men may finally meet as equals, the plot descends into this elaborate dance of politics mixed up with feelings, especially for Laurent, who struggles to allow himself to be vulnerable with Damen, and to maintain his composure and strength in the face of his uncle (it’s also finally revealed that, as many had guessed after the previous two books, after the death of his brother, Laurent was sexually abused by his uncle, which is also why he had such an affinity for poor Nicaise in the first book). Some of the resolutions do feel a bit sudden, but only a bit. As other reviewers have pointed out, the plot the retake the throne, Laurent’s emotional issues, even Damen’s hatred of slavery, are all resolved very quickly and neatly, if in a very exciting and dramatic fashion. Ultimately, though, it didn’t matter for me. (I still wish book one had made it more clear where Damen, and thus the author, stood on the subject of slavery and rape, instead of waiting until almost the end of the story.)
I think it’s to the book’s credit that I was just as compelled when the book was talking about things like leadership and earning loyalty as when Damen and Laurent were smooching.
Ultimately, I know I’ll be revisiting this series as a comfort read down the road the same way that I revisit all of my favorite love stories (and fantasy stories), and that’s really the best compliment I can give it.