4.5 stars. Spoiler free review.
Okay, if I thought the first book was good, this one absolutely blew my mind. I don't think I've ever been more attached to two completely ridiculously adoring characters as I am with Damen and Laurent.
First things's first: The Writing. Once again, C.S. Pascat did not let me down in terms of such beautiful writing and such wondrous descriptions. When I was reading this book, let me tell you, I felt like I was there. I could see every scene in my head to the point where I was sure that I was one of the soldier's in Laurent's army, watching the storyline unfold (well maybe not, but I like to imagine I was). More importantly, the characters grow with you while you're reading the book. I could see the way that Damen and Laurent's personalities changed and grew in Pascat's writing style, and not only that, but I saw the way that the minor characters each had their own character growth, whether it was small or large, occur throughout the course of the novel.
As for the story, well let me tell you I am in love. The way that Laurent and Damen went into the field together, strategising for a war that neither of them had initially planned on fighting, was just gorgeous. Honestly, I could go on and on about the character development in this novel because of the fact there is just So Much There. Laurent's coldness towards Damen completely transforms, and Damen's initial reactions to Laurent from the first novel completely morph into something that's less about protective animosity and more about true, honest caring. The lengths that these two have changed from Captive Prince has left me in awe still a month after reading the book. If I had the time right now, I'd delve right back into a reread because I want to watch their personalities change and expand once more.
To be fair, once again there were times where I felt the storyline lagged a little bit, which is the only reason that I knock half a star off of this book. Small points during their travels down to Ravenel left me a little bit bored, but the second that I started feeling like there was too much of a lull, things picked right back up. Scenes with Damen and Laurent carefully (or carelessly) eluding danger in towns and their trip into the mountains with an unlikely ally kept me on my toes and helped to drive away some of those sleepy bits of the book.
Overall, I came out of Prince's Gambit feeling two things. The first was OH MY GOD FINALLY and the second was HOLD ON THAT CLIFFHANGER WAIT WHAT????? To me, that's really all you need to know in order to pick this book up, especially if you loved the initial novel. I don't know how else to express just how much I adored this entire series, but most people say the second book is usually not as good as the first, and in this case I entirely disagree. Prince's Gambit was absolutely worth reading, and I'll admit wholeheartedly that King's Rising is too, but that I'll defend in another review. For now, all I have to say is what are you doing still reading this? Go pick up Prince's Gambit!