March 11, 2014

Title: Death Sworn

Duology: Death Sworn,
Book One

Author: Leah Cypess ♠ @LeahCypess

Published:
March 4, 2014

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)

Pages: 352

Genre(s): Young Adult ♠ Fantasy

Source: Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads: When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 03/07/2014): 3.73

  • Christina thought this title had an interesting premise. It goes on her 3rd shelf.

**SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

 Initial Thoughts and Rating: Actual rating of 3.5 stars! The premise of this novel piqued my interest immediately. I mean, assassins, magic, betrayals, an all-knowing master, blurred lines between friend and foe and knowing who to trust, forbidden romances with purpose that didn’t come across as cliché… what’s not to love about some of the greatest aspects of the fantasy genre all in one book? Death Sworn was a good start to this new duology.

♠ The Lowdown: Ileni was raised within the Renegai– a powerful group of sorcerers that fled the Empire because they refused to practice black magic– with expected great promise to her people. Her magic was pure and powerful, and once she became of age, it was forethought that she would assume a role of higher position in the ranks among her community. However, as she grew older, her powers grew less and less. Now her powers were barely there and her ability to call on what little she had left was dwindling and left her faint. All but shunned from her community– losing her status, her purpose, and her secret love of another powerful sorcerer– Ileni was miserable. So, when she was asked to be the magic tutor for the most feared assassins in the Empire, Ileni accepted her new purpose with as much dignity as she had left. But she also had another mission while inside the mountainous caverns that provided shelter for her lethal students, find out what happened to the previous two tutors and whether their deaths were actually murder.

While residing in the caves, Ileni finds a different kind of strength in herself as she struggles to work out the loss of her magic and the deaths of her predecessors. She also learns to depend on a group of assassins that she never should be trusting, ones that challenge all her ideas and make her question everything she was ever taught about her magic, the Renegai’s reasonings, and what it means to be ready to sacrifice your life for a greater purpose.

My Thoughts: I really liked the way Cypess pulls the reader into the story, slowly and effortlessly letting the novel untangle itself around the characters and their roles until you’re completely immersed in her world without being aware that you’d fallen in so completely. Written in third person point-of-view, it’s easy to slip in and out of the key characters in the story, and though it’s cryptic at times, you realize how integral each storyline is to the overall plot as it all unfolds. I also enjoyed the slow build of the romance in the novel between Ileni and Sorin, how it was never over-the-top or all-consuming, but rather felt natural and believable in the depth of their devotion to one another.

While I liked the plot and was entertained throughout the entirety of the story, I kept waiting for something… more. There was lack of urgency in the pacing that I felt would have been better suited for this type of book. Not only that, but when the big reveal came, it seemed to fizzle and dud rather than make me gasp with astonishment. In fact, I had suspected the surprise from very early on, though I was unclear on what the reasoning behind it was going to be. (I would make an awesome detective.) More so, my biggest grievance with this novel comes with the lack of world-building. There were so many gray areas for me on how all these things came to be and we know very little about the world outside the caves’ walls. I felt like there was some wasted potential there, and that’s likely why my rating was lower than it should have been.

All that said, I was pleasantly surprised with the direction the ending took, and I expect a few of my issues with this novel will be rectified in the conclusion of this duology.

Rec It? Sure I would, for the occasional fan of fantasy. While some of the elements truly worked for me- namely the characters, the use of sorcery and assassins, and the kindling romance- I think the lack of world-building, one of the better aspects of all great fantasies, was sorely lacking. At any rate, I’m looking forward to the adventures that await us in the next and final book of the Death Sworn duology.

A very special thanks to Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for providing me with an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

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