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.
Death Sworn by Leah Cypess tells the story of Ileni, a young sorceress who once was the most powerful in all of the Renegai, but has begun to slowly lose her powers. Deemed somewhat useless by her society, she is sent to become the new magic tutor for a clan of assassins that live deep within the cavernous mountains of God-knows-where. Her goal is to find out what happened to the last two tutors before her time runs out, and despite the trauma of losing, essentially, her identity in the form of magic, she’s determined that only her own death will stop her from solving the mystery.
I think the best way to sum up my feelings about Death Sworn is ‘hmmm’. I’m kind of conflicted, because this is one of those books where 75% of it was fascinating and suspenseful, but it then kind of takes a nosedive in the last quarter. I did enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but I wish that it could’ve finished off what started as a very strong run a little stronger.
Not a whole lot happens in the plot itself, which takes place entirely within the labyrinth of caves where the assassins live and train. I mean, stuff happens. And it’s definitely exciting and full of action! But sometimes it felt a little less like a complete story arc and more like a bunch of disjointed events as Ileni struggles to stay alive among the assassins from day to day. Still, it was interesting enough, and I devoured the book pretty quickly. Plus, when the killer was finally revealed, I’m happy to say that I definitely didn’t see it coming!
The characters themselves were decent, but nothing special. Ileni was most definitely a very strong girl, both mentally and physically. She did whine a lot, but to me it felt less like whining and more like a young person going through the traumatizing experience of losing something that was once a part of her soul and identity. Still, there were times when I wished she would maybe just…not lament over it quite as much? And on top of that, she could be SO fickle, oh my goodness. I couldn’t even count how many times she went back and forth between being certain that Sorin was going to kill her and being certain that he’d never touch a hair on her head. Ditto between having a death wish and not caring whether she lived or died, and deciding to seize the day and live life to the fullest. Also I still wasn’t sure at the end whether she was still in love with Terris, the guy she leaves behind, or not?? His entire role in the story felt a bit useless and unnecessary, honestly.
As a male lead, Sorin was okay, but I couldn’t help but feel that their romance seemed a bit sudden in some parts. There’s definitely no insta-love or anything like that, but the shift from “We are enemies, though admittedly I am starting to care for you” to “You are a babe, let’s make out” seemed a bit quick. And then ugh, don’t even talk to me about his character development. I had so much hope! He started off as a killer with zero remorse or feelings, and it was so sweet watching him gradually start to think for himself and open up with Ileni…but then the ending happened and I just…ugh. I liked him, don’t get me wrong, but there were a few parts when I wanted to bash my head into the wall.
All in all, my feelings are pretty mixed about this one. I think it definitely is worth a read, just because the world-building is pretty awesome and it’s full of enough fast-paced action that you’ll get sucked in pretty quickly, but it probably won’t be going into my favorites list.
Date of Publication: March 4, 2014