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Monday, June 2, 2014
Death Sworn
by Leah Cypess


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.


Review: I've been a fan of Leah Cypess's writing since her 2009 release Mistwood, and picked up Death Sworn expecting interesting world building, intrigue, a subtle romance, and a hint of magic. On most of these points, Death Sworn did not disappoint. 

We follow Ileni, a sorceress who has had her life torn away from her with the loss of her magic. Resigning herself to banishment and certain death in the assassin's caves, she wavers between fatalistically accepting her fate and struggling to survive another day. Surrounded by enemies, her main companion is Sorin, the handsome assassin assigned by his master to protect her while she performs her duties. Sorin views the Assasin's Caves as his salvation from a life on the streets and is devoted to the master of assassins and his cause: the destruction of an evil empire. It's not surprising they have romantic chemistry. 

I felt this relationship was pretty well done. Sorin does not get out much and lives in a cave: his primary contact with the outside world involved killing his assigned target. Ileni is literally  the first woman he's been around in a while. Ileni is in constant fear from the threatening people all around her, with the handsome Sorin the only one who's invested in keeping her alive. They have belligerent sexual tension from the start. The interesting part is the clash of their very different world views: Ileni's pacifism versus Sorin's belief the ends justify the means. 

As far as world building, Cypess avoids the pitfall of excessive exposition dump by filling in the backstory of the world in bits and pieces : Ileni reflects on the life she lost among the magical Renegai and Sorin mentions the empire as the source of their targets. This and the fact that the book is set entirely in the Assasin's Caves prevents a more extensive view of this original world and left me wanting more. The plot, while starting strong with an endangered Ileni with a murder mystery, drags towards the middle as she abandons the case to focus on hiding the rapid disappearance of her powers from the assassins surrounding her. She also checks in to her own personal pity party a couple times. This, while understandable, slows the narrative down and feels repetitive. 

As far as intrigue, the ending threw a curveball that was counter to my expectations and did a  lot to redeem the slowness of the middle of the book. Ileni's character develops to a point where she finally takes action, Sorin's loyalties are tested, and the next book is set up nicely, with opportunities to further explore this particular fantasy world. I'm looking forward to it.

3.5 Assasin's Knives. 

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Death Sworn
by Leah Cypess


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.


Review: I've been a fan of Leah Cypess's writing since her 2009 release Mistwood, and picked up Death Sworn expecting interesting world building, intrigue, a subtle romance, and a hint of magic. On most of these points, Death Sworn did not disappoint. 

We follow Ileni, a sorceress who has had her life torn away from her with the loss of her magic. Resigning herself to banishment and certain death in the assassin's caves, she wavers between fatalistically accepting her fate and struggling to survive another day. Surrounded by enemies, her main companion is Sorin, the handsome assassin assigned by his master to protect her while she performs her duties. Sorin views the Assasin's Caves as his salvation from a life on the streets and is devoted to the master of assassins and his cause: the destruction of an evil empire. It's not surprising they have romantic chemistry. 

I felt this relationship was pretty well done. Sorin does not get out much and lives in a cave: his primary contact with the outside world involved killing his assigned target. Ileni is literally  the first woman he's been around in a while. Ileni is in constant fear from the threatening people all around her, with the handsome Sorin the only one who's invested in keeping her alive. They have belligerent sexual tension from the start. The interesting part is the clash of their very different world views: Ileni's pacifism versus Sorin's belief the ends justify the means. 

As far as world building, Cypess avoids the pitfall of excessive exposition dump by filling in the backstory of the world in bits and pieces : Ileni reflects on the life she lost among the magical Renegai and Sorin mentions the empire as the source of their targets. This and the fact that the book is set entirely in the Assasin's Caves prevents a more extensive view of this original world and left me wanting more. The plot, while starting strong with an endangered Ileni with a murder mystery, drags towards the middle as she abandons the case to focus on hiding the rapid disappearance of her powers from the assassins surrounding her. She also checks in to her own personal pity party a couple times. This, while understandable, slows the narrative down and feels repetitive. 

As far as intrigue, the ending threw a curveball that was counter to my expectations and did a  lot to redeem the slowness of the middle of the book. Ileni's character develops to a point where she finally takes action, Sorin's loyalties are tested, and the next book is set up nicely, with opportunities to further explore this particular fantasy world. I'm looking forward to it.

3.5 Assasin's Knives. 

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