A copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I read this along with my friend Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings
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.
I had high expectations going into Death Sworn. I loved the summary (assassins? yay!) and the cover is so beautiful (though it doesn’t fit the content all that well). Luckily, I wasn’t let down by this book. We follow Ileni’s story as she adjusts to living among assassins.
Admittedly, this book lacks some significant world building and some might find that troublesome. For me, it worked in this beginning novel of the series because I feel sure that the next book will delve deeper into the why and how. We never get a sense as to why the Empire is evil other than some brief explanations that offer little detail. I felt that Cypess chose to leave things vague so that the reader had only the knowledge that Ileni had. She had been raised to accept certain truths and so, the reader, had to accept them too.
Death Sworn also moved at a slower pace though I found it to be very interesting and was never bored. Little action happened to Ileni within this story, but the focus was more on her adjustment and getting acclimated to the caves and the assassins. I found the mysterious aspect of the story, Ileni’s hunt for the killer of the past two tutors, to be surprising enough to keep me guessing and a fun aspect to the story.
My only complaint, beyond the lack of world building, would be in the absence of magic. Sure, it was included here and there but I wanted much more. From the summary the reader goes in knowing that Ileni is losing her magic abilities but I wanted much more details into why this was. I never felt that I had a full understanding of how the magic worked. I did love the description of how spells were cast, it was a very unique and creative take on spellcasting.
I found Ileni to be very likeable and she grew in my esteem the further I read. I loved her attitude and strong willed nature. Her small rebellions against The Master and the assassin’s code seemed very realistic and I could see myself doing the same in her circumstance. As the novel proceeded she became even stronger and how the story ends made me incredibly optimistic about Ileni’s future in the following books.
Sorin was the assassin in charge of showing Ileni around the caves. I think Cypess did a great job creating a character with heart but I could completely picture being an assassin. I could feel his anger and dangerous nature radiating just below the surface. I really enjoyed his interactions with Ileni and watching him open up the slightest bit. I found the juxtaposition of his carefree side and killing instinct to be done very well and incredibly intriguing.
One of my favorite things to see in a book, is when an author is able to make everyone live in the grey area between right and wrong. I find I enjoy my characters to flip flop between their own wants to what is right. In Death Sworn I was so happy to see the characters dealing with this as well as the main assassin, The Master, being completely mysterious and unable to be labeled.
Though the world building was scarce I was still completely enraptured with Death Sworn. I felt that the characters held the story well and Cypess has started a new series off in the right direction. I can’t wait to see where she takes book two.