Review of Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Death Sworn (Death Sworn, #1)Death Sworn
By: Leah Cypess
Release Date: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow

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

My Rating:

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.

The Story:
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.

The Characters:
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.

Final Thoughts:
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.


  1. says

    So glad to hear such a good review from you for this book! I’m quite looking forward to it cause it does sound very intriguing and fun to read, even with the minumum world building!
    My only question, is there some romance? barely any? none?

    • says

      There is some romance which I very much enjoyed! I didn’t want to highlight it too much because the summary doesn’t say much about it. But, I think you’ll enjoy it 🙂

  2. says

    All I needed to see in the synopsis was ASSASSINS and I knew I had to read this one, but I’ve seen mostly positive reviews, which is a plus. I can understand a little less world-building in the first book, too, so I don’t think that will hinder my enjoyment. So happy to see your 4 stars, too.

  3. says

    I hadn’t hear about this one until your review. The word ”assassin” in the summary would have lured me in as well. I will probably add this to my TBR list.

  4. says

    Aw, yay 😀 Amazing review sweetie. <3 I'm glad you mostly loved this book 🙂 I do understand how you feel about the world building; but I'm hoping it will be even more amazing in book two 😀 Though I did love the caves in this book. Sigh. I cannot wait for the sequel. <3

  5. says

    The lack of world-building is a bit of a bummer, but if the characters can carry the story, then my enjoyment of this book will not be too affected. I really love the idea of assassins, but I’m more interested in seeing how Cypress captures the attitude of being one. Lovely review, Kristen! I’ll have to keep my eyes out for this one. 🙂

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

    • says

      I really think that Cypess is going to build up the world in the next book. I really felt that this one was able to stand it being vague. I hope you read Death Sworn soon and enjoy 🙂

  6. says

    I’m a little worried. I’ve been looking forward to this title for some time, but lacking world building? Unexplained magic? These sound a lot like problems I had with another book earlier this year. Still, I will hold out hope, especially since you say it’s good! 🙂

    • says

      I’d still read it Kel. I actually really liked it besides the vagueness. I think it will be explained and explored more in book 2 and truly it didn’t bother me too bad. I’ll be curious as to what you think when you do read.

    • says

      Yes! Always more fun to read with a friend, imo. I love being able to take the journey together. Maybe we can get the whole group to read something in the near future!

  7. says

    I’m not sure about this one. While the world building isn’t that important to me, I don’t always do well with slow pacing. Ileni sounds like a great main character though! I might wait for the second book to come out and make a decision after reading some reviews. Thanks for the review =)

    • says

      I am very optimistic about book 2 being much faster paced and having a lot more action. They way it was set up has me very excited 🙂 I hope it lives up to my expectations. If you decide to read this one now or later I hope you love it!

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