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Death Sworn #1

Death Sworn

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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.

344 pages, Hardcover

First published March 4, 2014

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About the author

Leah Cypess

50 books783 followers
I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).

However, I took a few detours along the way to becoming a full-time writer. After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother's importuning to be practical and majored in biology at Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I am going to be a published novelist. I am very excited about this!

I currently (as of the time of my writing this) have four published YA fantasy novels: Mistwood, Nightspell, Death Sworn, and Death Marked. I live in the DC area with my husband Aaron, and our children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 864 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
November 3, 2015
"She might be about to die, but she didn’t have to do it cowering."

3 1/2 stars. I must admit - I didn't really expect to like Death Sworn. I've had my eye on it for a while but many of my GR friends didn't like it, especially with the limited world-building.

And I have to say that it doesn't fit into what I would normally expect from YA fantasy. There are certain elements of the genre that pop up again and again, and we expect them in order to consider the book "good" - kingdom/empire in peril, or reclaiming of a kingdom, magic (banned or otherwise), rich world-building that paints a vivid picture of this foreign land - and Death Sworn doesn't really meet our expectations of the genre.

Weirdly, though, that's exactly why I liked it. I liked the unusually small scope of the novel - indeed, the whole story takes place in an underground cave and we see nothing of the outside world. I liked how it felt more like a murder mystery with magic than every other YA fantasy out there.

Most of all, however, I loved Ileni. I thought she was a fantastic protagonist - smart, cynical, resourceful, but also flawed and human. So many fantasy heroines these days feel like snark-wielding cardboard cutouts. But Ileni was relatable, as well as badass. And I love the scene where she gets drunk and makes a fool of herself.

Ileni is a sorceress but her magic has slowly been failing her. When the Elders of her village send her to be a magic tutor to secret assassins, Ileni knows it's because she's expendable. After all, the last two tutors died under mysterious circumstances. She must be careful to hide her failing powers, stay alive, and also discover what really happened to the two previous tutors before her time runs out.

In this strange underground academy, many of the characters are strong and developed in interesting ways, even the ones that appear briefly. There is a budding romance, of course, but there is absolutely no instalove and the characters know that other things are far more important than romantic relationships.

Given the ending, I'm expecting more world-building and a better explanation of the magic system in the next book. There will be no more excuses for it. However, I enjoyed Death Sworn very much and I LOVE the ending. I didn't guess the answers AND that whole second-to-last scene was perfection.

I look forward to following Ileni into Death Marked.

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August 12, 2016
Actual rating: 3.5

Finally! A heroine who's got her fucking head on straight!!

Murder. Magic. Mayhem. No insta-love. No love triangle. A cave full of young men, assassins to be, their deadliness defies their age. A young woman on a mission that will likely kill her. An assassin assigned to guard her.

This was a fast read, an enjoyable book that is light on romance, with a realistic, complex heroine who has a fatalistic streak (and who can blame her). This is a fantasy book with elements of magic, there is a rebel nation to be saved, a secret lair of killers, a murderer to be found.

Summary: 17 year old Ileni was supposed to be one of the greatest sorcerers among her people, the Renegai, but no longer. She is losing her magic. Her powers are fading day by day. Once, she was a revered magician among her people, now she is the object of scorn and pity. Ileni has been trained for greatness her entire life, she has sacrificed her family to be a great magician, and this is an imaginable downfall. Unable to face the prospect of living without a future, without her lover, Ileni volunteers herself for what is essentially a suicide mission.
...not a single person still cared about her day-to-day life. Everyone had put her out of their minds.
No longer a part of anyone’s life.
It’s better, she told herself. Better than staying while her magic dimmed, being an object of pity and charity.
Ileni doesn't care about living, but maybe she might find something worth living for.
“How can you know what your life is worth if you don’t know what you would trade it for?”
In a secret cave, there is a guild of assassins. They have been in existence for hundreds of years, their mission is anything but quick. They are but raindrops in the deluge that they hope will eventually overthrow a country ruled by evil sorcerers, one that has long threatened both the rebel Renegai and the assassins. The Renegai are a sect ruled by magicians, they are wary of the assassins, and the feeling is mutual. In order to maintain their tenuous peace, the Renegai sends the assassins a teacher to teach the younger assassins the use of minor magic. Two of the previous magicians sent to the assassins have died, under seemingly suspicious circumstances, in quick succession.

Ileni's powers are fading so fast that it is almost gone. She volunteers to be the next teacher; Ileni knows she will likely die in the caves, and she doesn't really care. Her mission is not only to teach the young assassins magic while keeping secret the fact that her powers are almost nonexistent, but to investigate the murders.

She faces many hardships along the way. Hostile young students, assassins who are trained to kill. Their targets may be children, it does not matter, because each death is one more contribution to the overall goal of freedom. She has to teach these people without revealing her weakness. She has to face assassins who are hostile, who distrust her, who belittle her, who threaten her, who bully her, who mock her. Her life is in constant danger, even with a guard, the assassin Sorin.

There are spies, murderers, dark magic, a Master magician who is so powerful, so all-controlling he can send people to their death with but a word. Ileni thought she would end her life in these caves. Nope. It's just beginning.

The Setting: The one major weakness in the book. The setting is tremendously unclear. The entire book takes place in a cave, and while that's not a problem, the setting and the context remains missing. It is extremely vague. To be honest, I can barely recall the book's fictional country name. All I recall, not even half an hour from finishing the book, is that there are big bad dark magicians from another country and that there are two sects of rebels, the assassins and the magicians (the Renegai). I am reading the ARC, so I don't know whether there will be a map given or not, but overall, this world building did not please me at all. Not to mention the fact that a good big of the world building was delivered through a SPEECH.
She took a deep breath and continued. “Two hundred years ago, when most sorcerers swore their allegiance to the Rathian Empire, my people separated from them. We were labeled renegades and hunted down. We fled here, to these mountains, to maintain our ways, build our strength, and wait for the right time to return. In exchange for my presence here, your master will leave my people in peace to pursue their task.”
I just call that lazy.

The magic is also very imprecisely explained. We do not get a good explanation of the magical system and how power was used. We do not get a good explanation on why Ileni has lost her power. This probably wouldn't matter to most people, honestly, but it bothers me, because I like knowing these things. Magic is so important to Ileni, and because of its importance to her, I feel like she should have let us know more about it and how it worked.

The Characters: I really like Ileni's character. I admit that she is rather fatalistic, but I can't blame her. She has been groomed for greatness her entire life, and it has been taken from her. Wouldn't you mope about it? I know I would. Ileni is severely depressed about the loss of her magic, but she never sulks, she never whines, she sucks it up and does what needs to be done, be it instructing the assassins on magical use, or investigating the previous teachers' deaths. Even the slightest use of magic leaves her drained for days.
...the tiredness seemed to come from within her, as if her body simply had no interest in remaining awake.
She has to use all of her mastery, all of her wits in order to convince her students (who could kill her in a heartbeat) that she is a competent teacher, who is perfectly capable of killing them with her own magic, instead of a completely helpless girl in a cavern full of young men.

A cavern full of young men, you say? I smell a lot of romance, you say? Not fucking likely. These guys are assassins, they don't give a shit about girls. They're killers. They have a purpose in life that extends beyond the reach of their penis. They are bad-ass, they are threatening, and Ileni is truly in danger here.
He led her around the edge of the cavern, far too close for comfort to several of the duelers—none of whom glanced in their direction, even though they must never have seen a girl here before.
THAT'S RIGHT! Ignore the girl! There's no room for wimps here. There are no flowers in the fucking caverns, y'all.

Ileni faces a lot of hostility from the boys, she even gets beaten up, and I like the fact that she holds her grounds. She is not perfect, she makes stupid decisions occasionally, but she learns from her experience. Ileni is smart, she is an investigator, despite the loss of her magic, and her extremely limited use of it, she perseveres through. She learns to fight. She doesn't become an assassin, but she can defend herself. She is realistic, and I like that.

And despite her despair, I love how she can open up, how she can find a moment of joy when the opportunity presents itself. She does not constantly wallow in her depression.
She knew this would end badly. It was so ridiculous and so doomed that she could almost despise herself. Except, except . . . except her whole life was ridiculous and doomed, so if a brief interlude of happiness had come her way, why not grab that? She had forgotten how good it felt to be happy.
The Romance: Loved it! Absolutely loved it. The romance is light, so very light, and builds up believably. Sorin may be an assassin, but he's not an ass.. He is cold, he is guarded, but he has been trained to be that way his entire life. Sorin has been raised since childhood to be a killer. He spends his life training. He has had zero exposure to anything else. His single goal is to train to be a killer, to be a worthy subject to the Master. He longs for the day when he is sent on a mission, even if it means dying.

For Sorin, dying is noble. Dying for a cause is something worthy. He has no time to worry about girls, he has no time for jealousy, and indeed, it amused me a great deal to see how little Sorin gets jealous in the few attempts when Ileni actually HOPES that he might be.
She also hoped—stupidly, and hating herself for it—that Sorin would be jealous. But when he stepped closer, the only expression on his face was disbelief.
Sorin may be cold, but he is not hostile. He is Ileni's ally, someone she can trust.
“I can help make your time here more successful, if you’ll listen to my advice.”
Sorin’s shoulders rose and fell with his sigh. “I want you to succeed.”
Sorin and Ileni's relationship builds up beautifully, they become friends before lovers. Neither of them trusts easily, and frankly, both of them have more to worry about than the matters of their heart. They acknowledge their attraction to each other, but it is a slow process, and one I found completely believable. They complement each other. They test each other. They challenge each other's beliefs.
“I can help make your time here more successful, if you’ll listen to my advice.”
“How kind.” At least this was distracting her, and delaying the inevitable.
Sorin’s shoulders rose and fell with his sigh. “I want you to succeed.”
And their romance...it is so awkwardly adorable, when it finally happens.
“I have no right to risk my life for this.” He stepped back against the door, as if she was a threat. It was the most flattering thing he had done since she entered the caves. “It means nothing. It was inevitable, even. After all, you’re the only girl I ever see.”
That was rather less flattering.
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy. All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley and is subject to change in the final edition.
757 reviews2,346 followers
March 17, 2018
Finally a badass and flawed girl who has her shit together and goes for what she wants without turning into a puddle of chocolate for her mans and just A BOOK THAT DOESN'T HAVE A LOT OF ROMANCE AND ACTUALLY HAS A GOOD AND INTERESTING PLOT??? And scary assassins with lots of death?? bitch??? hell yes.

3.75 stars. It did start out slow, but it got so much better. That ending was so unexpected and this book honestly managed to surprise me EVERY TIME I TURNED THE PAGE. Definitely recommended akrbsorg REVIEW TO COME, MY GUYS.
Profile Image for Kathylill .
162 reviews173 followers
December 27, 2013
Many of the reviews applauded the excellent world building but I really am wondering which world building? There was absolutely no world building. This story entirely takes places in a fucking cave. Was it magical? No! Our TSTL heroine lost 99% of her magic due to reasons unknown and we were expected to accept it like that. Magic apparently can go puff and the biggest sorceress can be cast out and send to her sure death as the new teacher to an assassin school. There is an ominous emperor with dark magic sorcerers reminding me very much of evil magicians in The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan.

Ileni our heroine is stupid, makes stupid decisions, thinks stupid thoughts and acts stupid. She complains a lot about her lost magic, what she would have done if she still had them and so on. She also assumes every assassin in this cave wants her dead. All you hear her think is: if he wanted to kill me, he wants to kill me, let him kill me. She had so much potential but in the end she was just a boring 1.0 version without any redeeming qualities. She is totally judgmental and grasps everything only from her high horse perspective. Her incentive to change her opinion about the assassin’s guild comes not out of conviction but out of sexual attraction. She laughs only when half hysterical and always clasps her hands, clenches her hands, grips her skirt with her hands.

I almost lost it and dnf’ed the book around half way through but the story hadn’t taken the worst turn yet. The worst came in form of the BIG LOVE and I HAVE FEEELINGS FOR YOU confessions. The romance was so foreseeable, abrupt and un-romantic. After the first kiss about 80% into the story we have insta-love thoughts aka “I can’t let happen anything to you, blabla” … all very schmaltzy if you ask me.

The book is not bad bad. At least up until the soppy part this story was quite entertaining despite a lack of world building, a stand-offish, assuming heroine and the assassins being under the master’s spell. If you don’t have high any expectations to a young adult fantasy go for it. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend this.
Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
259 reviews4,896 followers
December 19, 2016
Oh wow, this was surprisingly fun! This is definitely an under hyped series. I'm crossing fingers for the next book (full review to come soon..)
Profile Image for Kuroi.
276 reviews133 followers
June 10, 2014
Actual rating - A grudging 2.5 stars.

Let's do a fun review today, I thought. So here we go.

Anchor - Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the latest and greatest in magical and assassin-related news, only on Fee Fi Fo FM. Our guests for this evening are Ileni, a bright young lady with no future or magic, Sorin, a dark young man who doesn't want a future and the mysterious Master, who refuses to comment on anything. Welcome, everyone.

Ileni - Erm, thanks.
Sorin - (Smirks.)
Master - Hmmm.

Anchor - Ileni, tell us, what drove you to go to the assassin's caves as their teacher when you clearly knew you might get killed? It seems like a suicide mission, though you obviously survived (since this is the first book of the series).

Ileni - I simply gave up hope I guess. My entire life I was trained to use magic and be adept at wielding it, but all of a sudden my power started diminishing so the Elders decided I would be more useful dead if I could solve the mystery of the previous teachers deaths. I won't pretend I'm not bitter about it, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Sorin - Essentially, she had a death wish. (Smirks.)

Ileni - (Glares.) Like you don't, you brain-wished killer who lives to die for some godforsaken old man.

Sorin - What do you know, little brat who couldn't lift a knife to save her non-violent, pointless life?

Master - (Nods.) It rhymes. Somewhat. All according to plan.

Anchor - Now, now. Ileni and Sorin, you love each other, remember? It may or may not be part of the mysterious Master's master plan, but you developed romantic feelings.

Ileni - Come to think of it, I'm not sure why. Granted, Sorin may be ridiculously good looking and rippling with muscles, but I didn't have to fall for him. Maybe because I was on the rebound?

Sorin - She was the only girl around. And the first one I knew. Plus, the author told me she would die without my help. (Shrugs.)

Master - The less you realise, the better for me...

Anchor - Well there must be something. Think harder.

Ileni - Well, I do have to credit Sorin for being the first guy to teach me something useful - self-defence. He's also the only one who can handle my snark.

Sorin - Ileni challenges everything. Kind of like me. Though we rebel in different ways.

Master - Hmph.

Anchor - The both of you went through a great many adventures together, or so I heard.

Ileni - Well, I was basically trying to solve the mystery of Cadrel's death without CSI, while trying to hide my dwindling magic supply (feebly at that) from a bunch of cold-blooded killers who I am highly suspicious of.

Sorin - (Raises an eyebrow) Cold-blooded? That must be why I spent most of my time trying to save your butt when I knew it could get me in trouble.

Ileni - I refuse to listen to reasonable arguments.

Master - [Insert mysterious comment on war, necessity, life and Pop-tarts.]

Anchor - Speaking of which, the Master is supposed to know all, see all, control all. How did that enormous plot twist at the end happen?

Master - A magician never reveals his secrets.

Ileni - Overconfidence. And old age.

Sorin - Deus ex machina?

Anchor - How do you guys feel about the magic and mythology of the novel?

Ileni - I think it's pretty cool. Our magic actually has practical applications other than making pretty dresses appear out of nowhere and it's not easy to use. It requires skill and practice.

Sorin - The mythology is vague though. I know we're fighting against the Empire. But then, so is everybody else in every other high-fantasy book/RPG/manga. Whatever. They're oppressive and mean. I might not know why, but I'll get them anyway.

Master - I know. But I won't tell you anything. As usual.

Ileni - (Grumbles.) Shady old coot.

Sorin - (Sighs.)

Anchor - One final question. What do you think is the over-arching message of the book?

Ileni - That love doesn't equate to trust?

Sorin - That I was created solely to be tortured by Ileni?

Master - That the first book in a series is intended not to tell a story, but to create suspense and a setting for the next five.

Anchor - I see. Well, thanks for joining us today. That session was thoroughly informative, I'm sure, for our viewers/listeners.

Ileni - (Dryly.) Just like the book, I suppose?

Sorin - (Smirks.) At least we agree on that.

Master - It's time for the first FIFA match. All shall go according to plan...hopefully.

Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews712 followers
January 29, 2014
****This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

Actual Rating 2.5

Death Sworn was a huge let down. When I first started it, I thought I would fall in love. The fantasy fan in me was fangirling and thought she had discovered a YA gem when it came to fantasy.

The problem with this book stems from the fact that essentially nothing happened. This book could have been condensed to a couple of pages for the amount of things that took place. I feel like this book was a set up for the sequel rather than a full fleshed novel. There wasn’t much character development (with reference to Sorin), there were some rather bothersome twists and the plot really didn’t grab my attention the way it should have, perhaps because it took more than a two-thirds of the book for anything substantial to actually happen.

When Ileni was first introduced, I thought I had hit the jackpot yet again with a believable female lead. One who didn’t want to play hero. One who was bitter about how little her life was worth to those who she had looked up to her whole life. I think the one thing I really liked about her character was that she wasn’t a speshul snowflake. She once was, but she was losing her powers now and that made her worthless in the world of Renegai. She had skill but skill did not hold much value with power. Her character did show some development but the problem was that I was detached from her. I did not feel a connection. I read page after page but felt nothing for her until the end. The ending made me really appreciate her character because she is her own person. What everyone else says or believes will not stop her from having doubts. She will not agree to anything without proof. She is strong enough to not let anything influence her own beliefs.

I liked Sorin. I really did. Until the ending. The ending showed me how little he had actually grown. There was no character development on his end and it pissed me off. I thought there was hope for him but I don’t think so anymore. I didn’t want him to undergo a complete personality transplant or to even regret killing people. I just wanted him to be able to think for himself. He can still obey his master AND have his own opinions but it seems as though he is just a pawn. He isn’t an individual, he is just an identity, a puppet. As someone who LOVES assassins, it really is a pity that he wasn’t up to my standards.

The world building was amazing. It really was. Which was why during the first 14% all I could do was fangirl over the brilliance of this book. It’s a shame the world building couldn’t make up for what the characters and plot lacked because otherwise this would have been a 4 star read.

The romance didn’t do much for me either. I actually have no idea how Sorin developed feelings for her. Like what? I only saw it coming because it was inevitable and not because I actually noticed the whole change in their relationship occurring. I am wondering if throwing in a romance in this book was even a good idea. Perhaps it would have been better suited for the sequel and that way there would have been more room for a more substantial plot in this book.

There was nothing going on in this book. There were hints but there wasn’t any real effort put towards finding out who the murderer was. The whole book seemed to focus on Sorin saving Ileni’s ass and their relationship. Oh and let’s not forget Irun trying to kill Ileni.The twist that occurred in the end just.. yeah.  It came out of nowhere and I really don’t understand why the book had to take THAT turn. I suppose it wasn’t impossible to swallow but it did seem a little like the author was just trying to move the book along more than anything else.

The best part of this book was The Master. He is one of the most complex characters I’ve encountered. He isn’t the good guy but he isn’t necessarily the bad guy. What I enjoy most about his character is his ability to manipulate people (of course I hate it when Sorin falls for it every time but that aside). He has this whole plan laid out, one he has probably been working on for YEARS and no one but him understands what he’s doing. In spite of this things always works out, they go smoothly and then the puzzle pieces click. Everything he does is a part of his plan and the organized, plan loving human in me squeals at the shire perfection of how he lays everything out.

I still plan on reading the sequel because I do feel like the author has an interesting writing style and the world she has built really is wonderful. I hope the sequel won’t be nearly as much of a letdown and I’ll finally see some real action.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,937 reviews1,551 followers
August 19, 2014
I'm a little torn by this book, but not in the way you might think. It's very, very good on so many levels. The plot is tight with well-planned twists (that still hang together once revealed). The characters are fully realized and have strong motivations with deep undercurrents. And the romance unfolds with a beauty only really possible in contrast to the devastation surrounding it.

We pick up with Ilena in the throes of a crisis of despair. She has lost the thing most important to her—her magical power. She has taken it for granted all her life as she trained in its use for she is the most powerful mage of her generation. When it begins to fade (and in such a way that her people know to be irreversible and that will eventually be complete), she has nothing left but to accept a life sentence as the tutor for her people's uneasy allies, the assassins.

These two groups (the mages and assassins) are united only in their fear and condemnation of the Empire they both fled hundreds of years ago. We learn only enough to know that their fear is warranted and that their condemnation is just. Ilena is horrified by the willingness of these assassins to both kill and to die for their cause. They are truly fanatical and that is a scary thing to face. At the same time, she has to acknowledge that her own people are pretty useless, for all their power and their promises to "return" to their rightful homes.

The discussion about killing, justice, and the "greater good" are sharp and deftly contrasted in a way that manages to avoid seeming either didactic or tacked on or like simple exposition. It also avoids easy answers of simple polemics. And it is, in fact, central to just about every aspect of the novel with so much hanging on the belief and conviction of those engaged in the fight. It has almost a Whedonesque aspect to it in that people are fighting an overwhelming evil and the price is steep but convincingly necessary.

Which makes the ending so poignant that it almost hurts. Indeed, it only becomes clear how very tightly woven the moral, political, action, and even character relationships are at the very end when they all come together with Ilena taking all these elements that have been pushing at her all this time and forging her own path from them. That she does so in a way that is both surprising and deeply right was a great payoff for a journey that was interesting in its own right but made so much better by its completion.

So why am I torn? Because the ending, for all its beauty and rightness, is an uncomfortable one and Soren and Ilena have a tough journey ahead of them with no real comfort or surcease in sight. It isn't anything so crass as a cliffhanger, but it's definitely not "happy", either. And I like me my happy endings. Which means that for all my admiration of the novel (and for the artistry and talent of Leah Cypess), I'm not sure I can handle continuing in the series. I really enjoy Ilena. And her courage in the face of truly hard choices (including some choices that others will find pretty controversial) is truly admirable. But I see a lot of pain in her future and I'm not sure it's worth wading through that just to spend more time with her.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
March 31, 2016
An Electronic Advanced Reader Copy was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss for review.

I picked this one up because it screamed fantasy. Even that awesomely sounding title had my interest piqued. But what went down was something else. For me, it ended up being too much a romance and not enough of adventure, fantasy where our main characters are at war with another kingdom. That was what I was expecting. I felt like it dragged on and on and on..And I wanted to know why her powers were fading, it bothered me sooo much.

A good world building read that was wholly interesting, but there was one big problem for me. I still didn't believe the Empire was such a threat. We were told it was and it wasn't even shown. This huge threat was absent. I was thinking there was going to be this huge war and Ileni and Sorin would fight to the death, but there wasn't. I'm not sure if this was made to be part of a trilogy or series, but I was rather disappointed.

A good start to a magical fantasy read, but for me, I didn't enjoy the romance being a main focus. I recommend skipping this one if you're looking for more of an adventure!



"Death doesn't mean to us what it does to you."

"How can you know what your life is worth if you don't know what you would trade it for?"

"She had been so loved, once. She hadn't even realized how lucky she was, to be the center of someone's world, to have someone who would always be there."

"Quoting other people is fine, but only if you actually have the ability to think on your own."

"Just because someone was being victimized did not, necessarily, make him likeable."

"Undirected anger hurts no one but you. Anger can be a powerful tool, but only if you treat it like one."

"It's nice to be a useful tool instead of a despised one."
Profile Image for Meg.
209 reviews348 followers
February 26, 2014
Death Sworn, what the hell happened?


I’m sorry, that’s harsh. You weren’t the worst and at a few points I really did almost enjoy myself, but the fact remains, you put me to sleep. Four times. Once would have been highly unusual behavior for me, but four? Something’s wrong.

The rest of my review can be found on Cuddlebuggery.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 69 books973 followers
March 4, 2014
Reading DEATH SWORN made me remember the experience, as a teenager, of first discovering Meredith Ann Pierce's DARKANGEL, Robin McKinley's THE BLUE SWORD and Patricia McKillip's THE CHANGELING SEA - in other words, the first YA high fantasies that I fell head over heels in love with, that completely sucked me in and filled me with a sense of magic. I felt the same way all over again as I sank into DEATH SWORN, which is utterly absorbing, eerily romantic, and deeply, deeply magical.

In a reverse of the "Chosen One" theme, Ileni, the heroine of DEATH SWORN, *used* to be the most powerful sorceress of her generation - but now she's losing all her magic, and having to come to terms with her new life as a horrifyingly "ordinary" person - finding a reason to live even when her power has been yanked away from her and she's lost all of her self-definitions. I loved, loved, loved the course of her emotional struggle - and it's coming at the worst possible time for her, as she's just been sent to tutor a group of deadly assassins, and their last two magic tutors have both been murdered. This is the one time she needs to act - and to be - as powerful and intimidating as possible, but it's the time she feels the weakest inside.

Watching Ileni fight for a new definition of strength is amazing, the setting is incredibly rich and absorbing, the twists and turns of the plot are fantastic - and ohhh, is the romance fun! Ileni's star-crossed romance is just a minor subplot in the book, but it works so well - the chemistry between them is incredibly hot, but the roadblocks to their happiness are also very real. I loved the fact that when she and her romantic interest fight over big moral principles, although they have diametrically opposing opinions and worldviews, they both make sense - they're both smart people with good reasons for feeling and thinking the way they do.

I devoured this book in a day, absolutely loved it...and, although it stands alone beautifully, I cannot WAIT to read the sequel!!!
Profile Image for Selene.
596 reviews134 followers
May 2, 2016
3.5 Stars

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book. I enjoyed that there was a bit of mystery in this plot. I plan on starting the second book in this duology Death Marked soon.
Profile Image for Tina ♥ Bookaholic.
793 reviews111 followers
September 15, 2015
3,5 Punkte
Gegen Ende hat es leider stetig abgebaut und der Schluss hinterlässt einen bitteren Nachgeschmack.


Meine Gedanken zum Buch:
Das Buch war ein absoluter Cover-Kauf, aber auch die Inhaltsangabe versprach geballte Action und Nervenkitzel. Zum Teil habe ich das auch bekommen, aber eben nicht ganz.
Irgendwie habe ich mir eine stärkere Protagonistin vorgestellt, auch obwohl es ein Jugendbuch ist und die Charaktere erst so um die 17 herum angesiedelt sind. Doch Ileni ist eher so ein Märtyrer-Mädchen, das sich mit ihrem Schicksal, ihrem womöglich baldigen Tod bereits abgefunden hat – nein, ihn sogar erwartet. Was sie in den Augen der anderen, in den Augen der Assassine, in deren Höhle sie sich begibt, mutig und furchtlos erscheinen lässt. Doch in meinen Augen hat sie einfach aufgegeben, was ich etwas schade fand. Ich hätte mir mehr Kampfgeist, mehr Elan und vieles mehr gewünscht, doch Ileni war ein eher bedrückender Charakter. Dennoch ist sie mit den Aufgaben und bei der Auflösung rund um die Geheimnisse in der Assassinen-Höhle gewachsen.

Sie wurde dorthin geschickt, um einerseits die Assassine in der Magie zu unterrichten und andererseits, um im Geheimen die Tode ihrer Vorgänger aufzuklären. Ihr zur Seite steht der junge, aber immer unter Spannung stehende, gehorsame Sorin, der bald nicht nur ihr Aufpasser ist, sondern mehr wird. Diese Entwicklung war absehbar :p, aber war auch genau richtig und das hätte man ehrlich gesagt noch viel mehr ausbauen können. Daher war mir persönlich die Liebesgeschichte viel zu kurz und zu nebensächlich geraten, aber meine Hoffnungen bauen sich hier auf den zweiten Band, auch wenn ich gehört habe, dass es dort leider nicht besser werden soll.

Die Handlung selbst und die Grundstruktur der Welt war zu Beginn ganz gut erklärt, aber um ehrlich zu sein, sind mir noch einige Fragen und Strukturen zu wenig erläutert, beantwortet worden, was es schwer macht, diese Welt wirklich zu greifen, ganz verstehen zu können. Es wirkt eher so, als hätte man einen Teil davon zu sehen bekommen, und der Rest liegt nach wie vor im Dunkeln. Aber da noch ein weiterer Band folgt, bin ich zuversichtlich dort noch einen besseren Einblick zu bekommen.

Das Ende hat für mich einen etwas bitteren Nachgeschmack hinterlassen, da es genauso geendet hat, wie es sich für mich einfach nicht richtig anfühlt. Aber ich hoffe, ich hoffe, dass sich das alles noch auflösen und gut enden wird. Ich will man Happy End, aber sowas von! :D

(Mehr dazu auf meinem Blog)
Profile Image for Drew.
449 reviews504 followers
January 23, 2016
3 1/2 stars. I'm not gonna lie, this was a pretty typical YA fantasy. If you're looking for a rich high fantasy story with heavy world-building then you won't find it here.

Death Sworn has the usual list of tropes—there's the special "chosen" main character, a plot to take down an evil empire, forbidden romance, a strong female protagonist, and a plot twist that happens near the end.

BUT. Even though this book was far from original, it was still super entertaining. And aside from the obvious cheesiness, I didn't have any major problems with the story.

I really liked the main character, Ileni. She wasn't overly tough or wimpy either. When she was chosen to investigate the deaths of two sorcery teachers in an assassins' lair, she was sickened by the assassins' nonchalant attitudes toward killing people, but she didn't let her discomfort get in the way of her mission.

I was also able to enjoy the romantic angst. Sorin was ordered to protect Ileni but there was a huge trust issue between them—Sorin was an assassin and could kill her at any moment. Ileni had to give him her complete trust and the same went for Sorin. He thought Ileni was a powerful sorceress who could cast a spell with a flick of her hand and destroy him. This made for some really good chemistry.

“This thing with Sorin was entirely different. It made her feel like she was walking on a knife’s edge.”

The whole book was set in an underground assassins' lair (basically a cave) so there wasn't much opportunity for world building, but I think Ileni's spunky and humorous character strengthened the weaker plot.

If you go into this expecting an original, dense fantasy you'll probably end up disappointed. But I think in this case fast-paced plot, action, and a slow-building romance trumped unoriginality.

A light, fun read.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,316 reviews215 followers
April 28, 2018
Kind of hard to rate - definitely between 3 and 4 stars though.

Death Sworn was a pretty interesting book. I won it from a reading challenge and went into this book with zero expectations. I ended up liking the book in the end, but I still feel like it was missing something.

Death Sworn takes place in an underground cave. Sounds cool already right?? You never see the outside world either which of course piqued my interest even more. Then there's Ileni, who was beyond awesome and a completely likable character. She wasn't magically amazing at every little thing with zero practice. Nope, she had flaws just like the rest of us mere mortals. She was also a freaking bad ass and I loved the drunk version of her. I have no idea if my drunk version is half as awesome as hers.. but I aspire to be that level of awesomeness one day. Maybe - I don't know.. the girl made me laugh.

Ileni does have powers though because she's a sorceress. However, her powers are slowly fading - probably because of the whole cave living thing.. but I'll get back to that (maybe). The Elders of this cave-like village, send her to some assassins to be their tutor. Of course this is where she could fall into trouble easily... because her powers are fucking fading people! If anyone catches this.. well, she's a goner.

Besides that horrifying thought, there was a smidge glimpse into some romance.. but I loved that nothing was instantaneously happening in this book. Again, people weren't magically amazing one minute after sucking ass before. I also fell even more in love with Ileni because she was just so amazing throughout the book.

Overall, it was an okay but super interesting book. The ending could've been better but I'm still going to end up reading the second book whenever I get my hands on it. I'm that committed guys!
Profile Image for Catherine.
415 reviews136 followers
October 1, 2019
Original story. The best point was the main female character, Ileni, who's very different from the typical YA fantasy heroine. The romance is very light and kinda cute, but I wasn't that hooked by the rest. The world-building was explained once in like, five sentences? Yes, the story takes place in a cave, but it's not the issue (I personally found it interesting), the issue is that we don't know anything else besides that. The magic system isn't explained either. Basically, it would have been a 2 stars rating if I didn't love Ileni. But since I really loved her character, I'm being generous with this novel and expect to have some answers in the second and finale book.
Profile Image for Booknut 101.
849 reviews921 followers
March 1, 2014
'"Pretty, isn't it?" he said. "Didn't the Elders tell you about this?"

"Of course," Ileni said stiffly, letting the magelight vanish.

What they had said, actually, was 'Parts of the caves are very beautiful, but don't let that distract you from the evil within them.''
The good thing about losing everything, is that you've got nothing more to lose.

Ileni had everything - her magic, her society, a future, and even love. And like anyone, she expected those things to be permanent.

Until the day they weren't. Until the day she lost her magic.

Faced with such a crippling revelation about her abilities, Ileni was given an ultimatum by the Elders: to live a purposeless life shunned by society, or to become a magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins.

Enter a whole new world where death is a part of everyday life and each and every person has more than one weapon up their sleeve.

Willingly, Ileni leaves behind the only life she's even known to tutor assassins in the ways of magic. But that isn't her only task. Two of Ileni's predecessors died beneath the assassin's caves under mysterious circumstances, and Ileni is determined to discover why...and by whose hand.

Secrets will come to light...but which ones?

Ileni tries to balance staying alive with solving the mystery before her, whilst keeping her own secrets safe. But nothing that goes on beneath the assassin's caves is truly secret...not from the Master of the Assassins. And he is not someone Ileni wishes to have as an enemy - not when his words hold such sway over the assassins. Even assassins like Sorin.

Unlikely allies can be found in the darkest of places.

Against her better judgement, Ileni is drawn to Sorin - a skilled assassin, who is all the more dangerous due to his hidden streak of independence. Walking a fine line between obeying the Master and embracing freedom, Sorin offers Ileni his protection and his aid in discovering the killer of the previous tutors.

Yet, when loyalties are tested, will Sorin choose Ileni...or the life of an assassin, the only life he's ever known?

Dangerous. Addictive. Stunning.

Death Sworn is as sharp as a sword, with a twisting plot that readers will not be able to tear their eyes and imaginations away from. A cross between Sarah J Maas' Throne of Glass and Maria V Snyder's Poison Study, it is another fantastic tale filled with bravery, wicked weaponry and exemplary characters who will not disappoint.
Profile Image for Molly.
342 reviews127 followers
August 15, 2015
Rating 3.5

Ileni is a young sorceress whose powers a waining. Ashamed of her situation she flees as far as possible from her former life. Her Elders send her to tutor(magic) for a secret assassins sect, situated in a system of caves under distant mountains. This job is a life sentence, the termination of the contract in this sect means death, as the last two tutors died a mysterious death. She takes the assignment willingly... she has nothing more to lose.


This was my second reading of Death Sworn (re-read, to see if I wanted to get to book two) It is not a bad book at all. The only bigger faults I can find are:

1. the lack of world-building, which is almost forgivable since the story unfolds in remote caves. We learn about the shaky political situation in the oppressing, tyrannical society of the realm ... but all that seems a galaxy away .... pity, it could have made the story better.

2. the somewhat meandering last quarter of the book.

After reading Death Sworn last year, I have read a few similar books that left me with more expectations for the second installment, so this will probably my good-bye for this series ....though, I'll keep my eye on Leah Cypess.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,163 followers
February 10, 2014
Rating: 3.5 Stars

While a countless number of hidden gems flit under my radar on a weekly basis, I make it a point to hunt out every fantasy novel I can get my hands on. I thrive within the fantasy genre. I’ve grown up breathing the air of thousands of different worlds and I don’t intend to stop – not just yet. Mistwood, Cypess’s debut novel, similarly did not fail to come under my radar when it was first released; an ambitious piece, for a debut, and not without its flaws, but also shining in its merits. While I haven’t picked up a Cypess novel since, I couldn’t resist the allure of Death Sworn, the combination of its cover and synopsis proving to be my undoing. For better or for worse, however, Cypess has improved as an author – but only a little.

Ileni’s world is one held in a precarious balance: assassins, magicians, and politics. As a child, Ileni held a great reservoir of magical energy and as she grew up and trained under the tutelage of the Elders, she became a sorceress; one of the best. But now, Ileni’s magic is failing. The Elders failed to predict this when they initiated her into the world of magic and now, with Ileni’s powers fading, she is of no use to anyone. Except, that is, to be sent to the assassin caves. Both the assassins and the sorcerers have shared a history of bad blood. In a weak attempt to bring peace among their people, the sorcerers send one of their own to live and tutor the assassins in basic forms of magic. In return, their lives are spared. Ileni is the third magician – the first sorceress – to be send to the cave in a matter of months. As her last two predecessors died, the Elders have now volunteered her as their tutor of choice for the simple reason that Ileni’s task is a suicide mission and with her powers fading into nonexistence, she is dispensable. But Ileni, despite having lost her home, her reputation, her magical abilities, and her family has not lost her courage. Against all odds, she resolves to survive the task she has been forth and, what’s more, solve the mystery of the murders occurring in the caves.

Death Sworn carries an interesting premises. After all, what’s not to love about a group of assassins hiding out in caves, slowly sneaking into a city to take down a political regime they despise, all with the help of rebel magicians? One of the best elements to this tale is the fact that Cypess’s assassins are deadly. Each and every one of them is willing to risk their life for the future of the Empire and, moreover, willing to kill without question as well. Although these assassins are mere boys, they have been trained to become cold and unfeeling beings, brutal in their ways. Or, at any rate, this is how Ileni sees them. When Ileni first enters the caves she is a cynical character, already embittered from her own experiences with her people and now entering into a domain with preconceived notions about these “stone-cold” killers. As Ileni learns to live among these assassins, her opinion of them changes, lending itself perfectly to a steady, and sure, growth arc.

From the first page itself, Ileni is a quiet, but fierce heroine. With her powers gradually waning, she is stuck in a cave of assassins virtually powerless. Yet, she never lets these obstacles hold her back. Surrounded by enemies, Ileni is reluctant to become close to anyone, let alone show much emotion. Sorin, who Ileni slowly comes to form a close friendship with, is also loathe to wear his heart on his sleeve. As an assassin, he seems rather cold and calculating at first but as the novel progresses, Ileni witnesses that Sorin – and all the assassins for that matter – have manages to retain their own personalities, doubts, fears, and inner bitterness despite the fact that their profession calls for a complete lack of feeling. Sorin and Ileni’s romance, too, is impeccably timed, starting out as a very firm friendship before progressing any further. Even when it does go forward, though, it is constantly pushed aside in favor of the plot in question. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this slow-burn sizzle, merely because it allowed us, the reader, to see the true personas behind the blank facades these characters have learned to wear so well.

Ironically, these very same personalities prove to be a bit of a downfall throughout the novel too. At times, they could almost be a little too apathetic. While I grew to love the individual Ileni becomes by the end of the book, I lacked a strong connection with her character during the duration of the story. Moreover, Ileni and Sorin are written into the molds of Teacher and Assassin who are intended to “hate” one another, but these shapes they wore detracted, again, from my emotional connection with the story. An issue of even more concern, however, is the lack of sufficient world-building. First off, Death Sworn is set entirely within caves which I found was a tactically unsound decision. The main plot points of the novel revolve entirely around the Empire but we know very little of it, especially as the political situation is kept under wraps for most of the book and, even then, only briefly hinted at. Additionally, the layout of this world felt unfamiliar. Are these caves at the foot of the Empire? Is there a gate, like the one to Mordor, that guards the Empire? Or is the cave miles away from the Empire? While I have no doubt that the sequel will be heading in a much more detailed direction concerning the Empire, I couldn’t help but be disappointment by the tid-bits we were meant to be satisfied with.

Nevertheless, the reason Death Sworn has received such a favorable rating, from me at any rate, is because of the ethical situations it manages to bring up. Is it moral to use death to achieve a higher purpose? It is ethical to consort to evil means to destroy another source of evil? Is not making the most use of an individual’s death a dishonor to their life? As Ileni is surrounded by assassins, all of whom make decisions about death almost all the time, these are fascinating questions that are probed over the course of the narrative. Cypess questions the value of a life, particularly during a political war, which I appreciated.

Ultimately, Death Sworn is not a perfect work, but I will be on board for the sequel to this duet. While this novel felt, in many ways, like a prequel to the true story, it was still an extraordinarily entertaining introduction into this world and its characters. Although I fear that hardcore fans of fantasy may be disappointed, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel more than makes it up to them (and me!)
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
December 8, 2013
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Death Sworn is an unforgettable, engaging novel with a dark tone and an eerie quality about its setting. This is a smooth blend of mystery, romance, and magic that makes for a story that will blow your mind.

Opening Sentence: The first step should have been the hardest.

The Review:

Ileni is a sorceress who had once been extremely powerful, but her magic is fading rapidly. The Elders gave her an assignment, one that she will fit because she is “expendable”, and that is to train the many secluded assassins that live in a formation of caves. The assassins and the sorcerers have an agreement, after all, and that is that in exchange for the assassins leaving them in peace, the sorcerers will send one of their own to be a mentor to those with magical talent. It’s a dangerous job… not only will Ileni be living in a cave full of assassins that are obsessed with following their master’s will, but the last two teachers that came were murdered for unknown reasons. Ileni also has the burden of discovering who, and why, this happened. Let’s not forget her handsome, seemingly uncaring protector against this unknown predator, Sorin, either!

Right off the bat, I could not tear my eyes away from the pages. There are multiple plots in this book: the evil rulers of the kingdom, the assassin’s killer, how Ileni’s powers are fading, Sorin and Ileni’s relationship, and more.

I want to tell you guys about the Master. This “Master” rules over the assassins, and his word is law, with no hesitation. In one scene Ileni witnesses, the Master demonstrates his power over them by ordering a young boy to kill himself — unblinkingly, eager to show his devotion, this is followed out. Constantly, it is argued whether he is considered evil, because every order is set to help little by little his master plan to end the empire, and yet some of the things he does are so horrible. Personally, I loved this character! He has just the right amount of goodness, slightly unbalanced by his cruel ideas and playing of his followers like pawns on a chessboard. When you are reading scenes with the Master you want to shiver.

The romance between Ileni and Sorin moved very slowly, in subtle touches and quick glances. It never gets boring, though. Sorin’s lack of emotion most of the time makes him showing any emotion a very strong statement. Even though it wasn’t exactly your normal love story, I was still very fond of the pairing of these two characters.

There is always a very morbid and sinister feel about this novel as you read it. The dark tone is set very nicely, adding some creepiness to anything and everything. Even the scenes with fun and laughter had an undertone of this scary feeling. The only time I really felt content and peaceful was when I closed the book, but that isn’t a bad thing, because Death Sworn caused my emotions to unravel and swirl.

I did have one problem, though. I wish that I had seen more of this “empire” that is considered so horrible and evil, although we did get hints that book number two would give that to us, which makes me even more excited about the sequel. Sadly, I have to wait awhile for that. The setting the whole story through was in the caves (which were very vast, I’ll give you that).

I absolutely loved Death Sworn. I can’t rave enough about how fast I read this, or how unique the writing style was. The beginning hooks you in, the middle never gets boring, and the end is explosive and exciting. Definitely add this to your to read list on Goodreads, you will not regret it! Thank you for this masterpiece, Leah Cypress!

Notable Scene:

That was why he had gone after Bazel. To give her a chance to escape.

The door to her prison had been wide open, and she had turned away.

Ileni felt her lips twist as she gave him the truth, knowing he wouldn’t believe it. “I was sent here for a reason. I won’t leave until I find out who killed Absalm and Cadrel.”

Something passed swiftly over his face, something that wasn’t disbelief, before it went blank again. “Or until you become the next victim?”

She turned away from him. “Or that.”

FTC Advisory: Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins provided me with a copy of Death Sworn. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Angelica.
805 reviews1,127 followers
October 19, 2014

“How can you know what your life is worth if you don't know what you would trade it for?”

This is one of those books that I don't know how to rate. The ones that I can't really tell how much I liked it. Sure I enjoyed it but how much? I don't know if its a 4 or a 3 or a 3.5. I just don't know! So I'll say 3.5 because it's in the middle.

This is the story of Ileni, a powerless sorceress who is sent to teach magic at a school of assassins. That is right. Assassins. The worst part is that the reason she has been sent is because the last two teachers had been murdered and she could be next. In a place where everyone is a professional killer, everyone is a suspect. With her life on the line, her power fleeting, and an assassin to protect her she must solve the mystery before she too ends up dead but there is more to the assassins than there seems. They are killers, yes. But are they the bad guys?

Now let me just say that I really enjoyed this book. I started at around 10PM and went to sleep at 4AM finishing it. The thing I liked was the main character Ileni. She was a good likeable character who had her head on straight. She wasn't one of those whinny girls who was always complaining even though she had reason enough to do so. She also didn't fall head over heals for the love interest. She never forgot that where she was and hat he was still an assassin and could easily kill her. She was also really kick-ass in her own special way, learning how to fight and even beating one of the assassins. More than that she was smart. She was always trying to figure things out and didn't sit there waiting for the answers to come to her. She was always trying to stay one step ahead. She was funny and witty and always made herself look strong even in her weakest moments.

Taking place in underground caves that double as a school for killers you know there is going to be action. Yet it is not over done. Just because everyone can fight and kill it's not like there is a fight every other chapter. Every confrontation serves a purpose in the story. Sometimes books try too hard to be cool and tough and have strong females that they add unnecessary fights to see how action packed the book is and how strong the characters. Here all the characters are strong. They are assassins! They don't need to fight every page to prove they can kick butt.

Now the love interest. Sorin. He was so cute. I mean sure he was a bad ass assassin but he was still a datable guy. He wasn't the typical brooding bad boy who hates everything. Sure he was cold at times and mostly serious but that all goes back to him being an assassin and acting how he was trained to be. He was never purposely mean or cruel and had an actual personality when he wasn't being watched all the time. Their romance builds slowly neither one trusting the other all the way at first. After they realize that they need each other that is when it starts to build. And then in the end they realize that there are more important things than their love and things far bigger than that. I just hate in a book when one's universe revolves entirely around the others.

Has anyone noticed that there are a lot of assassin books lately. I kind of like this new thing. No more angels, vampires, werewolves, faeries and whatnot. Now it's sirens (which is already getting old), aliens, zombies and assassins. I like it.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews243 followers
February 9, 2015

This was a very compelling fast paced read, with characters that actually behave according to logic, despite their age. Imagine that.

The only negative point of this story, its the world-building that is actually extremely vague to say the least.
I was left with no idea of the time period in which the story takes place: Yes, I know it is a fantasy tale in which certain people possess magic. But besides that...

There's three factions _lets call them that _ in this world. We have the Empire who are the bad guys although I am not sure why, the Renegai, which are the people with magical abilities, and the Assassin's which *surprise, surprise* act according to their name.
Nothing far fetching and difficult to follow as you can see.

As expected in the supposed epic fantasy tales _ this one more fantasy, than actually epic _ there's conspiracy's and treachery's in the characters lives.
There will be a obstacle that the main character will have to overcome...or not:

"She was seventeen years old, and she felt as ancient as the rocks surrounding her.
And there was nowhere to go except forward, deeper into those rocks, where her death lay waiting."

But when it comes to the setting and the atmosphere of the story....it was just meh.
Caves. Caves. Caves. Bleak caves.
There's food...so chimneys maybe? And who cooks?
The worst killers of them all? Not the worst because those end up dead, but you see what I mean.
A cave full of young assassins who are always training...training equals sweat=stink= lots of water..so how does that work out?
Just basic things like this, that I wish would have been described so that the world would have felt more coherent.

We have someone who lived seventeen years out in the open air, and suddenly faces a lifetime _ however short it may turn out to be _ in confinement.
It must have felt as if she was being buried alive. And although the subject is occasionally mentioned, I didn't felt as if it was properly developed.

I'll give you an example...here's how I look like after a day with no Sun:

Now imagine being stuck for weeks bellow the surface....

The romance..
Truth be told that I wouldn't have had the slightest problem if it had taken a little longer _lol _ to appear.
But, even as it is, it was not heavily handed, and most importantly the characters remained true to their actual self.

His laugh hurt more than his grip, which was growing tighter and tighter. “Until you came along, and changed everything? Is that what you believe?”

So, did I liked it?
Yes, despite its world-building "issues", I ended up liking it because I liked the characters.

Now of to read the second volume of this duology , Death Marked, because I have an Arc ;)
Hopefully it will compensate the world-building deficiencies of the first book.

Having read 15 % of Death Marked, I can say that things aren't looking good.

I really wish author Leah Cypess would change her writing MO: Nightspell was severely lacking as a sequel to Mistwood (her other series), and the same thing seems to be happening with this one :/

August 11, 2016
This and Grave Mercy made me think of the Study series. Anyway, I had taken a break from this and got back to it. One of my favorite parts in this was the growing friendship between the sorceress and the assassin.

You have well, a sorceress whose power is slowly diminishing. She's sent to teach assassins magic. All the while looking into the death of the last tutor before her. What had happened and what will she find and of course will she survive amongst teaching these assassins in the caves?

First off the cover is beautifully done. Surrounding it, the background reminds me of a picture frame in a way. And the colors. Well done.

Anyway, this one is a 4. Like I said, I took my time with this, then took a break and after a while got back around to continue reading.

I really liked Ileni when she learned something from Sorin and he from her in a way. And she didn't let her circumstance get the better of her. Yeah she didn't like it, but she still kept moving forward and I admired that about her character.

I'm curious where the story will go next after an ending like that.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
May 3, 2014
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

After reading this book, I just had to look inside myself and wonder if I’m suffering from YA burnout. But now I’ve gone and painted a negative mood over this review, and that wasn’t really my intention at all! Death Sworn was in fact a pretty good book. I just don’t doubt for a second that I would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn’t already gone through so many young adult novels that displayed similar themes since the beginning of this year.

I actually really enjoyed the premise behind this one. A young sorceress whose powers are waning. A secret society of assassins. When Ileni is tasked by the Elders to tutor a group of killers in the ways of magic, what else could she do? She must do her duty and travel to the caves where the assassins make their home base, and while she’s there she might as well try and figure out what had caused the mysterious deaths of her last two predecessors.

But I suppose once you start getting a lot of the same, even the most minor of flaws become more apparent. Right away I noticed a distinct paucity of world-building. In the author’s defense though, this entire story pretty much takes place in a system of caves. While I found the lives and the culture of the assassins fascinating, there was very little context for their place in the world; for all intents and purposes their society and Ileni existed in this bubble far removed from everything else. There’s talk of outside conflict with the empire and their tyranny, but those struggles may as well have been in another universe. Leah Cypess succeeded in getting my attention – but I wanted to know more! This book was relatively short, so I can’t imagine length restrictions had anything to do with it.

I also liked the main protagonist well enough, but I wasn’t fully convinced she was someone I could root for. Ileni is the latest to join the swelling ranks of YA heroines that I think really should know better. Taking unnecessary risks and falling in love with strange, standoffish boys seem to be a popular trend these days. The romance in particular didn’t sit well with me at all. My frustration with it didn’t originate so much from the insta-love between Ileni and the assassin Sorin, but more with the way it was written.

The thing is, insta-love by itself doesn’t always have to be a negative. Sometimes an author can inject so much passion and chemistry into a relationship, it doesn’t matter if the spark ignites and flares over ten years or ten seconds – it just works. However, with Ileni and Sorin I didn’t feel any of that. Their personalities and values were at complete odds to begin with, and in a way I think Cypess did her job a little too well in making this apparent. You could immediately tell (yet understand) why Ileni and Sorin's interactions with each other would be awkward and strained, as they come from two different worlds. Then all of a sudden, they were together. It was like one moment, Ileni was still struggling with her inability to make Sorin understand her moral objections to his work and lifestyle, the next she was reminiscing about the night of passion they spent together. Wait, what? I had to go back and make sure this really happened. Not only did the timing feel way off, I also couldn’t believe I was robbed of the sweet, delicious build up to the moment.

But make no mistake, there was plenty to like as well. Death Sworn is in part a mystery, following Ileni on her journey to find out what happened to the two tutors who came to the assassins’ caves before her, and the reasons for their demise. You’ll also be led to wonder what her flagging powers have to do with all this, and in the end the answers might shock you as they genuinely shocked me. I was impressed and totally blindsided by the twist in the story. It was impactful, and very well done.

I’m still undecided as to whether or not I will continue the series. I probably sounded harsher than I meant to be, as this was a good book and a promising start. But I made it a goal and a reading challenge to read more YA this year, but the more I read, the higher the bar is set, and my tastes have no doubt gotten a lot more finicky as compared to the start of 2014.
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1,249 reviews207 followers
November 23, 2013
Dark, thrilling, and full of secrets, Death Sworn was an absolutely amazing YA read. I completely and totally loved this book. The world was dark, the romance was lovely, and the story was brilliant. Loved it!

The world building in this book was great. I never felt confused, despite the entirely separate world that was created. It was dark and magical and wonderfully done.

Ileni was a strong heroine. For most of her life, she trained as one of the strongest sorcerers in her society. But, now her magic is draining away and she has suddenly lost her position and path in life. The Elders send her to train the group of assassins in the arts of magic and to find out who was killing the previous tutors. Even with her magic draining, she was a force to be reckoned with. She even learned how to fight in regular combat to make sure she always had a way to defend herself. She was very clever. She knew when to trust and when to keep her own council. She managed to not only navigate the world of the assassins, but beat them at their own game. And, she went though a lot of growth over the course of the book. She started out as somewhat narrow-minded, having never seen anything outside her society and what they taught her. But, as she lives with and gets to know the assassins, she realizes that not all is black and white and what she was taught might not be right. I really liked her. I thought she was totally badass.

Sorin was the love interest in this book and he was a puzzle. He was an assassin and he had absolutely no qualms about killing. Not even the innocent. To his mind, if the master commanded it, then it must serve a higher purpose, so the death was justified. He could kill a person in a thousand different ways and not lose a wink of sleep. He was ruthless and a highly skilled killer. He was not an idealized hero, in any way. But, he wasn't a bad person. For one, like Ileni, he changes over the course of the book. He began to see other perspectives. And, he was sweet in his own way. He was very devoted to Ileni, determined to protect her and adorable in his own way. It did't matter that he was a ruthless assassin, I still adored him.

The romance was fairly light. It took a while for Ileni and Sorin to trust each other enough for romance to even be an option. The attraction was there immediately and, once deeper feelings came into the equation, it was very sweet. Neither of them bothered to deny their feelings and those feelings were always clear. They complemented each other, with their different morals from what they were taught and they were one bad ass team. After that ending, I'm not sure what will happen with them, but I'm hoping they will be able to have a happy ending somehow.

The plot was fast paced and I was hooked the entire way through. There were a ton of secrets revealed during this book and they were all a shock. Especially the truth about who was killing the magic mentors and why this person was doing it. I never saw it coming. I never guessed how deep and far that plan went. I really enjoyed the story and that ending has me dying to get my hands on book 2. I need to read it now!

Death Sworn was an absolutely brilliant YA read. I loved everything about it. It was dark, thrilling, romantic, and full of secrets that I never saw coming. This is a book you definitely don't want to miss.

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*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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