Friday, April 25, 2014

Title: Death Sworn
Author: Leah Cypess
Narrator(s): Cris Dukehart
Series: Death Sworn, book #1
Length: 7 hrs 40 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source: from publisher for review via Edelweiss/audio from library
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.

I love fantasy. I mean, that's primarily all I reviewed in the beginning. So, when I saw that gorgeous cover and read the word assassin in the synopsis, I knew I was meant to read this story. I've had Mistwood by this same author on my shelf for ages, thanks to a Borders going-out-of-business sale, but aside from that, I have no prior experience with Leah Cypess' writing. That said, I think it's safe to say that I went into this story with some pretty high expectations, especially since several of my fantasy-loving friends had enjoyed the book.

What Went Wrong

1. The story starts off so slowly that had I not requested this book for review, I surely would have DNF'd it. I probably should have anyway. I actually ended up borrowing the audiobook from my library because I often find fantasy books are that much better when you're hearing them, but not so in this case. I've never listened to a book narrated by Cris Dukehart before, but her narration added little to the story.

2. I didn't connect with the characters at all. Including Ileni and Sorin, the girl who's lost her magic and the assassin who's sworn to protect her. They all seemed so shallow and one-dimensional, unable to move past their initial purpose and see things on a grander scale. Even the villain(s) seemed haphazardly drawn.

3. There was little to no world-building. I think something like 95% of the story occurred in a dank, dark cave system where the assassins trained, but a little more explanation as to what was going on in the outside world would have gone a long way. I get that a war is brewing and that it has a lot to do with magic and power plays, but I didn't take much else away from this book.

4. The romance was so unbelievably meh. Sorin wants Ileni but his duty to his Master and fellow assassins comes first...always. Eleni doesn't trust any of the assassins, including Sorin, but falls for him anyway. They can't be together because of who they are and what they're supposed to do. Despite their feelings, or whatever, I never saw them together. Just as I never felt an emotional connection to these characters, I never felt that they had made a connection either.

5. I listened to this just last week, but I can't tell you what happened at the end. That's how very unmemorable this story was for me. Pretty fantasy-lite in my opinion with little to entice me to read the second book in the duet. I mean, usually when I don't like most of the book, at least the ending is explosive enough to make me want to carry on with the series, but I just don't know if that's going to happen this time

What Went Right

1. Proper assassins. Don't you hate when you read that there are assassins in a story and they never do any real assassinating? Yeah, me, too. But Ileni's deadly students go out on missions, kill their targets, and plunder what they can, all in the name of the Master.

2. The setup for an epic battle between the Master and those wielding magic is fairly decent. Especially since it seems that Ileni will be at the center of it all.

I think those who are usually wary of high fantasy will find plenty to enjoy in this novel, but it just didn't live up to my expectations. I just don't think this author's work is for me, especially after perusing my copy of Mistwood and seeing some of the dialogue. I'll probably end up giving that book away to someone who will enjoy it more than me, unfortunately.

GIF it to me straight:
Since so many others enjoyed this, I have to think that it's just me...

About the author:

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 live in Brookline, Massachusetts (right outside of Boston) with my husband Aaron, a researcher and doctor at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and our two daughters.

Find Leah:

Website | Twitter | FacebookGoodreads


  1. Awww! I'm sad you didn't enjoy this book much. I found it to be a fun read though I admit there was ZERO world building (past the cave). I think the next book will venture into that and I'm excited to see what it'll be like. I've found that this one was very hit or miss with fantasy fans. I think I picked it up at the perfect moment and in the right mood. Hopefully your next fantasy book hits you better.

  2. I've had a few like that myself, where I try the audio because reading the book is too torturous. Sometimes it's beneficial, sometimes not. I though have no problem DNF'ing books anymore. There are just too many books, and my free time is so limited, that when it's painful trying to FORCE myself to get through a book, I know it's time to put it away and call it quits. Sorry this one didn't work for you, Jen. :(

  3. Ah these seems to be a recurring problem with Ms. Cypress' books. I felt the same exact way about Mistwood - which I dnf'd. Honestly, whatever problems you had with this book are the same problems I had with Mistwood. I'll be sure to skip this one.

    Thanks for the honest review, Jen.

  4. Sorry this didn't work for you :(. I can definitely understand your complaints. I did love that these assassins were pretty badass though. But I was able to connect better with Ileni and Sorin than you were.

  5. I have this for review, too, but have been pretty wary of picking it up after reading some pretty dismal reviews. I think your review has cemented its permanent bump from my TBR pile. I don't usually read fantasy, but I do like it every once in awhile. This just sounds completely boring, though, and I cannot stand slow paced books. It's cool the assassins are actually assassins, though. I DO hate it when I'm, like, ooh assassins, and then they don't do shit. Great review!


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