Review: Death Sworn by Leah Cypress

Series: Death Sworn #1
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I've never read a novel by Cypress before so I'm unsure if my problems with this book are typical of her writing style or if it was simply my inability to connect with anyone and anything in this world. The characters were flat, there was not much world-building, the romance was done well the few times it came into the light, and the plot was really amazing--though slightly confusing.

Cypress's writing style makes it really easy to get through this book. And by that I mean I finished it in one sitting which is nearly impossible to do in college, even if I loved the book. It's very simplistic and fast, though the pacing was rather superb. In the beginning of the novel I noticed Cypress added a lot of detail when describing the beauty of things but used a typical writing style everywhere else. What was meant to sound beautiful and flowery came off as an attempt at trying too hard to capture our attention. And though the pacing was strong, the overall plot was not engaging. Though it was incredibly interesting, it didn't pull me in. I was just coasting through the novel and at a mere fifty percent in the book I was bored at the exact time that the plot was thickening. I wasn't invested in this journey at all.

I think that's partially attributed to the fact that I felt the novel needed way more world-building then it had. I understand that most of the book took place underground in the assassin's caves which obviously doesn't require a lot of detail, but the history of the world and the people that are making up the plethora of sides in this war was beyond confusing to me. I wanted the layout of the land, the history, the way all the different people turned out to be further explained. This, I believe, led to my general distance from the characters.

Though that can also be attributed to the fact that I found the characters to be bland and I wasn't invested in their plights. Our heroine was weak-willed and frustrating. She was stubborn and wasn't open to seeing the world and was either too suspicious or too trusting of absolutely everyone. There was never any common ground with her. Many of the assassins were lacking in depth and though I enjoyed the love interest, Sorin, he was still separated from us emotionally. He was solid in his following of his master and didn't have the strength to follow love. Though he was interesting, he needed to be more fleshed out. I do have to admit that the romance was rather amazing because it steered clear of insta-love, but it sort of became non-existent after their very first (and rather well done) first kiss. It was only briefly satisfying and this one plot positive was tossed to the side after a while and fell prey to typical young adult cliches such as the immediate regret of kissing someone the day after it happens and the constant avoidance that occurs because you're not mature enough to admit your feelings.

All in all, this book just didn't jive with me. It didn't have enjoyable details, the characters were the literary equivalent of cardboard, and the plot was admittedly interesting but not at all engaging. I'm hoping to continue the series because it has promise, but I'm holding my breath in regards to book two. There is no rush on my end. However, I say it is worth noting that I seem to be a black sheep in regards to this book and that you should give it a chance if you think it sounds like something that's up your alley. The plot really was well-done, and I'm interested in the surprises that Cypress has in store for us in the future.

2 stars


FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in exchange for my honest review.

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