Author: Leah Cypess
Series: Death Sworn, #1
Brought up as part of the Renegai, a splinter group of sorcerers working against the Empire, and educated in the art of magic, Ileni has never imagined anything different for her life than becoming as powerful a sorceress as possible. Everything changes for Ileni when she is told the magic flowing through her veins will soon cease to exist. Faced with the inevitable disappearance of her power, Illeni accepts the post as instructor of magic in the Assassins’ Caves where she is tasked with discovering how her two predecessors were killed.
Ileni must hide her waning magic, her only real defense against the calculating killers surrounding her. She should be afraid and repulsed, even if her people believe working with the assassins will bring about the fall of the Empire, but the more time Ileni spends with the skillful assassin Sorin, the harder it is for her to remember that she shouldn’t trust him.
“The knife was only touching her skin, not slicing into it. Ileni’s heart pounded against her chest, and instinctively reached for her magic before remembering she shouldn’t. Instead she brought her hands up and pushed with all her strength at the arm holding her prisoner. She might as well have tried to move the wall behind her. Her assailant didn’t so much as acknowledge the attempt.
Ileni forced her hands back to her sides and said, in her coolest voice, ‘The knife seems unnecessary, then, doesn’t it?'”
Ileni is a strong protagonist who doesn’t allow herself to be bullied by the men surrounding her, even when it becomes more and more apparent that her dwindling powers will do little to help her defend herself. Being the only female in a male-dominated situation can be extremely intimidating, especially when those males are capable of killing you with their bare hands, so I admire Ileni’s resolve and strength.
Sorin and Ileni’s relationship took time to evolve and I always appreciate it when authors slow down the romance because it’s much more believable. Sorin has been trained to be a cold-blooded killer, willing to give up his life with a single command, but I wanted to see him be more vulnerable. We are told that he isn’t a perfect follower, but I never felt the supposed rebellion churning inside him enough to see him differently than the efficient assassin we are introduced to in the beginning.
The Assassins’ Caves are kept secret and isolated from the rest of the world out of necessity, but unfortunately as a reader, I felt the isolation on another level. While we are given a summary of the history of Ileni’s people with the evil Empire and the intricate workings of the assassins, it is very brief and not developed enough to keep the larger picture in the back of my mind while I was reading.
Leah Cypess’s Death Sworn, though an interesting story, did not move me emotionally as much as I would have liked.