Series: Death Sworn Duology
Author: Leah Cypess
Reader: Cris Dukeheart
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source: I checked the audiobook out from my online local library.
When a young sorceress is exiled to teach magic to a clan of assassins, she will find that secrets can be even deadlier than swords. From the critically acclaimed Leah Cypess comes a dangerous and eerie fantasy about murder, shocking discoveries, and fiery star-crossed romance that readers of Cinda Williams Chima and Robin LaFevers won't be able to put down. Ileni is losing her magic. And that means she's losing everything: her position as the rising star of her people, her purpose in life, and even the young man she loves. Sent to the assassins' cave, hidden deep within the mountains, she expects no one will ever hear from her again. The last two sorcerers sent died within weeks of each other. Accidents, or something more sinister? As Ileni navigates the dangers--both natural and human--of the caves, she'll discover secrets that have been kept for decades. And she'll find an ally in Sorin, the deadly young man who could be the assassins' next leader. With Sorin determined to protect her, sparks--magical and romantic--will fly. But will even he understand the choice she must make in the end?
Death Sworn is the first book in Cypess' fantasy duology, and one of her most well known novels. I've been most of my focus on contemporary these past weeks (save for Cassandra Clare's books), and to be honest, this was good but not great. There were several key things that kept Death Sworn from achieving that "great" status and being memorable.
First, Death Sworn's characters didn't speak to me at all. There was never a time when I was worried about Ileni's well-being or cared about her budding romance with Sorin. Ileni and Sorin don't have distinct personality traits that make them stand out from the crowd. They are both warriors, loyal, and stubborn. Their only difference is their morals, and it made for some lackluster interactions. Unfortunately, I was apathetic to the characters and what happened to them.
One of my other key issues was the world development. For me, it just wasn't done well. I have an overall sense of what is happening, but not enough to have fully understood what I was listening to. There's this big "reveal" that I honestly just didn't get because I didn't understand its significance. This caused some issues thought the book for me, since politics and tensions are major themes. This standard fantasy world was so much like others I have read that I couldn't remember the little differences that were important in the long run.
Besides those two major complaints, there wasn't anything wrong with the book, it just didn't stand out. Although I didn't completely understand the reveal at the end, I did really enjoy the last 20 percent of the book. I thought it was the strongest part of the book. If the second book is like the last portion of the first, then I'll enjoy the sequel more.
My other complaint is pretty trivial. The narration just didn't really work for me. Much like the book itself, the narration wasn't bad but wasn't good either. I don't think the reader did a good job of voicing other characters besides Ileni. It was obvious who was who, but the tone of her voice came off a bit silly at times when she was doing male voices. Cris Dukeheart read well, but she didn't preform well.
With all of that said, Death Sworn was still a pretty good fantasy novel. The world and characters didn't stand out, but the book did set up for a sequel I think I will enjoy more. I'm looking forward to the sequel, even if it is to just finish the series. At the end of the day, Death Sworn is a solid fantasy novel. By years end though, I know I won't remember Death Sworn well.