Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess
Series: Death Sworn #1
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
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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. (from Goodreads)

What is it with these books that take place in a cave? (At least reading this one reminded me that I still hadn't reviewed Stolen Songbird.) Anyway, I'm beginning to wonder if this is a trend. Take a girl that's destined for something and send her to a cave with trolls assassins.

I'll admit, I read this book for two reasons.

Reason One: That cover. Enough said.

Reason Two: Assassins. Okay, I'm one of those readers of fantasy that has an unhealthy interest in assassins. Give me the harmless-seeming ones that would rather buy clothes, the ones that have a special skill for it, that use poison at the order of royalty or any of a dozen other types of assassins and I am fascinated. I really think this was handled well by the book.

The assassins are all different, as befits a group of any type, with different personality types. It was a little too easy for both Ileni and me to forget that these boys, who sometimes just seem like normal boys, were killers - and most of them viewed that as an honor. The assassins know that killing is painfully easy, even if Ileni doesn't.

Ileni herself was merely okay. I never got truly attached to her, mostly because at the start of the story she's just too indifferent to everything. She only cares to not die because that will mean she failed her final mission. She's been ripped away from everything she's even known, so I understand this, but have you ever seen those people that hold themselves stiffly, like if they move too quickly, they'll break? That's what Ileni acted like. Like I said, I understand, but she's supposed to be the main character in this story (and, in fact, less than ten pages wasn't told from her perspective) and it's as though every thought she has she's filtered to not give anything away.

I wanted to like her because of her strength, but I was left thinking it was a hollow strength - one that would vanish under a breeze. The other characters were so unimportant and I got so little feeling from them that I won't even mention them here.

Honestly, I didn't much like this book, but it took me until the last two pages to realize why. All I knew before that point was that it was failing in something.

Nothing happens in this book. There. I said it and I don't apologize.

There's no feelings of peril. No true enemy to fight. There was little driving force behind the plot. When the 'mystery' was solved, it was done in such a way that one of the cardinal rules of mystery writing was broken (playing fair with your clues) and left no emotional impact because it was such a lame resolution. I mean, what happened was impossible, with a cave full of assassins.

Also, there was a sever lack of descriptions. I couldn't really picture anything - except maybe the love interest. There was no talk of location - just rocks. Of course, how many ways can you actually describe a rock? This goes hand in hand with the poor world building.

There's these three kingdoms. The two less powerful ones are 'fighting' the Empire (I think that's even what it was called). Ileni is from the kingdom that is willing to wait and non-violently rebel. The assassins are from a kingdom actively trying to undermined the Empire. That's it. That's the extent of the world building. Gee, like that doesn't sound like every fantasy world since...well, ever.

Between this and the distance Ileni keeps you at throughout the book, nothing feels real or compelling.