Saturday, June 27, 2015

Book Review: Death Sworn

"Helen didn't you say that you weren't reading any more books about assassins?" I did but wanted to make an exception here since this book is by an author who I've both loved and disliked and really wanted to read another book by her to try and figure out if I should keep up with her works or not. Plus, the main character in this book, she's a mage losing her powers which sounded like a really cool premise and I'm willing to overlook a couple of personal biases for that.

Death Sworn by Leah Cypress

Ileni has been raised amongst sorcerers and was once a prodigy but is losing her magic and her whole life along with it. The council has decided the best thing to do with her is to honor an old agreement with the nearby assassins to send her as a teacher to them since she can certainly still teach magic (abet poorly to make sure the assassins don't become too powerful) and to investigate why the last two teachers died so suddenly. Ileni discovers that these deaths are even more mysterious than one would expect for people living amongst paid killers and that this whole agreement might be more vital to her people than they realize. 

To avoid being coy, I didn't really like this book but it's a bit hard to articulate why since it wasn't as if the book did anything especially terrible. I did go into this book thinking that it was another standalone novel, not part of a series, which did make for a frustrating ending since obviously not everything is will be resolved then and I do wonder if this story really needed to be two or more books. So little actually "happened" that I feel like it was split up just because of the reveal towards the very end and yet that reveal would have worked well as an act break instead. Ileni comes to the caves, finds out that the secrets that she set out to discover are even more deeply rooted than she expected, finds out people are even more conniving than expected, and then the book ends. I also completely didn't buy into her relationships with any other characters in the books, after having pages and pages of her saying that assassins couldn't be trusted, she wouldn't trust them, seeing her actually do so felt more like Cypress pushing to start a romantic plot more than anything else.

To touch on the reveal from the end of the book, by having that as an ending note it highlights just how passive Ileni is in her own life, both unwillingly and because Cypress is trying very hard to make the adults mysterious, omniscient, and morally gray but clearly not succeeding. She is nigh-constantly being manipulated and even when she's not she doesn't really, well, do anything. Her magic is vanishing but she neither fights to find an alternate way to do magic or struggles to learn something new instead, admittedly her options on both fronts are limited but she is a crushed character from the start who fails to find something to motivate herself and that at least needs to be accomplished by the end of the book. She's a character devoid of even revenge as a motivation, the other characters have very little motivation to do anything with their lives, the plot has radically shifted gears in the very end so the earlier plot almost doesn't matter, and the story has practically no setting given how isolated the characters are. There is no draw to this book what so ever.

I expect that some people will find this review a bit harsh for a book I didn't even hate and I certainly have mentioned more of it's bad qualities than good (having not much of a setting isn't a flaw of the story but it's a turnoff for me regardless). But I literally cannot think of a single reason to recommend this book, even given my poor luck with finding an assassin novel I like I'm sure I could find a better one to recommend instead! So with that, I think I'll be skipping the rest of Cypress's other works unless I hear absolutely stunning reviews, guess Mistwood was a fluke after all.  

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