Sorcery and Assassins: A Review of DEATH SWORN by Leah Cypess – Plus Giveaway

Leah Cypess
352 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher

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.

Ileni’s magic is fading. Once, she was said to be the greatest sorceress in all of Renegai, but now she’s looked down on by her people. So when she’s sent to train a bunch of assassins, she accepts, to prove that she’s not worthless. Or be at a place where nobody will pity her. But right now, her problem isn’t just about her magic, because the last two trainers died in the same cave not that long ago. And for all she knows, Ileni could be next.

From page one, we’re thrust into a world of magic, danger, and assassins. DEATH SWORN is a well-written start to a fantasy series that is bound to leave you breathless and begging for more.

Leah Cypess doesn’t start with a slow beginning that fills us in on the details, rather, she masterfully weaves it into the story as we’re pushed along Ileni’s story. The imagery was vivid, the characters dark and mysterious, and the reason behind the deaths kept me guessing through out the book. Of course, I didn’t even suspect who it was and until Ileni figured it out.

Ileni was a character that I fell in love with quickly, because even while suffering under her pain and anger, she defied the norm and wasn’t a depressed weakling that needs others to help her. She’s more of the “get out of my way” type of character who takes matters into her own hands. Of course, when you’re in a cave full of assassins you can’t be soft. Sorin—an assassin tasked with protecting her—was pretty cool too, but I disliked how highly he and all the other assassins thought of their master.

The master. Now he was one mysterious and confusing character that I will never understand. With his endless reasons, hidden agenda, and overflowing knowledge—he’s a character you won’t find in your everyday YA novel. I’ll just leave it at that.

Have I mentioned that there are assassins? That are amazingly awesome? (Yes, I have come to realize awesome is my favorite word.)

If assassins, magic, and sorcery is your thing, Leah Cypess’s latest is for you. It was well-written, kept me hooked throughout, and the whodunnit theme was an added bonus that kept me guessing through out.

And now I shall add another book to my growing list of need-to-read sequels. Happy sigh.

About the Author

I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).

However, I took a few detours along the way to becoming a full-time writer. After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother’s importuning to be practical and majored in biology at Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I am going to be a published novelist. I am very excited about this!

I live in Brookline, Massachusetts (right outside of Boston) with my husband Aaron, a researcher and doctor at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and our two daughters.

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Asma is a cat-loving co-blogger at IceyBooks. She's a 15 year old homeschooler who spends her time blogging (obviously), reading, and whatever else strikes her fancy. She's also a part time pirate and assassin.



  1. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    Ooooohhhhh this one sounds really really good! Assassins, magic and sorcery is most definitely my kind of thing. ;) Looks like I’llbe adding this one to my to-read pile! Awesome review. :D

  2. Reply

    Mary @ BookSwarm

    February 24, 2014

    I’m curious about this master. Sounds like a big deal, if all the assassins love him so. Heard great things about this book and can’t wait to read it!

  3. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I’m glad you liked this one as I’ve been seeing it around. And Ileni sounds like a pretty awesome heroine–I hope to love her as much as you did when I read this! :)

  4. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I haven’t read it yet! But I want to!! I really enjoy Leah writing style. I’ve been looking forward to reading this for months!!

  5. Reply

    Kim { Book Swoon }

    February 24, 2014

    I really like the sound of DEATH SWORN and its world of magic, danger, and assassins! Yes please. It’s great when the book can simply take off from page one. I’m looking forward to checking this fantasy series out. Wonderful review, Asma :)

  6. Reply

    Sassy @ My Never Ending Pile

    February 24, 2014

    I LOVE anything to do with assassin’s, so this is one I need to pick up!

  7. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    No I haven’t read Death Sworn but I would looooove to read it. I’m down for anything having to do with magic and assassins.

  8. Reply

    Braden Russell (@Story_Monger)

    February 24, 2014

    Assassins, secret sects, and mysterious deaths? Yesh please. And I like the concept of the MC growing as she mentors others… A nice twist on the stereotypical snotty-nosed trainee magician/assassin/whatever.

  9. Reply

    Kaniesha @ Deux Lectrices

    February 24, 2014

    “If assassins, magic, and sorcery is your thing, Leah Cypess’s latest is for you.” YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSS. Just yes, completely yes. Everything about it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    Yes definitely want to read. Assassins come on, how could you not

  11. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I think this book sounds fantastic! Definitely on the top of my want list :) Thanks for sharing!

  12. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I’m looking forward to reading this book and also have the gorgeous cover to look at in person.

  13. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I would love to read this!

  14. Reply

    Melissa (Books and Things)

    February 24, 2014

    Who knew that assassins would be so fun to read about. Oh and now I’m also curious about The Master. Oh I must know more about him. You have me so curious. This book sounds fab!!

  15. Reply

    susan beamon

    February 24, 2014

    book sounds very interesting. would like to have a copy for myself.

  16. Reply

    Hannah Roberts

    February 24, 2014

    I am reading Death Sworn right now and LOVING it. I’m a little over 50% of he way through, and these characters are so nuanced and complex. I love Illeni and Sorin, even though I don’t like them sometimes. They feel like real people. Can’t wait to see how this ends!

  17. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I have not read it but I am DYING to, seriously. You have a lot of amazing giveaways and amazing books featured on your blog, but this one tops my list. I love the cover and I am a sucker for a good book about magic. The only thing about reading it now that scares me is having to wait so long for the sequel!! Thanks for another great giveaway!

  18. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    Wonderful to hear you fell for the world building and that Ileni was an amazing character in this one.

  19. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    I haven’t read Death Sworn yet but I did read an excerpt on another blog and it was pretty cool. I’d really like to win it. Thanks.

  20. Reply

    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    February 24, 2014

    I agree completely! I absolutely loved Ileni’s narration and the assassins in this novel were the perfect blend of deadly and mysterious. Plus, the romance? SWOON. I especially liked the fact that so many moral questions about the validity of death and purpose of it were brought up in this novel. While I could have done with more world-building, I can’t wait for the sequel! Lovely review, dear! :)

  21. Reply

    Alicia Batista

    February 24, 2014

    I am so excited to read DEATH SWORN! And that cover alone is just enough to make me want to check it out! Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  22. Reply

    Vannah Batista

    February 24, 2014

    DEATH SWORN is one of my most anticipated books of the year! I can’t WAIT to read it!

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  23. Reply


    February 24, 2014

    This book sounds awesome! I can’t wait to read it.

  24. Reply

    Katiria Rodriguez

    February 24, 2014

    I have not read Death Sworn yet but I really really want to get my hands on it and read it because I heard great reviews about it plus it sounds right up my alley! thanks for the awesome giveaway!

  25. Reply

    Abby T.

    February 24, 2014

    Can’t wait to read this

  26. Reply


    February 25, 2014

    I’ve never read a book about assassins, but this definitely has me intrigued.

  27. Reply

    Giaochau N.

    February 25, 2014

    I haven’t read Death Sworn yet but it sounds so interesting especially with magic and assassins involved.

  28. Reply


    February 26, 2014

    I loved Cypress’s debut novel Mistwood. I didn’t’ realize she had a new series out but I’ll be adding it to my TBR pile.

  29. Reply


    February 26, 2014

    Definitely excited to read Death Sworn. I’ve read a few reviews from trusted bloggers, and they’ve all enjoyed it.

  30. Reply

    Alexis Salcido

    February 26, 2014

    HECK YES I WANT TO READ DEATH SWORN! I have been wanting to read this book for a while it sounds AMAZING! Thank you for the giveaway! :)

  31. Reply

    Roy M

    February 26, 2014

    This sounds SO GOOD! Definitely going to pick that one up!

  32. Reply

    Danielle Nguyen

    February 26, 2014

    All these assassin books that have been coming out lately have me so excited for the fantasy genre. Can’t wait to read!

  33. Reply

    Michelle {Book Hangovers}

    February 27, 2014

    I haven’t read this one but I really want too! That’s why my fingers are crossed in hopes of winning this awesome giveaway!!!! ;) I believe I even tried to get approved at Netgalley for this book but sadly I got denied! I’m still a beginner in the blogging world and really new with NetG!
    Anyway Thanks for the opportunity to win :)
    Book Hangovers Blabs Books xoxo ♥

  34. Reply


    March 1, 2014

    I’ve not read it yet but I really want to read it. High Fantasy well I’m all in =)

  35. Reply


    March 1, 2014

    I am excited to read this one, thanks for the giveaway!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  36. Reply


    March 1, 2014

    Haven’t read it; would be interesting to read

  37. Reply


    March 2, 2014

    I haven’t read it yet but I want to! It sounds amazing. :)

  38. Reply

    Jaime Lester

    March 2, 2014

    YES! I want to read Death Sworn. From the amazing cover to the intriguing, magical blurb, I am completely hooked. I really hope to get the chance to read it soon! Thank you so much for the giveaway!