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Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

death swornI read and loved Leah Cypess’s first two books, Mistwood and Nightspell, when they came out, so I definitely went into Death Sworn with high hopes. I very much enjoy the mixture of fantasy politics, romance, and good prose that are her hallmarks. And I found that I did in fact like Death Sworn a good deal, but not exactly in the way that I expected to.

This is less of a review and more of a reaction; yours might be different.

– Ileni is a nice main character, unsure of herself in certain ways but with a very firm moral compass, despite her agonizing over certain elements of her upbringing. She’s also smart, which is refreshing, and she takes risks but in a calculated way that doesn’t annoy me.

– Cypress’s worldbuilding is, as always, extremely deft; she creates a complex interaction of cultures which I largely bought. Also, the system of magic was well thought out and I liked the costs and implications.

– I wished that the book had started in a different place, that we had actually seen the Renegai society while Ileni actually lived in it, rather than through flashbacks; it rendered the whole thing rather muted and kept it from having the emotional heft that it should.

– While I didn’t mind the romance, I also wasn’t head-over-heels in love with it either (err, no pun intended), and at times it felt a bit repetitive.

{- Incidentally, can anyone think of an example of a book where the main character meets a boy at the beginning and he doesn’t turn out to be the love interest? I feel like there is an obvious example, but I can’t quite think of it.}

– I was extremely surprised by the lack of resolution at the end; partly I hadn’t realized this was a series, and it’s very much the “things have happened, but there’s a lot to come” type of ending.

Generally, I liked this one but, as I hinted above, had a somewhat muted emotional reaction to it. The mystery part was fine; I didn’t guess the solution at all (I’m not sure it is guessable? Would be curious to know what others think). The romance was fine, the political interactions interesting. But I never found myself completely immersed in the world or the story. Sometimes when this happens, I can pinpoint why, and other times I’m really not sure. This is one of the times when I’m really not sure. I certainly intend to read the next book.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2014, HarperCollins; upper mg/YA (there’s some violence and threat of violence, but this shouldn’t bother the kid who’s read, for instance, the Attolia books, or Tolkien