Death Sworn

352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062221216.
Gr 9 Up—Ileni was once a powerful sorceress, poised to be a leader among her people in their war against the Empire that exiled them long ago. But her magic is slowly and inexplicably fading, and she has been sentenced to spend the rest of her life as a teacher to assassins in a distant cave fortress. The teen also hopes to discover who killed the previous tutors sent by her people. The mission becomes further complicated by Ileni's growing feelings for Sorin, the assassin charged with protecting her. As Ileni delves deeper into the caves and the murders, she discovers more than she bargained for about herself and her people's relationship with the assassins and their mysterious leader. This book has a strong beginning that quickly fails to deliver, due in part to poor world-building. While Cypess gives a strong impression of a deep history of Ileni's people and the Empire itself, she doesn't delve into that history enough, which causes the story to lack a sense of true power. The romance is sluggish, despite a promising start, and Ileni herself, while steely and strong, has a tendency toward overt self-pity and whining. The novel's twists and turns set inside claustrophobic caves often lead to dead ends and will frustrate readers. Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Kristin Cashore may be drawn to this title but may not get deeply engaged.—Necia Blundy, formerly at Marlborough Public Library, MA
As seventeen-year-old Ileni's magic begins to fade, she's sent to the Black Mountain to tutor assassins in sorcery. With the help of Sorin, her student and assigned protector, she must discover who killed her predecessors before someone kills her. Ileni proves a compelling protagonist, and the blend of romance, assassins, magic, and murder-mystery consistently raises the stakes.

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