Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: Death Marked by Leah Cypess

Death Marked by Leah Cypess
Book Two of the Death Sworn series
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

A young sorceress’s entire life has been shaped to destroy the empire controlling her world. But if everything she knows is a lie, will she even want to fulfill her destiny? The sequel to Death Sworn is just as full of magic and surprising revelations, and will thrill fans of Leigh Bardugo and Robin LaFevers.

At seventeen, Ileni lost her magical power and was exiled to the hidden caves of the assassins. She never thought she would survive long. But she discovered she was always meant to end up, powerless, in the caves as part of an elder sorcerer’s plan to destroy the evil Empire they'd battled so long. Except that Ileni is not an assassin, and she doesn't want to be a weapon. And, after everything, she’s not even sure she knows the truth. Now, at the very heart of the Empire—its academy for sorcerers—the truth is what she seeks. What she finds challenges every belief she holds dear—and it threatens her fledgling romance with the young master of assassins.

Leah Cypess spins an intricate and beautiful conclusion to Ileni's story. In the end, it may not be the epic decisions that bring down an empire, but the small ones that pierce the heart.

What I Liked:

Oh man. This book. It has me torn in two. On one hand, it's a decent novel and has a good story... but on the other hand, I wanted more from the book. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I'd had an idea in my head when I finished Death Sworn, and after reading Death Marked, the idea wasn't what happened. I don't know. But I didn't enjoyed Death Marked as much as I'd hoped...

Ileni is now a prisoner to the Empire, the very thing she despises. She is a weapon, but not an assassin. At the Empire's Academy, she learns how to use combat magic, with lodestones to help her. Ileni hates it - her people are all about healing and peace, not war and slaughter. But Ileni has a goal, and she must see to it that she finds the truth. But she will have to choose a side, and that could mean betraying the assassins, or losing her life.

I liked Ileni a lot in Death Sworn, and I like her still. She is a strong and hardened, tough as nails, yet gentle and calm. She has a lot of poise for someone who risking everything by sneaking around behind the Empire's back. Ileni loses her way, but she tries her best to stay true to herself and her people. I definitely could put myself in her shoes and could see myself making the same difficult, heartbreaking decisions that she had to make.

This book introduced a slew of new characters. Cyn, a cruel and vicious pupil of the Academy, with her own magic (like Ileni used to be). Lis, her twin, with no magic of her own, a shell of her sister. Evin, the powerful nephew of the scary head of the Academy. And a familiar face... Arxis, an assassin. Except that no one at the Academy knows who Arxis really is.

I really like all of the new characters, even if I hated some of them. They are so well characterized and constructed and have distinct personalities. I especially liked Evin - he is so easygoing and friendly, but really, he is the most powerful of all of them, and could kill them all with the amount of power in his pinky finger. He's a real sweetheart.

I think I liked the story of this book, but I don't think it was enough for me, in terms of a conclusion novel. Like, if this were a sequel novel, and there were more books in the series, I would like this one more. But if you put things into perspective (knowing that this book is the last book, of the duology), then, well, I'm not satisfied. Read on.

What I Did Not Like:

I definitely needed more from the story. Ileni is stuck in the Empire's Academy. That's kind of the state of affairs throughout the entire book. I couldn't really grasp what Ileni's end goal was. I didn't understand why she was there, what she was trying to accomplish, how she was going about accomplishing it. This book probably could have been cut in half, because not that much happened, and what happened was important, but didn't really do much for the overall plot of the series.

The first book definitely had more action in it, despite everything happening in the cave. This book read quickly, the events went by pretty quickly, but it didn't feel like much was happening. Ileni is avoiding Karyn (the head of the Academy), Ileni is contemplating whether or not to contact Sorin, Ileni is struggling to use the magic. A lot of internal battling, but not a lot of external ones (in my opinion). Or maybe I just wanted more.

Sorin is basically NOT in this book. We get his third person perspective in like, two chapters (the whole book is in third person, but limited to Ileni, except for those few instances where the author showed Sorin's perspective). I was disappointed, because I really, really liked Sorin in Death Sworn. And I'm not necessarily talking about as a love interest - he's an interesting character.

So... the romance. I'm not really happy with the romance. It's really not in this book at all. It doesn't progress forward... if anything, we go backwards. Think about it - Sorin and Ileni aren't really interacting in this book. I don't want to spoil things, but them not together affects their relationship, sort of. 

I'm not saying the romance is BAD, or badly constructed... but I wanted more, for sure. That was a complaint I had in Death Sworn - that I wanted more romance. I wanted more in this book as well, and didn't get more. The ending needed to be more solid, in terms of the romance. Ugh! It's so hard to explain, but I didn't hate the romance. I just didn't like it either. It bothered me, but not enough to rage. I could see why the author took the direction she did, but still... hmph.

Would I Recommend It:

If you read Death Sworn, definitely give this novel a shot. It's worth the read, especially since this series is only a duology. However, don't do what I did. Don't go in with super high expectations. Don't be *too* excited, basically. Then you won't be super disappointed.


3 stars. I liked it, but I wanted more. I definitely think there is room for another book, if the author chose to write another and/or got a contract for a third. There are plenty of loose ends (in all aspects of the story) that could be tied together!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. HAH. There is no chance I'm reading this book :( I was so lucky to win a signed/personalized ARC of it months back, but then I peeked. And the romance. What the fuck. I am NOT PLEASED. I didn't get it at all. Made no sense. And yeah. I won't ever read this book. I'm so disappointed. And I loved book one so much. But yeah. This whole romance thing. SO DISAPPOINTED. I'm sad about it :( Anyway. Amazing review Alyssa. <3 Thank you for sharing your thoughts :)

    1. Oh that's awesome! And I think you need to read the enter book to understand the romance, but I agree, that was one disappointing aspect. I'm sorry you won't enjoy it! But happy reading, Carina. And thank you!

  2. Thank you for your very honest review as always, Alyssa!
    I'm not sure if I'm gonna read this duology after all, I know you really liked book one, but a conclusion novel that leaves you a bit meh? Not something to look forward to!

    1. Personally, I think you could skip it and move on with life. Just keep swimming! :D

  3. I haven't posted my review yet... I agree with you, the romance, or lack thereof was awful. It didn't read like the conclusion of a duology, but like a second book of a trilogy. The ending was wide open.6

    1. Right?! Waahh :/ I kind of hope there will be another book, but I know the author only planned for a duology. Ugh! So frustrating!

  4. Oh man, I don't think I'll be reading this then. I really enjoyed the first book and craved for more romance so to hear that there's next to none in the next book is disappointing. Especially since this is the conclusion. Sad :(

    1. So disappointing! I mean, it was an okay book, but not a strong enough conclusion novel. Agghh. Sadness indeed!

  5. I know what you mean. Death Marked is okay, but I liked Death Sworn better. I think it struck a better balance between Ileni's internal conflict and a larger (more action-y) plot arc to carry her along so she couldn't whine and stagnate for long.

    I didn't mind the lack of romance, and I didn't really care about where it ended, but I was more than a little ticked off by Ileni's "big decision" in the end. I was throwing things while writing my review. "How do I say why this bugged me without spoiling it?!" Yep. :)

    1. Glad I wasn't alone! Death Sworn was soooo good - I think I expected too much of Death Marked. Or maybe it just wasn't enough in general.

  6. I wasn't planning on reading this duology anyway, but this pretty much seals the deal for me. Gotta have a better romance than that. :/
    Thanks for you review!


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