Monday, March 3, 2014

Death Sworn Blog Tour: Me vs. Ileni + A Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the promotional tour for Death Sworn, the newest young adult fantasy novel from Leah Cypess. This was a darkly fascinating read for me, but before I get to my thoughts on the book itself, I thought I would share with all of you the top three ways protagonist Ileni handles her time in the Assassins' Caves far, far better than I would.

Be sure and check out the bottom of the post for a list of all the participating blogs as well as the details on a fantastic giveaway!


• The Dark - I'm not afraid of the dark per se, however, I do tend to invent epic and completely illogical explanations for any and all sounds I hear when alone in the dark, which often leads to my assuming the fetal position and rocking. A creak on the stairs? Clearly I'm seconds away from a gruesome death via axe murderer. A scratching sound at the window? Sweet baby Jesus, a creature of some kind is trying to break in and its grotesque and freakishly long fingernails are going to tear me apart, and OH MY GOD, what if my dogs try to protect me and get hurt in the process? As you can see, noises in the dark cause my mental stability to decrease at a fairly alarming rate.

Ileni, on the other hand, handles herself in the dark extraordinarily well. She's always on alert but yet never overreacts like some people whose name may or may not rhyme with Benny. She never lets her imagination run away with her and manages to keep a level head despite the dangers quite literally around every corner.

• Attitude - I have one. It often makes an appearance at inopportune moments, like when I should be professionally polite but can't quite manage to keep my snark from slipping out. Ileni has to deal with a class full of young men of various ages, some of whom are intent on proving they are bigger/badder/generally more awesome than she could ever hope to be. Instead of verbally putting them down in a most satisfying, if not entirely mature, way, Ileni continually takes the high road and refuses to rise to their most tempting bait. She manages to walk away from each class with her head held high, whereas I would walk away with my mouth stretched abnormally wide in order to accommodate my foot.

• Secret keeping/Sleuthing - As established by the previous bullet point, I have trouble keeping my mouth shut when it would behoove me to do so. While this typically applies to situations where sarcasm is not the entirely appropriate response, it also extends to keeping secrets. I can't do it. I have to buy all my Christmas presents for other people just a couple days before the holiday otherwise I inevitably blurt out what everyone can expect to get from me as soon as I've left the store. Ileni keeps things much closer to her chest, not in an irritating way but rather as a means of self-preservation, and I couldn't help but admire the way she slowly but surely put the various pieces of the puzzle together without ever tipping her hand to those who would easily see her dead.

To sum up, Ileni is a far stronger young adult heroine than I could ever hope to be :-) *pats self on back*

• • • • • • • • • • • • • 


Death Sworn #1
Leah Cypess
Young Adult/Fantasy
352 pages
Greenwillow Books
Available March 4th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

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.

Death Sworn is an intriguing story, the singular setting of the Assassins' Caves adding an intimacy that would have been missing should we have found ourselves in the middle of a vast fantasy world, but though we spend our time in close proximity to many of the characters, they exist somewhere just outside the reach of our grasping fingers. Though that may sound like a flaw, the distance Ms. Cypess creates between us and everyone else save for Ileni is clearly deliberately done, leaving us fumbling for purchase with the assassins just as Ileni herself is. As a result, we feel a kinship with Ileni throughout, warmed by her seeming progress with her guide and protector Sorin, and then a short time later surprised by the reminder of how cold he can be. While there is a bit of push and pull with regard to their relationship–something that’s usually quite frustrating–in this case there’s an indefinable added layer to his behavior that piques our curiosity rather than raising our ire (for the most part).

Ileni is our anchor in this story, her questions regarding the startlingly fanatical loyalty and submission to the man the assassins call the master mirroring our own to make us feel as though we’re on this potentially futile mission together. She has trouble wrapping her mind around Sorin and the rest of the assassins’ willingness to do anything and everything their mysterious master asks of them–including handing over their lives when he requires it–just as we do, but she also recognizes in herself her own previously unwavering dedication to the beliefs of her people. She plays it smart with Sorin throughout, lowering her guard on occasion without dropping it completely, and she remains vigilant even when she desperately hopes her caution will prove to be unnecessary.

There’s a murky quality to this story, almost as though we’re viewing it through frosted glass rather than clear, and where this would normally be a drawback in any other story, for an inexplicable reason it works to Death Sworn’s advantage, leaving us on edge as we read and wanting more when we finds ourselves on the last page.

Rating: 4/5

• • • • • • • • • • •


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).

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 sold my first novel to Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).

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

• • • • • • • • • • • 


One Grand Prize pack including signed copies of all 3 of Leah’s books (Mistwood, Nightspell, and Death Sworn), plus signed SWAG for all 3 books as well! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Be sure and check out the rest of the participating blogs:

2/24/2014- Two Chicks on BooksOriginal Content
2/25/2014- Mundie Moms-Original Content
2/26/2014- BookishOriginal content
2/27/2014- FiktshunOriginal Content
2/28/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads-Review or Original Content

3/3/2014- Supernatural SnarkOriginal content
3/4/2014- Page Turners - Original Content
3/5/2014- Tales of a Ravenous ReaderOriginal content
3/6/2014- YA SisterhoodReview
3/7/2014-  A Backwards StoryOriginal content


  1. I really loved this book too and especially loved Ileni. I think she was a fabulous heroine and I agree with you on so many points - I would never be as strong as her :) I missed a little chemistry between her and Sorin, but I'm eager to read the next book!

  2. This book sounds great. Gonna add to TBR list. Thanks.

  3. I love fantasy, so yes on this one

  4. lol - now that was an insightful post. You just need to bring forth the snark attitude while in the dark. :D I'm always a bit hesitant when it comes to fantasy, but Ileni sounds like a character I would really enjoy. And that's an important aspect for me.

  5. Okay, so I typed up a comment and clicked publish but then my one year old decided to smack my keyboard at the same time so I have no clue if it went through or not.

    Just wanted to say this book looks and sounds great. I like books about assassins.

  6. lololololol! The idea of this post is just hilarious, but in the best possible way :D "I'm not afraid of the dark per se, however, I do tend to invent epic and completely illogical explanations for any and all sounds I hear when alone in the dark, which often leads to my assuming the fetal position and rocking." OMG THIS JENNY. THIS. This is just so me, haha. Lately I'm always the last one in our house to go to sleep and after brushing my teeth I have to go to my room. In the dark. When I cannot see anything. Yep, that's me, in the dark. Running the last 3 meters. Afraid that a nogitsune will jump out of the dark and start telling me riddles I cannot answer to because I do not understand and afraid that he'll torture me like he tortures Stiles. (*sobs* Teen Wolf is so good and Dylan O'Brien is exceptional, but half of my nightmares come from that show) I have an attitude as well, I would never just be able to walk away from something. Ileni is a hero in that sense. Haha, that Christmas present thing is actually quite adorable :D Okay, perhaps Ileni does suit for this particular story, but no one suits better to tell us the happenings of Supernatural Snark so you're still a hero in my eyes :) I'm so glad that you enjoyed this novel and the characters. I have seen mixed thoughts so I'm glad to see that someone thoroughly enjoyed it and that this person was you:)

  7. I've heard mixed reviews about this one, but it IS fantasy (which is my favorite), and I love assassins, so I'll have to give it a shot ;)

  8. I think that about a lot of the characters I read! Also, that they'd live while I'd be a shambling mess looking for brains. I like that heroes and heroines are better than me in some ways, and worse in others.

  9. This book sounds really good. Thanks again for another recommendation.

  10. I quite enjoyed this book too, Jenny. It was a lot of fun and I loved Illeni. I think the only part that needed work was the romance. I needed to feel more.
    I'm glad you liked this. Lovely review!

  11. Sounds great! Got to add it to my wish list ....

  12. Oh my gosh, I am seriously cracking up over 'The Dark", mostly because I am the same way! LOL, it took a really long time before I could be home alone and not have all the lights blasting at night and I admit, even once in awhile when my husband is away I will have a hall light on outside my bedroom door.

  13. Death Sworn sounds pretty good!

  14. I obviously haven't read DEATH SWORN yet, but I've heard some really great things about it from my favourite bloggers. It seems like a solid story with some really great characters...colour me sold! Lovely feature and review, Jenny! :)

  15. I really like the sound of this one, Jenny. Ileni sounds like a heroine that I could root for and I'm glad that she has a good head on her shoulders. I'll definitely be checking this one out. I've been meaning to pick up something by this author and I might start with this one. Thanks for the lovely review!

  16. This sounds really good Jenny..and that cover is lovely. I love your three things..and yeah I can have tude but as I have aged I am better at thinking it as apposed to saying it out loud. You know the expression if looks could kill..well I have mastered it just ask my kids.

  17. I tend to have the same problem of shooting my mouth off and being sarcastic when it isn't appropriate. I know I wouldn't make a great heroine either. I am reading some good things about this book and I want to check it out!

  18. Ha! Completely agree about the dark - I get a little carried away with my imagination sometimes...

    I really liked Ileni's character - even when she had her doubts, she put on a strong front and faced her fears.

  19. YES! I say I do have to read this book soon. And I do not like the dark. I'm an adult and I still sleep with a nightlight. Yes I do and I'm not afraid to admit it. LOL

  20. I'm so curious about this story! The Assassin's Caves sound pretty interesting and Ileni seems like a good character. I think I'll definitely be picking this one up. Great review :)

  21. Usually I have to connect to the characters but this doesn't seem like a flaw here and I'm so curious now! Oh this does sound like a fantasy I would enjoy.

    Jenny, I'm so with you. I worry that if that bump in the night creature would attack, I'm more worried if my dogs would be okay. Guess it's good that they want me to protect them anyway. LOL

  22. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Jenny! I was pleasantly surprised by the characters in this, not to mention a lot of the complex moral questions brought up by the situations in this novel. Wonderful review! :)

  23. Aww Jenny this is a fabulous post, I have the biggest mouth ever, I always end up being the person that everyone wants to share their secrets with and then I always end up telling one other person, as it's just too much stress dealing with this big thing that I can't tell anyone! Ileni depicts just how I like my MC's to be!

  24. Haha, I love this post, Jenny! It not only made me giggle, but it proves that I would also be a very poor substitute for Ileni (or any brave, mature, discreet heroine, for that matter). I've got a copy of this waiting for me on my nightstand, I just need to make time for it. I can't wait to meet Ileni and read about the Assassins Caves! Glad you were able to enjoy this in spite of the murkiness. Lovely post!

  25. I am not afraid of the dark, just all the creepies in the dark. Love this review and Leah is a new author for me. Cover and genre makes me want to read this. crystalbluern at onlineok dot com

  26. Ha!! Okay, I get pretty jumpy sometimes in the dark as well, but maybe not quite as much as you :D Hilarious. I'm still trying to sort out how I felt about this read, but I did like Ileni, as well. I wasn't sure what to make of the other characters in the story, especially Sorin.

  27. I just read a review of this book and I am very interested in reading it, I really hope to win it I know my teenage girls would also be reading after me :) fingers crossed!!

  28. I read your number of books and my most favorite book is a Temple of Stone. Mostly in free time and especially at the time of travel I read this book and enjoy my time allot. During my nyc to dc bus I suggest this book to other travelers and get lots of appreciation.

  29. This makes me very excited to meet Leah Cypess later this month! She sounds delightful. I don't like the dark - or rather when it includes creepy caves and I have trouble keeping my mouth shut when I should as well. We will get along! I cannot imagine handling being in an enclosed space with all those boy assassins ready to prove themselves! I LOVED Ileni and Sorin's romance. It was so understated, which worked well here. And I agree with this "There’s a murky quality to this story, almost as though we’re viewing it through frosted glass rather than clear." I specifically felt that way about Ileni's world, like I wanted a clearer picture of her society. But I'm thinking we'll definitely get that in the next book!

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