Death Marked by Leah Cypess eARC (3 stars)
Kel Friday, February 27, 2015 reviewAfter getting approved for an eARC of Death Marked, I rushed to acquire a copy of the first book in the duology, Death Sworn, which I liked. (See review here.) I immediately dove straight from Book 1 into Book 2 and, perhaps because of that, was hyper-aware of the similarities between the two, which was sometimes good...and sometimes not so good.
Warning: review may contain some spoilers for Book 1, but the synopsis DEFINITELY does. You have been warned.
This eARC was provided through Edelweiss for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Death Marked by Leah Cypess
Series: Death Sworn #2
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on March 3, 2015
Published by Greenwillow
Final Rating: 3 stars
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.
I have mixed feelings about Death Marked. It once again places Ileni in a completely unfamiliar, uncomfortable environment and forces her to question everything she knows. The results provide much food for thought, but a story that stagnates at times.
The book is essentially one long moral dilemma, which can work well. However, as in the first book, Ileni walks the same debate ground again and again. I get it. She's confronting the possibility that her lifelong identity/values/beliefs may be wrong. It's not something you sort out in an hour. But acknowledging you're being indecisive and making excuses only excuses the indecisive mumbling once or twice. After that, make a choice of some sort or shut up and talk about something else. :)
The romance is very limited. I like the separation between Soren's and Ileni's feelings (read: hormones) and their trust (or lack thereof). Ileni's relationship also takes backseat to the bigger, more important goings on around her. And there is no love triangle. (Unless you squint really, really, really hard. But no, not really.)
The ending gives closure for both Ileni's and Soren's stories and is mostly satisfying. Not perfect, but I'm content enough with how things wrap up. I was not super pleased with Ileni's decision(s), but it makes sense for her character. She needs a best friend who will force her to look at things differently and consider the larger implications of her actions. Well, she had Soren, but she ditched him. ;)
In the end, I preferred Death Sworn to Death Marked, but they're both solid YA novels that ask hard questions and inspire great conversation. Don't let the heavy questions scare you away; they're still fun reads. :)