The nice part about not reading books right when they come out is that sometimes then the sequel is already out. Here is the sequel to Death Sworn, one of my favorites of the most recent Cybils Teen Spec Fic Finalists. If you’re spoiler averse and haven’t yet read either of these books, you may want to do that first.
Death Marked by Leah Cypess. Greenwillow Books, 2015.
At the end of the last book, Ileni set out on her own. Unfortunately, that didn’t last for very long. Within the first few pages, she’s a resident of the Imperial Academy, where the magicians who are the embodiment of the evil and corruption Ileni has been raised to combat are trained. It’s dreadfully seductive, as there is plenty of stored magic around that Ileni can draw on to supplement her own dwindling powers. Unfortunately, the head of the Imperial Academy knows both of these things, and can cut Ileni off from the magic as easily as grant it. Ileni also gets to know the other advanced magic students, rich boy Evin and warring twins Lis and Cyn. She also recognizes an assassin from the mountain fortress she so recently left.
The longer Ileni is there, the less certain she is of anything. Should she do what would benefit her people, the Renegi, who cast her out? The assassins, now headed by her former lover? Or believe the head of the Imperial Academy, who points out the many lives the Empire saves just by preventing endless wars between tiny kingdoms? Before Ileni can decide on any course of action, she must find out the source of the power that the Empire’s sorcerers stores in its lodestones, power that she’s always been told comes from the slaughter of innocents. And every night, she stares at the mirror in her room that would let her contact her former lover – but would be sure to give them away as well.
This was just as intense as the first book. All of Ileni’s choices put lives at risk. The new setting added even more depths, exploring character and morality all wrapped in magic, intrigue, and entirely relatable themes of trying to find a place in a new school. I continue to be impressed at Cypess’s ability to pack so much meaning into a story that refused to take the expected turns.