The Hook: Death Marked by Leah Cypess

DeathMarked HC cThe Hook:

The mirror shattered into a hundred pieces, a sudden explosion followed by a cascade of jagged shards. Ileni whirled, throwing her hands up in front of her face, but nothing hit her: no sharp pieces of glass, no sting of cut flesh. After a moment, she lowered her arms and crossed them over her chest.

The broken fragments of glass hovered in the air, glimmering with rainbow colors. Then they faded back into the mirror, smoothing into a shiny, unbroken oval.

“Impressive,” Ileni said. She had no idea who she was talking to, but it wasn’t difficult to sound unafraid. After six weeks in the Assassins’ Caves and three days as a prisoner of imperial sorcerers, false courage was second nature to her. “But since I’m the only one here, it seems a waste of effort.”

Leah Cypess writes:

This is the sequel to Death Sworn, a novel in which a naive ex-sorceress is entombed in a cave full of assassins in training — and discovers that her entire life was built on a lie. In Death Marked, Ileni is determined to find the truth for herself. But the answers she is seeking lie in the Imperial Academy of Sorcery, a place where danger and temptation sit side by side. If her true purpose is discovered, she won’t escape alive. But once she discovers what the imperial sorcerers can offer her, she may not want to leave at all.

Except this place has its secrets, too.

The truth is never purely evil or purely good. And Ileni no longer knows whose side she is on.

Most of my critique partners expected me to start Death Marked right where Death Sworn ended. Instead, I jumped ahead 3 days so I could start with a bang (literally), and begin with Ileni situated exactly where her struggles and conflicts throughout the book would take place. She’s a prisoner in a strange new place, and discovering the secrets of this place will form the heart of the novel.

My decision made the beginning a bit less straightforward to write. I still had to explain what happened in those three days, not to mention what happened in the first book. This required me to violate the no-flashbacks-in-the-first-chapter rule, though fortunately that’s a rule I’ve never been that fond of. The trick was explaining the past in short bursts that wouldn’t slow down the forward action of the new story, while still making the sequence of events easy to understand. Beginnings are usually easy for me, but I reworked this one at least ten times. Maybe that’s typical for sequels — I guess I’ll find out when I find the fortitude to write another one!

Buy Death Marked on Amazon

About the author:

Leah Cypess is the author of several young adult fantasy novels published by HarperCollins. Her latest book, Death Marked, is the second in a duology about a sorceress forced to serve as magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins. She has also published several pieces of short fiction, including the Nebula-nominated “Nanny’s Day” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2012). She lives in the D.C. area with her family. You can find out more about her at, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter (@LeahCypess).



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