Conquest: The Chronicles of the Invaders, Book 1
I am going to give CONQUEST one of my highest compliments: I thought I was going to hate it, but wound up loving it. I vowed long ago that I would read anything with John Connolly’s name on the spine; that would include a science fiction novel aimed at the young adult market and co-written by first-time novelist Jennifer Ridyard. The problem was/is that I don’t read a lot of science fiction these days; alien invasions of the sort presented here don’t thrill me.
However, Connolly did such a top-notch job on his last YA work (the Samuel Johnson trilogy) that I at least had to give his latest a shot. I’m so happy I did. CONQUEST is well-written with engaging characters involved in a plot that readers will want to gallop through, all with a faint sheen of metaphor over a flawless collaboration that makes one wonder, however momentarily, who wrote what.
"CONQUEST is a science fiction action/adventure novel with nary a lovelorn vampire in sight. It is a long and complex book...but the pages just fly by, heading toward a conclusion that is satisfying but will make you hungry for more."
The majority of the novel is set in Glasgow in the immediate future, right after an alien race sends spaceships through a wormhole and conquers Earth. The aliens are the Illyri and here ostensibly for our own good, but it’s actually a preemptive strike. They have been watching us from afar, and figure that we’ll be easier to deal with now instead of waiting for us to find them. It is relatively easy for the Illyri to conquer Earth, but once they land, they discover that humanity collectively isn’t exactly a pushover. There are all sorts of problems, from armed resistance to dissent from within the ranks of the Illyri themselves. Once the Illyri military did the heavy lifting of conquering Earth, the diplomats showed up and decided they should run things. Again, this is considered a YA book, but the Machiavellian maneuvering that takes place throughout CONQUEST is worthy of A GAME OF THRONES.
There are several protagonists here, with Syl Hellais being of primary interest. She is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth and leads somewhat of a sheltered life, given that her father heads up the military unit tasked with keeping the Scots under control. On her 16th birthday, Syl sneaks out of their living quarters and by happenstance meets a boy her own age named Paul, who just happens to head up the Resistance. Trouble ensues for Syl, her father and everyone involved.
Lest you think that the plot takes a left turn into romance, however, be assured: it does not. CONQUEST is a science fiction action/adventure novel with nary a lovelorn vampire in sight. It is a long and complex book (I hope Volume Two includes a glossary of characters, for those of us who quickly lose track of who is doing what and to whom), but the pages just fly by, heading toward a conclusion that is satisfying but will make you hungry for more.
I predict that those who read the book will be waiting in line or online next year when the second installment is published. And that will be me standing directly ahead of you.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 21, 2014