John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard's Conquest will be published in the US by Atria Books (Simon & Schuster) in February 2014. It was originally published in the UK by Headline in September 2013. It's the first part of The Chronicles of the Invaders series.
Information about the authors:
John Connolly was born in Dublin. He is the bestselling author of eighteen books, including the Charlie Parker series and The Book of Lost Things, and an editor of the prizewinning non-fiction anthology Books to Die For. Conquest is his twentieth published book. Jennifer Ridyard was born in England and grew up in South Africa, where she worked as a journalist for many years. Conquest is her first novel. John and Jennifer live in Dublin.
Click here to visit John Connolly's official website.
Click here to visit the official website of The Chronicles of the Invaders.
Information about Conquest:
The first in a stunning new science fiction trilogy, Conquest introduces a world where humanity has been conquered by a powerful alien rulership - unless a group of young rebels can unlock their powers and help rescue humankind from its terrible fate.
Earth has been invaded by the Illyri - a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race. The Resistance grows stronger against the invaders, for it is up to the young people of the Earth to lead the battle and save humanity.
Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth. The daughter of one of the planet’s rulers, she has hidden gifts and powers that she does yet fully understand.
But all is not as it seems. Secret experiments are being conducted on humans, the Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood. When Syl helps a pair of young fighters escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death and pursued by her own kind. Soon, she even risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.
Now the hunter has become the hunted, and the predators have become prey. And as Syl is about to learn, the real invasion is yet to begin...
A REVIEW OF JOHN CONNOLLY AND JENNIFER RIDYARD'S CONQUEST
John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard's Conquest is the first part of a new young adult science fiction series (The Chronicles of the Invaders). It's an exceptionally addictive, entertaining and well written novel that offers wonderful escapism for speculative fiction readers.
John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard are authors who write fluent science fiction and avoid using annoying romantic elements that seem to plague several new young adult speculative fiction novels. This next sentence may sound a bit harsh, but I think that somebody to say it, and it might as well be me. I'm one of those readers who has an extremely low tolerance for romantic young adult speculative fiction novels - and paranormal romance novels - because most of them are badly written trash that shouldn't be read by anybody. In my honest opinion Conquest is perfect antidote for these badly written young adult novels, because it's an excellent novel with a complex storyline. Conquest is one of the best and most compelling new young adult speculative fiction novels, because the authors don't underestimate the intelligence of their readers and don't sugarcoat the brutal happenings. (If you're as tired as me of reading young adult novels that only include people falling in love with beautiful supernatural creatures or charming alien beings and have as little plot as possible in them, you'll like this novel very much.)
Conquest was a very pleasant surprise for me. John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard have created an entertaining and intelligent piece of young adult science fiction that lacks all the bad elements that render several similar novels almost unreadable. They're skilled authors who are equally adept at writing about the characters as they are at keeping up suspense. They have a gift of creating a compelling and detailed story that both fascinates and shocks the reader. I'll also mention that although several novels have already been written of aliens conquering the Earth, the authors have a delightfully modern and interesting way of approaching this subject.
Before I write more about Conquest, I'll mention that it's the first novel that I've read by John Connolly. A while ago I read his short story collection, Nocturnes, and liked it very much, so it was nice to read a novel by him (because I enjoyed reading this novel, I'll add his other novels to my reading list).
I think it's possible that there are several readers who are interested in knowing what kind of a science fiction novel Conquest is. I can tell these readers that Conquest reminds me of science fantasy novels (it contains elements that are strongly rooted in science fantasy). In terms of storytelling, it reminds me slightly of Frank Herbert's Dune and a bit of John Christopher's Tripods series (there's also a tiny flavour of Iain M. Banks in it), but it's different from them. It's possible to say that this novel is delightfully old-fashioned, but modern young adult science fiction.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- Conquest is basically a story about Syl, because the authors write about who she is and what she can be, but it's also a story about Paul and the Resistance.
- The first chapter shows how the Illyri - humanoid aliens - arrived to Earth and conquered it. Almost everything changed on Earth after their arrival. They have established several of their bases on the sites of great fortresses (Tower of London, Prague Castle etc).
- After the first chapter the focus shifts to Syl and Paul. Syl is a young Illyri who likes to travel around the town unnoticed. During one of her trips she meets Paul and his brother, Steven. Paul and Steven get into trouble and are about to be executed. Syl and her friend, Ani, save Paul and Steven from execution. When they do this, everything changes for Syl, Ani, Paul and Steven...
This is the beginning of an addictive story that pulls the reader into a well crafted science fiction world that's full of adventure and dangers. The story contains plenty of action, escapes, suspense and surprises.
It's great that John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard have understood that when you create a good and interesting story, you also need interesting characters. They have created a diverse cast of characters, and they write especially well about Syl's life and feelings. Because there are quite a lot of young adult authors who avoid writing about several characters and mostly write about the happenings from the protagonist's point of view, it was refreshing to read a science fiction novel that had several different characters in it and the point of view shifted from one character to another.
Here's information about the main characters:
- Syl Hellais is the protagonist of this novel. She is the first Illyri to be born on Earth. She lives in Edinburgh castle with her father. Her home feels like a prison to her. She doesn't want to live on Earth and dreams of living on their homeplanet Illyr. Syl has her own opinions about several things and she knows what's right and what's wrong (although she's alien, she's very human). She's an easily likeable protagonist.
- Ani is a young Illyri and she's Syl's best friend. She's an interesting person and she has psychic abilities that allow her to do certain things. The authors write well about her abilities.
- Paul Kerr is part of the Resistance and so is his brother, Steven. Paul is very protective of his younger brother and wants to keep him safe. He's an easily likeable character.
There are several other characters - including Andrus, Vena, Meia, Syrene etc - in this novel, but I won't write about them, because I might reveal too much information (and spoilers) about them. I'll only mention that Meia (Andrus' spymistress) is an especially interesting supporting character and it's fascinating to read about her actions.
The authors have managed to create a believable vision of a conquered Earth that is controlled and ruled by the Illyri. Earth has changed under the Illyri rule, because the Illyri have helped humans by giving them new kind of medical treatment etc. Although the Illyri have helped humans, they also conduct secret experiments on them. The Illyri also mine tunnels are under the city and bodies are being dumped there.
The authors write well and captivatingly about the Illyri, their doings, their politics and their history. They combine politics, secrets and power play in an interesting way. The dislike between the Military and the Diplomats is handled well and creates tension to the storyline.
The Illyri are fascinating humanoids, because they differ from humans, but are surprisingly human-like beings. They have developed further than humans. They have a Chip which is attached to their brains at birth. The Chip gives them a chance to interact electronically with their environment. It's also used to monitor their health and it can also be used to track the Illyri when the tracker is turned on.
The Illyri aren't the only aliens that are mentioned in the story, because Galateans and Agrons are also mentioned. The Galateans are amphibians-like creatures that willingly serve the Illyri and provide their young to the conscription. The Agrons are a slave race and do the Illyri's dirtiest jobs.
Reading about what the Illyri thought about the Resistance and the actions of the resistance fighters was fascinating. Some of the Illyri were ruthless and wanted to deal with the resistance fighters by all means necessary to get rid of them (it was fascinating to read how far the Illyri were willing to go to stop the Resistance). At this point I have to mention that reading about Sedulus' nasty "pets" was very enjoyable and shocking.
The humans had similar feelings about the Illyri, because the Illyri had conquered their world. The goal of the resistance fighters was to get rid of the Illyri and getting rid of them included bombings, saboteur etc. It was a surprise for me how fluently the authors showed what the fighters did and how they reacted to the happenings.
The mysterious Nairene Sisterhood is an interesting faction, because they used to seek knowledge, but are now searching for power and try to control things. The Sisterhood is the reason behind the expansion of the Illyri Empire. The Sisterhood discovered the wormholes that allowed the Illyri to travel to distant galaxies. They have lots of power and they aren't afraid of using their power to gain more power.
Themes of cruelty and brutality are explored in an intriguing way in this novel, because the dialogues and thoughts of the characters reveal what they think about cruelty and brutality. The authors also explore themes of war and freedom, but avoid giving easy and simple answers to the readers (it's great that the authors make readers think about these things). The moral issues and the choices of the characters add depth to the story and make this novel more complex than other similar novels.
In my opinion, Conquest is a perfect example of how to write good young adult science fiction that contains plenty of action, depth and interesting details. It truly stands out among several new young adult science fiction novels, because it's a quality novel. It lays a good foundation for further novels. The ending suggests that the authors have much more to reveal about the Illyri and the Resistance.
I have nothing bad to say about this novel, because it's an excellent novel. It's possible that there are readers out there who may argue that the authors could've written more about the secondary and supporting characters, because they concentrated on writing mostly about Syl and Paul. In my opinion it's good that they wrote mostly about Syl and Paul, because they kept the story flowing nicely from start to finish and managed to keep all the plot threads tightly under control.
Readers who enjoy reading this novel will be interested in knowing that the sequel is currently being written and "should appear in late 2014, all things going well" (link). I'm sure that several readers will be eagerly awaiting its publication (I'm personally looking forward to reading it, because it'll be interesting to see what happens next).
Conquest is an excellent young adult science fiction novel that will fascinate both young adult readers and adult readers alike. I'm sure that this novel will remind several readers of how good and entertaining young adult science fiction can be at its best. This novel is action-packed, complex and well written escapism. If you're interested in young adult science fiction novels that have depth, substance and action in them, you should put Conquest to your reading list and read it as soon as possible.
My final words are: This novel is entertaining and addictive science fiction!