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Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, book reviewThe Illyri had been waiting and watching for many years – using the very technology that Earth had created – before they came. They arrived through wormholes that allowed them to travel across vast reaches of space in the blink of an eye, invading and conquering Earth in a matter of mere days. Some of the advanced technology that they brought was to the benefit of humanity, bringing with it more reliable food and energy sources. But they also set themselves up in governance of the planet, taking resources and harvesting young people to fight the Illyri’s wars on other planets they had conquered. Seventeen years after their conquest and humanity is still fighting back against their new rulers, with resistance movements springing up in almost every country across the globe. Some parts of the world prove too hostile for even the Illyri to effectively govern, though: Afghanistan and the Scottish highlands being notable amongst them.

Syl was the first Illyri to have been born on Earth. Housed in the heavily fortified Edinburgh castle with her father, the governor of Europe, she is forbidden from leaving the fort’s walls for fear that she will be a target for the local resistance. She is bored, unchallenged by her school lessons and tired of living in a hostile city. When she decides to spend her sixteenth birthday secretly exploring the city outside the castle with her friend Ani, she gets more than she bargained for when a bomb explodes on the Royal Mile. Only two brothers, Paul and Steven, save the girls from walking straight into another explosion. They return safely to the castle, but are shocked when the brother get arrested shortly afterwards; identified as resistance fighters, they are accused of planting the bombs and sentenced to death. As teenagers, the brothers’ sentence is illegal under both local and Illyri law, and Syl and Ani feel they need to repay the favour and rescue them in turn. They succeed, but are filmed committing this traitorous act by the Illyri secret police; from here on, the lives of the four teens will never be the same again.

Conquest is the first book in a new series – The Chronicles of the Invaders – penned by established writer John Connolly with first time novelist Jennifer Ridyard. It is pitched at a young adult readership, as may be apparent by the extreme youth of the protagonists; in fairness to the book, though, reasonable plot points are given to explain why such key roles and responsibilities are given to ones so young. I was rather pleases that the authors had done this and not just left the reader to accept that it is normal for teens to behave in such a way, as it made the book that much more believable. The plot is also surprisingly complex and refreshingly angst-free for one intended for teenagers. The Illyri aren’t just faceless aliens invading Earth; you get to see the bigger picture, with their history, culture and politics all key to the unfolding story. While post-alien-invasion is not the most original setting ever, a good deal of thought has been put into creating this story, which elevates it above the sort of teen-saving-the-world fare that Hollywood routinely churns out. The Scottish setting also adds an element of novelty that I liked.

While I was impressed by the plot, I was less thrilled with the writing. Chapters were short and punchy, and I found the writing to be nothing more than functional, however much I told myself that the target audience was a good deal younger than I; beautiful it was not. I struggled with the writing to a sufficient extent that after the first three or four chapters (the first of which was just an over-long info dump of what happened during the invasion) I was about ready to cast this book aside and give it up as one I would never be able to immerse myself in. It got better as I stuck with it, but while I enjoyed the unfolding plot I found I couldn’t ever quite lose myself in Conquest or properly create an image of most of the main characters in my mind. That’s never a good sign. The characters were rather bland, and at times I felt that I could have done with a list of them so I could remember who’s who.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to read the next installment when it is due out later this year, but it might be one you want to recommend to school age fans of science fiction or action stories. I suspect a lot of kids who are into Dr Who will just love Conquest. Especially if they live in Scotland!

Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard
Published by Headline, August 2014
Thanks to the publisher for providing the review copy.


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by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

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Written by collingwood21