Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

conquestConquest (The Chronicles of the Invaders Book 1) by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard (Emily Bestler, Feb. 11th, 2013)-It started with a wormhole, and the fleet of alien ships that emerged from it defied anything that mankind could ever have imagined. Soon, Earth prepared itself for attack. However, there was no attack, no destruction rained down out of the sky. Instead, technology failed, and society fell apart. Eventually, every government office received the same word on their computers: Surrender. So, with no other choice, they did.

The Illyri had been hiding their tech on Earth for decades, and the time had finally come to invade. Even though they claimed to want as few fatalities as possible, there were many, many deaths caused by the breakdown of society after the initial phase. Humanlike in appearance, but with notable differences, the Illyri proceeded to ensure that our weapon systems remained inert and indeed starting instituting a very different kind of draft: one tenth of every person between fifteen and twenty-one had to serve in the Illyri Military Brigade for five years. The Illyri did lend their technology to improve their new conquered planet, and virtually eliminated world hunger, as well as addressing the problem of global warming. For many humans, though, these “concessions” weren’t enough, and the human resistance was born.

16 year old Syl Hellais is the first Illyri to be born on Earth, and her days are spent behind the walls of Edinburgh Castle. The Illyri are constant targets for the human resistance, and although typically young Illyrians aren’t usually in danger, they have been the targets of kidnapping. Syl’s father is the powerful Lord Andrus, chairman of the Ruling Council and governor of all of Europe. Syl longs to explore the world outside of the castle. When she decides to leave her confines on her birthday to explore the city, it’s then that she meets Paul Kerr and his brother Steven, both humans and members of the Resistance. When there is a bombing on the Royal Mile, Paul mistakes Syl for human, and helps her to safety. When Syl returns to the castle, she discovers news that may change the course of the Illyri on Earth for good.

Meanwhile, Paul and Steven are confused about this newest bombing. Civilians were harmed, and the Resistance would never attack an area where civilians would be hurt. Soon, Paul and Steven discover that the Illyri are up to something, and it involves the tunnels that run under the city. When Paul and Steven are accused of bombing the Royal Mile, they are sentenced to death, and Syl risks everything to free them, eventually being forced to flee with the Resistance to the Scottish Highlands. Up until this point, there was a lot of set up being done in order to make clear the different factions within the Illyri themselves, and also to establish much of the Illyri backstory. Syl is understandably conflicted, especially since Earth is all she’s ever known and she understands why the humans want the Illyri gone. Her growing feelings for Paul are also a driving force for her, and part of the fun of this book was Syl’s reactions to the machinations of not only her people, but the Illyri’s increasingly complicated relationship with humans. The Resistance is a revelation to her, as are the people that make up its inner workings, and she comes to realize that her world is about to get a lot more exciting and immensely more complicated.

Conquest is rich in detail and intricate political intrigue, but Connolly and Ridyard really up the creep factor with the Nairene Sisterhood, a group of “witches” with a very strong hold on some of the upper echelon of Illyri, and there’s a secret at the heart of them that will knock your socks off. While Syl is certainly the star of the show, one of my favorite characters was Meia, Lord Andrus’s spymaster, and Syl’s staunch protector. She kicks ass and she’s so much more than meets the eye. Also of note is the psychopathic Vena, whose hatred of Syl is all encompassing and whose cruelty is legion. Vena and Meia are definitely ones to watch in the next book, and you will want to read the next book, guaranteed. I’ve been a fan of Connolly’s work for a long time, and was very excited to see how is first SF effort would go. I wasn’t disappointed, and in fact count Conquest as a must read for not only teens that are looking for something different and devoid of fluff, but anyone that enjoys rich characterization and worldbuilding to go along with their action and intrigue. Connolly and Ridyard have more than successfully set the stage for what promises to be a great new series!