Book Review: Empire by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard
By Tim Chamberlain
The second installment of Connolly and Ridyard’s YA trilogy continues to raise the stakes for both the humans and their alien conquerors while we find out more about what makes everyone tick.
First of all, a disclosure: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, CONQUEST. I’ve been very excited to continue with the second novel in the trilogy, and Connolly and Ridyard have not disappointed. Their tale of an alien civilization, the Illyri, and their conquering of the Earth leaves our planet and takes us to the Illyri homeworld for the first time.
The authors have done a nice job of summarizing the events of the first book in the form of a document at the start that looks to come from a future Illyri history book. People new to the series will be able to enjoy this second installment, but having read the first in the series will give you a deeper understanding of everything.
Even more than the first novel, we are largely following the parallel stories of our protagonists: Syl, the teenaged daughter of one of a major Illyri leader on Earth and Paul, a Scottish teen that not only is part of the human resistance, but is also quickly falling in love with Syl (and vice versa). Needless to say, after the events of the first novel (go read it!), both are in trouble and fear that they will never see each other again.
Syl has been exiled with the Nairene Sisterhood, a secretive group that are the keepers (and finders) of Illyri knowledge. The exile is meant to keep her out of the way of larger plans that she would like to spoil, but being with the sisterhood is giving her access to terrible secrets she didn’t know she was looking for. Her part of the tale starts slowly, but it builds to a powerful and horrifying climax.
Meanwhile, Paul has been sent off to the Brigades, military units used as punishment by the Illyri while also providing a certain amount of cannon fodder. Paul is finding that he is actually good at being a soldier, even if it is for the aliens that have enslaved his planet. Paul’s side of the novel provides a lot of action from the beginning, though he ends up making terrible discoveries as well.
EMPIRE continues the gritty tone of the first book, as well as continuing the plot laced with political intrigue and the lust for power. As I had said about Conquest, this series feels more adult than many of its YA peers, and its late-teens protagonists feel like they come from a very real place. This is an ideal series for kids looking to graduate to more mature material, but don’t pigeonhole it as just for kids– scifi-loving adults will enjoy this book as well.
Tim Chamberlain is a regular contributor to the KAZI Book Review radio show and blog.