Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of Bookbridgr
It all started when a wormhole appeared and Earth and it's inhabitants turned out to be the most advanced creatures the Illyri had as yet discovered....if they didn't attack us, at some point, we could have attacked them, so they invaded us with some help from our technology and love for it, and have been in charge ever since. While they have brought technological and medical advances beyond our capabilities, there are those who still aren't too jazzed about being under rule from aliens, particularly with the rumours of drugged drinking water circulating. Enter the Resistance.
Syl is the Governors daughter, her father is pretty much in charge in England and he's busy dealing with an attack on a military base, making it pretty easy for Syl to sneak out to go shopping. But the trip takes a turn for the worse when a part of the street she's on is bombed, and a chance encounter with a human boy alters the course of her future irrevocably. Not only are these bombings not the work of the Resistance...they could be something a little closer to home, there's dissent brewing between the factions of the Illyri and bids for power are being made all over the place. Secret coups mean things are changing, and when the human boy, Paul, and his brother are arrested and sentenced to death for the bombings, Syl knows they're innocent. But one daring rescue later, and Syl has made her father's already precarious position much worse.
On the run with her best friend, being harboured by the Resistance, Syl and co are about to find out a life changing secret, one that people have killed for to keep quiet.
"Syl would do well in life, assuming her father didn't throttle her first"
Okay so I tried to do this synopsis to the best of my ability without being too spoilery because I take excessive notes when I review, it's a really bad habit! I felt like the synopsis on Goodreads and on my copy of the book itself is kind of misleading. You're kind of lead to believe this is some huge romance thing, and there is romance, but it's not the main focus of the story and there's so much going on that's more complex than you where expecting.
As you can see, I have given it 3 stars, now before you assume I don't like the book, I did like it. I really did, and I'm really excited to read the second book and see where this is going, because towards the end of the book my interest was well and truly piqued, however, there where a couple of things with the book that have contributed to this rating. Partially to do with the misleading synopsis, partially not.
I loved the setting of the book, Edinburgh Castle and the city itself as well as the Highlands...how cool right? She lives in a freaking castle?! I want to live in a castle! I've never been to Edinburgh unfortunately, but through the writing and the descriptions I really got a clear picture of the place and a feel for it. I really enjoyed the little tidbits of Edinburgh's history that where thrown in throughout the book as I largely didn't know most of it!
Conquest is very unique, the aliens themselves, all of the traditions they have, all of the creepy/crazy/weird creatures, the world that has been created and the whole "how they invaded us" thing, the history of the world basically, are unlike anything I've read before, and my brain was working over time to picture this strange creatures and the aliens. I love all things unique so it hugely appealed to me in that sense.
The opening chapter was perfect. It drew you in, intrigued you, made you want to find out more. It concisely detailed the background of the invasion, how it happened, why it happened, what happened during and after and so on, I can't be the only one who is now not looking at the internet and technology in the same loving way ever again. This was fantastic for the opening chapter, but more on this later.
The whole thing with the Resistance was very WW2 like, with the conscripts, the informers, the ways the Resistance communicate without using technology like the dead drops and so on. I thought this was an interesting aspect. But you don't really get much information about the resistance until about page 225.
The characters are well written and most of them are quite intriguing. Particularly Meia, I couldn't work her out while I was reading, I wasn't sure of her allegiances a couple of times, but it became obvious she's determined to protect Ani and Syl, and the reveal about her....well I didn't see that coming and I'm excited to see what's instore for her in the next book, I need loads more Meia!
Syl is hard for me, I wasn't too sure of her at first, she was really wild and a bit like a spoiled brat more than once, but I did like her spirit and her wit, she was perfectly snarky. Syl gets a lot of development over the course of the book, as does Ani, they both go from being kind of care free to being hunted and in more than one mildly terrifying situation, and it visibly changes them. They mature a fair bit, and I'm excited to see what they're going to do in the next book because everyone keeps underestimating them, which is a huge mistake when you consider the fact Syl can bend people to her will and Ani can cloud minds among other things. Before the reveal you knew Ani at least had something going on, and it's been made clear they're special but there's more detail to be had I think.
"You're quite critical for someone who was hours away from being hanged"Paul is the only character I'm a bit "eeehh" about, which is kind of bad seeing as he's the love interest. My issue with him is that he's a bit bland, and some of what he does made no sense. He's with the Resistance, the Resistance aren't too fond of Illyri, but the second time he meets Syl, just after he discovers she's an Illyri, he kisses her quite randomly? To me that didn't make too much sense, it seemed like he was only part of the Resistance to cause problems with the romance to give it some drama you know? Paul's quite sweet, but I'm hoping for there to be more to him in the next book.
The thing with this book is related to what I said early. My main issue is that you're lead to believe there's some hue forbidden romance going on, they're on opposite sides and everything. I was expecting there to be more to the relationship and I'm going to try very hard to explain this properly. I was working off the fact that we'd have them meet, and there would be hatred at first, which would be expected considering who each of them is, and then we'd see the romance blossom. Not so. Paul first meets her and she's disguised, but as I said, the second time he finds out she's one of the aliens he's so determined to rid the world of, and he just kisses her. There's like instant attraction which is always iffy for me, and it didn't feel true to the supposed character of Paul to have insta anything with an Illyri. Especially seeing as he hates all the Illyri but there's no proper explanation of why he doesn't hate Syl aside from the rescue. I would have thought there would be grudging thanks not smooches. This just really rankled me when reading and it was hard to shake off because it was so strange to me.
The other thing is that in the first half of the book....Syl and Paul are only in two scenes together, briefly. Another reason why this insta thing made no sense, the romance was just there. The relationship was just there. And it was quite strange. I was not expecting to go half the book without the two of them being together, I assumed from the synopsis it would be all go from the beginning and growing attraction.
The narrative was tricky, the story is being told asif the narrator is looking back on events, so there's plenty of ominous comments which worked to intrigue you and keep you reading. We jumped from character to character, some main, some not, and it was very well done, the transition smooth, and the changes well timed to sow more intrigue. The narrator fills in quite a few blanks, which was fantastic when it was concise and something you needed to know, we also got follow ups for some of the lesser characters like the guard who was nice to Syl, which I thought was a nice touch, as well as the little tidbits of information.
However. Like I said the first chapter was perfect for the background and everything. But while some of the tangents did usually mean or pertain to something later revealed, there was a hell of a lot of background and info dumps slotted in to the narrative, which after a while, starts to wear on you and it's a bit of a chore to get through it all. It worked for the first chapter, it worked a couple of other times, but at some points it was like "aaahh not more". Becuase of this I felt the first half of the book was very slow to start and dragged a fair bit, as the action finally ramped up in the second half, alot of the bogging down with information could be ignored. I know you have to set the ground work, but it was just too much information sometimes.
I mean, I was expecting a lot more from the Resistance, more about them, I was expecting more fighting and to see them fighting back but the book is largely about the aliens themselves and their politics and culture, which is what you see a lot of and the source of the majority of all this information. The Resistance are more of a side note, I was expecting them to be more in the story. I thought it would be all about the Resistance fighting the aliens and there'd be all this tension. There was tension but it was between the aliens themselves not the Resistance and the aliens which is weird when you think about the title. It reached a point where I really did stop caring about the aliens and their culture, largely because I felt like I was being talked at by the narrator.
Those are my two issues with the book, and they did slightly change how I viewed the book, I went from loving it at the start, to being bored and mildly frustrated at how misleading it had been, to loving it again, and like I said, I am excited to read the next book because towards the end of Conquest it perfectly sets up the next book, you want to know what happens next, there's issues that have to be worked out and things are going to be interesting. Although I'm getting the feeling our love interests are going to spend more time apart than together so I'm still iffy on the romance. I'm not buying it right now, I'm here for the aliens and cool gadgets and tech....and ya know....to work out what the weird wormy things are. It was very like a fantasy book with all the information, which I was not expecting.
Oh and England being the "European" HQ was a bit odd. I don't consider myself a European, we're part of the EU but we don't use the Euro? I figured it should have been somewhere actually in Europe?
The political power struggle going on was very intriguing you knew something was happening before it was spelled out for you and watching the pieces fall in to place was fun. You had lots of mysteries to work out, and fail at working out, the plot twists where very unexpected and unpredictable so you get surprise after surprise and after each surprise you get excited with the direction of the story.
There where lots of things to keep you intrigued, and the book does make you laugh a hell of a lot, with scenes like the girls not getting our human phrases, but it also is quite sad at points, I'm talking about the scene with Tam and the dog here okay!
Conquest is an intriguing book, full of mystery, intrigue, secrets, betrayal, lies, political and power struggles, coups and lies. With a unique world that where swallow you in to it, full of unique and strange creatures, cool gadgets, and a unique new breed of alien, your imagination is going to get a work out. While it does have a few issues with it, my overall verdict is that it's enjoyable, and a lot of fun once you get past the faults. I wouldn't call this Sci-Fi/YA, it should be labelled Fantasy with YA characters, but bring on book two!