Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Empire - John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard

First line: "The predators circled, each taking a turn to snarl at her, some more vicious than others, but every one determined to take their piece of flesh."

**NOTE: if you plan to read this series in order and have not yet read Conquest, you may want to save this review for later so as not to spoil your experience with the first book of the trilogy.

The second book in John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard's Chronicles of the Invaders young adult series picks up after Syl and her best friend, Ani, have been sent to the Marque and the Nairene Sisterhood. Paul and his brother, Steven, were shipped off to the Illyri Brigades to fight.

Light years apart, Syl and Paul are both learning about the alien organism that Archmage Syrene of the Sisterhood infected Syl's father with. And both teens are determined to do whatever may be in their powers to fight back against the evil Illyri forces.

The audiobook of Empire is remarkably narrated by Nicola Barber. The cast of this trilogy and their various locations in space have anything but common names. Barber breezes through the pronunciations allowing them to naturally blend into the narrative while bringing out the strong personalities of characters. This is especially important in the Novice girls on the Marque. Their personalities range from naive to petty to downright cruel and Barber is attuned to the subtle differences in each. Much like a clique of high school girls, the Novices use the group mentality to wield power, and listeners will easily envision the distinct body language of callous adolescent girls.

The gifted Novices also have "special" talents. Their training on the Marque helps them hone these skills so that they can ultimately become part of the Nairene army and continue the evil reign of terror. This seasoned evil is present in the older members of Nairene, and Barber is just as adept with Grandmage Oriel's chilling malevolence as she is with Ani's innocent reverence.

Off the Marque, Barber is tasked with the slight dialect differences of the Brigade soldiers, in addition to their unique personalities. As Connolly and Ridyard develop an unusual bond between the rag-tag group of conscripted soldiers, listeners connect with them and ride along in their space odyssey.

Barber is keen to changes in the plot's pacing and intensity, adjusting for boosts through wormholes, covert investigations of the Marque and all the creepy, crawly, deadly creatures that rear their heads throughout the book. Empire is a bit more dark and graphic than Conquest.

The series is engrossing and will captivate the young adult science fiction fans, possibly those looking for alternatives to Star Wars or V. For the readers who may struggle more than others, the audiobook version is a great option to engage them in an exciting fantasy world where they can discover the magic of story. Stellar readers can also take away a good deal from this recording as Barber tickles the imagination and ignites the creativity of her audience.

Empire is available as an unabridged audiobook download (ISBN: 9781442376540) from Simon & Schuster Audio. Empire is also available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781476757155) from Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

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