Invaded is the long anticipated sequel to Alienated by Melissa Landers and for the most part readers will not be disappointed.
The novel ends with Cara having learned Aelyx's (along with Eron and Syrine) role in trying to sabotage the alliance by planting a parasitic tree, sh'alear, which destroyed nearby crops. When she is brought before The Way, who are the L'eihr Elders, Cara meets the two newest and youngest leaders, Jaxen and Aisly. Jaxen tells her that despite the murder of Eron and the violence against Syrine and Aelyx, the alliance negotiations will continue, Syrine and Aelyx are to be sent back to Earth to regain the human trust and work for the alliance and Cara is to accompany Jaxen and Aisly to L'eihr.
Invaded opens with Cara Sweeney headed to L'eihr alone after the L'eihr Elders decided to send Aelyx back to Earth to help rebuild the alliance between the two planets. They were supposed to start a life together on L'eihr but now Aelyx is in Manhattan with Ambassador Stepha. Aelyx finds life on Earth fraught with danger as HALO (Humans Against L'eihr Occupation) seems determined to assassinate him. His security detail is run by Colonel Rutter along with a new guard, Private David Sharpe who saves Aelyx from being killed when they first return to New York. As a result of this incident, Ambassador Stepha decides to confer with The Way. They decide that the technology to neutralize the algae blooms will be provided in the spring during an alliance ceremony between Earth and L'eihr. Any further attempts on the lives of the L'eihr youth will terminate the relationship. Both Aelyx and Stepha are puzzled at the ambivalent attitude of the Elders towards the attacks. He knows the real purpose behind the alliance is to recruit human colonists who will eventually provide fresh DNA to rejuvenate the L'eihr population. He knows humans are unaware of the algae contamination and believes that they should be told the truth.
To try to counter the resistance by people on Earth, Director General Kendrick suggests that Aelyx and Syrine undertake a multi-city tour in the hopes they can win over the human population. Syrine, who is disgusted by humans, begins to change her opinion after visiting dying children in a hospital. Soon after this, two more attempts are made on Aelyx's life. When David repeatedly risks his life to save them, Syrine begins to fall in love with David. Despite the attempts, the Elders refuse to call off the alliance leaving Aelyx and Stepha puzzled.
On L'eihr, Cara is escorted to the capital by the two young Elders, Jaxen and Aisly. Aisly and Jaxen reveal that they are seventeen and twenty-one years old. This puzzles Cara because Aelyx has told her that the oldest clones were nineteen. Cara finds L'eihr very different from Earth: it has twin moons and one large continent in a vast ocean. Instead of being taken to the colony as she expected, Cara is taken to one of the five precincts in the capital to live. Jaxen tells Cara that the colony is still under construction and that it is located on an island where influence from the L'eihr will be minimal. Cara feels unsettled by Jaxen who looks like the L'eihrs but who seems different in some way that Cara can't yet explain.
Cara is assigned to live with Elle, (Aelyx's genetic sister) whose l'ihan, Eron, was killed while he was stationed in China. Cara's brother, Troy, a Marine, is stationed on L'eihr as her human mentor. Despite her devastation over the loss of Eron, Elle works with Cara on her Silent Speech and helps her to begin to adjust to life on L'eihr. Cara's days are filled with L'eihr classes in the Aegis, brutal fitness classes with an instructor she nicknames "Satan" and time in the L'eihr nursery.She has her Sh'ovah, a sort of citizenship ceremony but it is marred by the crash of what appears to be a meteorite. Cara notices that it is some kind of spherical object secretly retrieved by Jaxen.
On Earth, the attempts on Aelyx and Syrine's lives continue when David discovers that a supper brought in has been poisoned with strychnine. An image consultant is brought in to help reform his and Syrine's reputations and Aelyx agrees to be interviewed by a journalist named Sharon Taylor. During the interview, Aelyx explains that he and his fellow L'eihrs were initially against the alliance because of their views about humans which changed as they came to know them on a personal level. The interview is stopped however when Taylor brings in Marcus Johnson, the student who tried to kill Aelyx.
Living separately in two different galaxies begins to take its toll on Aelyx and Cara's relationship. Cara believes that Aelyx is attracted to Syrine and when Aelyx learns that Cara's brother deliberately missed his transport home, he worries that Cara is having trouble adapting. Aelyx also begins to form a strong friendship with David, his security guard. He becomes concerned when he discovers that David is taking L'eihr injections for a degenerative genetic disorder.
On L'eihr Cara continues to be challenged by someone determined to sabotage her mission on the planet. Professor Helm's tablet goes missing and is found in her quarters. Dahla, a L'eihr who hates Cara, is poisoned by a deadly toxin that has been placed in her food. In both situations Cara is implicated but helped by Jaxen. But this is not as disturbing to Cara as her trip to the colony. Cara quickly realizes that the humans will be unable to leave the island once they are settled there and that they will be unable to choose their vocations. While on the island Cara makes the shocking discovery that both Jaxen and Aisly have the ability to control people's minds when they erase her brother Troy's memory of a second object falling from the sky. Cara, whose mind is more trained is able to block Jaxen's attempt and to hide his failure to do so from him.
Aelyx is puzzled when Cara tells him about Jaxen and Aisly hidden abilities since mind control is not believed to be possible. Tension begins to develop between Cara and Aelyx when she tells him that based on what she has learned about the colony she cannot go through with plans to live on L'eihr. Aelyx tells her that she can appeal to the leading Elder, Alona, which she decides to do after she is accused of attacking Dahla a few days later. While Cara deals with this, Aelyx decides to research the archives of the Voyagers who traveled the galaxies scouting various civilizations. He learns about a L'eihr researcher, Larish who believes that aliens called the Aribol transplanted humans to L'eihr thousands of years ago. His research only leads to more questions; if the mysterious probes are from the Aribol, why are they investigating L'eihr now?
Aelyx meets HALO leader Isaac Richards and reveals to him that all of Earth's water has been contaminated by a deadly algae bloom. He tells Richards that years ago L'eihr's Voyagers came to Earth and introduced scientists to their nanotechnology. Not fully understanding the technology, Earth's scientists unwittingly released nano-fertilizers into the oceans where they are now acting to destroy the water. Aelyx asks Richards to support the alliance publicly so that he can help Earth get the technology from the L'eihr's to save the planet. Meanwhile a third attempt on Aelyx's life leads Colonel Rutter to identify the mysterious hit man as an ex-infantryman named Anthony Grimes. David's impressive ability to save Aelyx each time leads Syrine to fall hopelessly in love with him.
Cara's interview with Alona impresses the Elder and sees her being assigned to the colony development panel. When Dahla recovers from her coma, she identifies Professor Helm as the attacker, but Cara is puzzled by his resulting confession. She considers the possibility that Helm has been forced to confess through mind control and the only two people capable of this are Jaxen and Aisly.
In an attempt to figure out the origin of the probes, Cara meets with Larish who supplies her with information about the Aribol. Larish believes the Aribol to be tinkerers, who "seed species across multiple galaxies to see how each one develops" but he doubts that the Aribol would be sending probes to L'eihr . Cara however believes this is a real possibility. Larish tells Cara that the Aribol have the ability to change how they look as do the L'eihrs. This information tells Cara that Aisly who uses drops to alter her eye colour and Jaxen are not regular clones, only deepening the mystery as to who they are and why the probes are falling on L'eihr. She wonders if Jaxen and Aisly are from Aribol.
As Aelyx and Cara work to uncover the mystery behind the probes, they learn the real reason behind the L'eihr's desire for an alliance and discover a betrayal that has deadly consequences for David and Syrine and threatens the alliance and the future of both planets.
Invaded is an exciting second novel in the Alienated series. It continues the interesting story started in Alienated although the title feels somewhat off for this novel since no real invasion occurs, only the threat of one. Landers does an excellent job of creating suspense and developing layers of intrigue. As with the first novel, the story is told by Cara and Aelyx in alternating voices, although Cara feels like the main narrator. Through her voice we learn more about life on L'eihr.
The characters of Cara, Aelyx and Syrine are more fully developed in Invaded with Landers adding a new villain in the character of Jaxen and introducing her readers to Elder Alona, Larish, a nasty pet named Vero and an anti-hero, David Sharpe. Readers will not only enjoy the suspense but the romance between David and Syrine.
Landers does a good job of showing how prejudices which are usually formed when people encounter those who are different can be changed. Syrine found humans disgusting and was visibly sick when she first went out with Aelyx on a public-relations tour. However, gradually her encounters with the sick children and with David changed how she viewed humans to the point that she even fell in love with a human.
My biggest complaint with this novel involves what I consider to be several weak plot points. For example, the plot in the first novel revolves around the point that Earth's water has been contaminated by a nano-algae unleashed into the world's oceans. This premise is continued in Invaded. Somehow, the algae problem, which is apparently easily detected by a microscope, as Aelyx demonstrates to the leader of HALO, Isaac Richards, is being kept from the general population which seems completely unlikely.
In the second novel, Cara grows increasingly suspicious of L'eihr's motives for the alliance with humans. As she and Aelyx piece together the puzzle, Cara uncovers the reason for the weapons training on L'eihr; they are preparing for war. She learns from Alona that the Aribol have been sending dozens of probes over the entire planet. Fearing an invasion, the L'eihr desire an alliance with humans because they do not have the soldiers to defend their planet. They intend "to arm humans with iphals and use them in battle in exchange for decontaminating the water supply."Cara who has mastered Silent Speech is unable to fire the iphal. The iphal is controlled by a person's mind. To expect human soldiers to be able to do the same and to battle aliens who are far advanced stretches the credibility of this part of the plot.
Landers ties up most of her loose ends but does leave room for a third novel in the series. It would be a shame to not have a final book that would explore the role of the Aribol and to finalize what happens to Jaxen and Aisly. Landers has said that if sales for Invaded are strong enough she will pen a third novel. Stay tuned!
Invaded by Melissa Landers
Los Angeles: Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 2015