Recommendation: Zenn Scarlett, by Christian Schoon
Zenn Scarlett is a bright and occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. She specializes in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous.
Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars was going well – until there are a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school that Zenn finds herself blamed for.
As if this isn’t enough to be dealing with, her father vanishes under strange circumstances, and Zenn is worried that she has started hearing the thoughts of the creatures around her…
With the help of Liam, a towner boy, and Hamish, an alien bug also training at the clinic, Zenn must try to find her father, rescue the animals and unravel the mystery of who is behind the attacks on the school. And all without failing her first year.
I read Zenn Scarlett a while back, just before I quit the blog for around a month, so at this point I feel it too late to write a proper review. That said, I enjoyed this book ALOT at the time, so I thought it worth saying a few words on.
Zenn Scarlett is a YA science fiction novel, and a particularly enjoyable one at that. It follows the titular Zenn on her first year of exovet training – exovets being veterenarians who specialise in alien animals – as she struggles to deal with the various catastrophes that have started to befall her clinic. Said clinic is located on a terraformed Mars, with xenophobia running rife amongst the human colonists. With the threat of closure a real possibility, Zenn must fight to keep her school intact.
There is much to praise concerning this novel. The world is exceptionally realised, with the various alien animals particularly well done. The central character is well-written and you can really emphasize with her when things start to go wrong. Most of the side characters were also enjoyable, with Hamish – a large bipedal bug who struggles with the idea of independence – proving to be a particular favourite.
In addition, the book is well-paced. It’s not a short book – it comes out over 300 pages, by my recollection – but at no point did it begin to drag. I ended up reading the whole thing in about five days, in fact – something which hardly ever happens anymore.
Admittedly, the story is not perfect. Most of the reveals are obvious, while the cliffhanger ending comes virtually out of nowhere. I wouldn’t call said ending bad as such, but it felt more like the start of the next book than the end of this one.
All in all, I would recommend giving Zenn Scarlett a try. It contains inteaguing concepts, a well-realised heroine and an enjoyable, engaging story – what more could you possibly ask for?