“Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing 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 will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.
But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.
Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.”
Starting with the obvious, the cover art for Zenn Scarlett is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I’m not big on SF in general, but I absolutely HAD to have this one because it’s ridiculously pretty. Yes, I will buy a copy for my shelf when it’s released on that fact alone. I’m a terrible human being, I know. And I’ve no doubt plenty of other readers will find it irresistibly shiny also. The magpies among us will be appeased. I’ve done some rummaging about to see who’s responsible for such gorgeousness, and it appears to be a company called “Argh! Oxford”. I’m just ten minutes or so from Oxford, so I will be re-mortgaging my house whenever my own novel is finished in an attempt to get these guys to work with me. I will sell my car, my PC, goddammit even a kidney. Whatever it takes. But I digress.
Zenn Scarlett is like nothing else I’ve ever read. And in today’s market, that’s one hell of an achievement. Hats off, seriously. I thought that Schoon’s world-building and characterisation were excellent. I loved all the different creatures, and the respective roles that they fill. It’s absolute genius, and I’m not going to give any examples because I don’t want to spoil any of it for you, you’re just going to have to trust me. One thing I will say though, is I want a rikkaset. I really, really do.
Schoon serves up a unique concept, amazing world-building and enjoyable characters. Zenn is good fun to read, she’s far from perfect, but she’s determined and stubborn, and her heart is in the right place, I’m all for that. The only thing that lets the novel down, for me, is the plot. I found it to be a little weak in places, and it pains me to say it because so much about the book is amazing, but elements of the plot towards the end of the novel felt rushed to me, and the ending itself was a bit of a let-down. It’s a shame, it really is. I wanted to love this unconditionally. It suffers a little from repetition as well, with Schoon labouring several points more than necessary, in my humble opinion of course. Again I don’t want to go anywhere near spoilers, but you’ll spot what I mean as soon as you dig in. Does it matter? Not really, slightly iffy plot, sub-optimal ending and irritating repetition pale into insignificance against the beauty of the backdrop and the imagination behind all those animals. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. It only loses one star for me, because the brilliance of the Good balances outweighs the niggles of the Bad.
Zenn Scarlett is a unique and breathtaking journey, and one that I would definitely recommend.