Zenn Scarlett (Zenn Scarlett #1)
The story mainly follows Zenn, a novice exoveteranian, which is a fancy term for saying that she is in training to treat alien animals. Exciting, yes! Secluded most of her life in the church-like institution on her planet, Mars, which has the primary objective of being an exovet clinic. Through her eyes, we see the majestic alien creatures and how she learns and interacts with them. Most times, it was good for this but sometimes it overwhelmed the main plot, that is, the conspiracy and the politics about the human-alien interaction. These were all in the backdrop and though they drive the plot, they are mostly relegated to being side-story. Honestly, the main storyline about it being her tests was a bit of a yawn. Yes, it is YA, and heroine-centric, but a lot of words were spent on the building up of the world and the backstory and the creatures, leaving not much time for the main action. As it is a first book, it could be overlooked most of the times and since I was quite happy with the way the writing built up the whole universe, I’m not really complaining about the lack of fast pace or action. Loved it but could have been better.
The amount of exotic animals did not disappoint me. There were rikkasets, crypto-plasmodial seepdemons, Greater Kiran sunkillers, yotes and many more. In fact, there were so many animals that sometimes I felt overwhelmed. New species kept appearing and I just could not picture how do they look like. And Christian Schoon does not rush his narration. Everything is slow, from worldbuilding to descriptions.
Through Zenn Scarlett's impatience there are some big lessons to be learned. When to be sure of yourself and when you need to take a break. And great view about aliens species and people's antipathy towards them. On a planet that is not your home world, who is really an alien?
A lot of things can be said about Zenn Scarlett. It's slow at the beginning and Zenn, main character, can be irritating with her mistakes and overconfidence. Still it's very original and if you're patient it pays of in the end because Zenn Scarlett is an intriguing start to a new series. I will be looking forward to the sequel Under Nameless Stars.
IN THE END...
If you like young adult science fiction novels with original plots, unusual animals and are patient reader who do not mind if story takes time to develop, then Zenn Scarlett is the book for you.
Disclaimer: I was given a free eBook by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Easily one of the most thorough and imaginative science-fiction/dystopian reads I’ve read this year, Zenn Scarlett didn’t hold back! From day-to-day life on Mars, to the creation of The Rift between Earth and the rest of the Universe, to the descriptions of the various alien animals, to the veterinary procedures Zenn was tasked with completing, not a detail was left untouched! There were pieces that were reminiscent of our current Earth, enough to give everything a sense of familiarity, but there was so much that was new and exciting that I read vigorously for the first few chapters in order to soak it all in. On the other hand though, there was so much information presented so quickly, that I did find myself struggling to keep up with the various terms and history being thrown my way. So while I appreciated this new, futuristic world that Zenn Scarlett presented, it did take me about half of the book to become comfortable with the new terminology and for me to get a good grasp on the history of Mars and its colonization, space travel, and the role of exovets.
Zenn was an incredibly naive protagonist. Having been sheltered her whole life, confined to within the cloister’s walls unless she was with her uncle or father, and having grown up without the companionship of anyone her own age, she was inexperienced with almost everything that didn’t involve being an exovet. Having grown up surrounded by alien animals, she was extremely passionate and opinionated about their place in the universe, using every and any opportunity to try and enlighten the towners.
"But you see what I mean, don’t you? Human beings get this idea in their heads that they’re the special ones – the only ones who get to say who’s normal and who’s…just a thing. Think about if the show was on the other foot. And someone decides you’re the thing."
But, sometimes her passion was overwhelming, turning a completely valid point into something I struggled not to skim as she became quite self-righteous, or holier-than-thou. While I often found myself agreeing with her, she didn’t always when to know when to let the argument drop, when to just back down and accept that she wasn’t going to be able to change a lifetime of intolerance with a few persuasive remarks.
Zenn Scarlett’s plot was one I sometimes struggled with. As I said earlier, I was completely caught up by the world-building at first, struggling yet eager to come to terms with this new Universe unravelling itself before my eyes. I was excited to learn about each new animal species, and rooting for Zenn’s success with passing her various exovet tests. As the plot progressed, however, I noticed a disturbing trend when it came to gleaning new information about the world Zenn inhabited. Hamish, the cloister’s new alien sexton, took up the habit of asking Zenn questions about the towner’s reaction to the alien animals, or the reasons for their animosity towards alien species in general, which opened up convenient doors for Zenn to drop a bunch of info into their conversations. So, instead of having that information arise organically, we were put through Zenn’s history book-like regurgitation of the events. I also found that because of Zenn’s naiveté, the plot was extremely predictable. I had my hunches about a certain culprit, and was not the least surprised to find that my hunch was dead-on.
Despite its few flaws, I still really enjoyed Zenn Scarlett. It did read more like a middle-grade novel at times, probably due to Zenn’s lack of world experience, which helped me to suspend a certain level of disbelief that that category generally requires. With a twist ending that left us with a rather large cliffhanger, not to mention several unresolved issues, Zenn Scarlett is most definitely only the first of a series that I hope to continue with!