*I received this book as an eARC from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Zenn Scarlett
Author: Christian Schoon
Year Published: 2013
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Synopsis: When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.
Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.
Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....
Review: I love space novels, and this one met all my expectations in that category. I loved all of the animals and the descriptions of the planets and technology. I especially liked that the descriptions compared things to Earthen creatures or places or ideas, so that the images I tried to form came really easily. The 3rd person limited point of view really helped with that too, I think, because it gave a way to give descriptions without making it too awkward.
For some reason, I went into this book totally convinced it was a standalone. At about 80% of the way through it, I realized that I was sadly mistaken, and this had to be part of a series. I was left wanting more though, so I'm glad this wasn't just a standalone book. I want more mystery, more creatures, and I can't wait to see how Zenn continues to grow as an exovet and as a young woman.
I did think the plot was a little dry, and not too many questions were resolved, but that might also come from me thinking this book wasn't part of a series for so long. It did take me a little while to get into, and the writing tended to be a little slow at times, but once I finally got past most of the set up and initial construction of the world, I started to enjoy the story immensely and flew through it. I found most of the twists to be predictable, but they were executed well so I wasn't too upset about that.
The characters were all great though. Zenn was smart, dedicated, kind, and strong. She's been hurt, but she doesn't let that get in the way of caring for the animals. And then there's Liam, who I totally wish we could have seen more of. He's a whole pile of mixed up, and I think he's absolutely wonderful. And Hamish would probably drive me crazy, but he means well and becomes less annoying as he finally begins to understand the way of things on Mars. I really just loved all of the characters and found them to be so dynamic and round.
All things considered, I would definitely recommend this book to any who enjoys sci fi stories, especially those based in space. Although it doesn't take place on a space ship, I think fans of Beth Revis' Across the Universe series and Amy Kathleen Ryan's Skychasers series. There's not as much war and death, but there are mysteries and a little romance and cool alien creatures. I think being an exovet would be awesome. I would give this a 4/5, and cannot wait to continue Zenn's story! Hopefully sooner than later, please!