Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
For the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to scour the older reaches of my TBR. Zenn Scarlett has been on my TBR for ages, and I’d forgotten about it for a year or two before deciding to pick it up, in hopes of an inventive new twist on a sci-fi book. In theory, it had loads of potential, and while it delivered in some aspects, a select few flaws unfortunately dragged the rest of the book down with them. Quite entertaining, at the end of the day.
Enjoy this week’s review!
For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Zenn Scarlett has made her home on the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars, a veterinary clinic that specializes in alien life forms. In her rigorous training to become a professional exovet, Zenn must wrangle all manner of bizarre creatures. But strangest of all may be the unusual occurrences that have been popping up all over the clinic–several animals, many of them potentially dangerous to Mars’ human population, have been found outside of their enclosures under mysterious circumstances. And with growing unrest from Mars’ towners about the off-world wildlife, Zenn, with the help of her uncle, Hamish, the clinic’s insectoid sexton, and Liam, a towner boy who can’t hide his feelings for her, must convince the populace that these animals are worth saving.
Despite the lowish rating on Goodreads (currently at a 3.44), I was immediately hooked on the premise.
Let’s start out with the positive aspects of the book. It’s pretty clear that Schoon is a biology nerd, and it shows in the best way possible. He’s taken so much care into creating a plethora of fascinating alien life forms, even going so far to dish off some Latin names for them. Kind of unnecessary, but it did make the circumstances seem a little more real. And while I loved all of the critters, I had one major problem with them: almost all of them were described as mammalian or mammal-like.
Okay, don’t get me wrong, mammals are cool, but to have almost all of the alien species be mammalian sounds preeeeetty preposterous. At least there were a few creatures that were reptilian, or outside of the animal kingdom altogether, but that took away from my excitement.
Beyond that, Zenn Scarlett as a whole felt unrefined. The writing was rather choppy, and often times clunky and unpleasant to read. The plot twists were predictable from the start, and while I liked the possible connotations of commentary on xenophobia, it felt far too easy to figure out. It might have been a bit more tolerable if this was geared towards a younger audience, but Zenn Scarlett is branded as young adult, as opposed to middle grade.
Going off of that, I really did feel like this could have passed for middle grade–and I don’t say that in a degrading way, but the characters and plot seemed easy enough for that age range to swallow. Zenn herself could have been anywhere from 12-15, from the way she acted and spoke, but I had a bit of trouble believing that she was 17. But if I can stretch my imagination for aliens, I can try to suspend my belief for that. Either way, I didn’t feel attached to her, or any of the other characters. I suppose they were a bit cliched, but it almost seemed intentional. Even Hamish, who was the only one of the bunch that I liked (I guess I have a soft spot for bumbling alien sidekicks), was a little tropey, at worst.
Finally, I felt that this novel could have been cut by about 30 pages. The storyline came to a satisfying conclusion, but abruptly transitioned into another plotline that could have been saved for book 2. A cliffhanger would have actually been a good thing, in this situation.
All in all, a premise that lost some of its potential along the way, but entertaining all the same. Three stars for me.
Zenn Scarlett is a part of a duology, followed by Under Nameless Stars. I’m unsure if it was meant to be longer or not, but that’s where the series has stopped as of now. I don’t think I’ll read book 2, but it’s got a higher rating than book 1, so I suppose that might count for something.
(You ever just have the urge to…go into a parking garage and have a dance-off with a bunch of your clones?)
That just about wraps up this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a lovely rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!