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.
Zenn Scarlett is set far far away into the future, which means – you guessed it right – dystopia! Along with colonization of humans on Mars(!) and other planets, there are all these alien people and animals going about interacting with the humans. The book set up the world quite brilliantly and each of the aliens and the exo-animals described so well. I was delighted to find such good depth with respect to world-building.
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.