The first thing you're likely to notice about Zenn Scarlett is that it's unlike everything that's currently being published. The second thing you'll notice about Zenn Scarlett is that its breathtaking originality is a very good thing indeed. There have been quite a few surprises from the Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry camp in the last year, and it seems that they just keep on coming.
In worldbuilding, Shoon reminded me of a kid with Play-Doh and an overactive imagination. It's easy to feel the joy with which he created each of his creatures, from Zenn's tiny rikkaset Katie to the Kirian sunkiller. Although impressive, the worldbuilding is also a bit overwhelming at times. The Martian setting is completely foreign, there's nothing familiar to hold on to and it's quite disorienting at first. Even now I don't have a clear picture of the Universe as Zenn knows it, but hopefully this will change with the next installment.
Third person limited narration is never my favorite, and I think I would have enjoyed Zenn's story more if it were told in first person. As it was, I can't say that I experienced a strong emotional connection, although I did admire her determination and courage. She also seemed a bit young for her sixteen years, which I suppose can be explained by her isolation in the cloister. It's no wonder she was immediately (and a bit naively) attracted to Liam, a townie boy who started showing up at the cloister to help with the animals. She and Liam developed a tentative friendship and an odd sort of relationship, with just a hint of romance between them.
Although I'm reluctant to admit it, the plot takes a while to pick up. Combined with the rather complicated worldbuilding, it might be a bit challenging for a less patient reader. The mystery seemed pretty straightforward the entire time, but in the end, it wasn't anything I thought it would be. I love it when I'm absolutely convinced I have everything figured out, only to be proven utterly wrong in the last few chapters.
Schoon daringly weaved a tale that is richly imaginative and breathtakingly original. Zenn Scarlett is perfect for younger YA and middle grade readers, but older audience will find much to love about our red-haired heroine and her cloister on the Red Planet.show more
by Maja (The Nocturnal Library)