I don’t know about you, but I’ve loved books about animals since I was a kid — and books about veterinarians were a huge part of that. (I have long since concluded, though, that I would not do well as a veterinarian, myself.) I can probably point to watching All Creatures Great and Small on PBS as a youth as a big part of that. But James Harriott certainly hasn’t cornered the market on writing about being a veterinarian… and neither has non-genre fiction. There are plenty of examples in fantasy and science fiction where humans are called on to take care of alien or mythical animals, either as veterinarians or other caretakers. What I have for you here are 10 books that feature magical veterinarians practicing their trade in science fiction and fantasy settings, on extraordinary animals, ranging from young adult to adult books — and one exceedingly fun manga series.
I will note, there are a lot of middle grade and children’s books that also involve magical veterinarians, but that’s outside the scope of this list. But wow, I thought I had it made as a unicorn-loving kid in the early ’90s. I couldn’t have imagined how good 30 years in the future was going to look.
Dragon Physician by Joyce Chng
Jixin is the child of a dragon physician, who cares for the dragons ridden in the lucrative world of dragon racing. But his life changes when Lu Si, the scion of a powerful Rookery owner, takes an interest in him and opens the possibility that he could become a dragon rider. This has been Jixin’s lifelong dream, but the reality is perhaps more than he bargained for. Will he become a dragon physician like his mother, or will he step into the danger and glamor of racing?
The Magic and the Healing by Nick O’Donohoe
BJ Vaughan is a student in veterinary school, burnt out, struggling, and about to give up entirely due to an ongoing family crisis. But when she’s chosen by one of her professors to go on a field trip to Crossroads, a magical world where unicorns, griffins, and other magical creatures exist, she finds out that medicine can also be magic and healers can heal themselves.
Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef
Marjan’s father always told her fables about magical creatures when she was a little girl. But she’s now an adult, and in the wake of her father’s sudden death, she’s perilously close to falling apart as she adds her father’s veterinary practice to the schoolwork and friendships she was already juggling. As if that isn’t complicated enough, she receives a visitor who reveals to her a wondrous truth: her father was a veterinarian who treated the creatures of legend he told her stories about…and with him gone, it’s up to her to take his place.
Dragon Vet by Dean W. Scott
The province of Fermange has the typical fantasy world population of knights, castles, and dragons…but it’s also home to the veterinarians who care for those dragons. Stephen Oshrand is a new veterinary apprentice, and he quickly finds out that caring medically for magical creatures is more dangerous and difficult than he could have imagined — and also more rewarding.
Super Extra Grande by Yoss, translated by David Frye
Latin Americans are the pioneers of faster-than-light travel, and Dr. Jan Amos Sangan Dongo is one of their number out among the stars. But he’s not a human doctor — no, his specialty is as a xenoveterinarian, treating the strangest alien animals humanity has discovered. When a gigantic creature swallows two ambassadors and the incident threatens to set off a war between the seven intelligent species of the galaxy, Dr. Sangan may be humanity’s only hope.
Pet Trade by Carol Van Natta
On a frontier planet, Bethnee Bakonin is a veterinarian who has escaped an unwilling time in the pet trade industry that’s left her emotionally scarred and terrified of being discovered. She has a minder talent for healing animals but is too afraid to exercise it — though she also makes it her business to rescue pet trade castoff animals. Then she meets elite forces Jumper Axur Tragon, who has crashed on the planet in a stolen ship that had a shipment of illicit designer pets as its cargo. Axur is determined to do right by the animals he accidentally kidnapped and enlists Bethnee’s help in pursuit of that — even though she’s terrified of him. But when the nominal owners of these rescued animals come looking, they will have to join forces to save the day.
Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon
Seventeen-year-old Zenn is an exoveterinarian student at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars, where she’ll learn to work with the occasionally dangerous alien patients. But when the school is in danger of being shut down by some alien-phobic officials after a series of animal escapes that make no logical sense, Zenn sets herself the task of figuring out the source of the inexplicable “accidents” — which aren’t accidents at all.
Taylor’s Ark by Jody Lynn Nye
Dr. Shona Taylor isn’t a veterinarian per se, but she’s an environmental medicine specialist who basically travels with her own menagerie of special animals, including a dog whose system can synthesize vaccines and a cat who helps her sniff out hazards. When a mysterious epidemic begins wiping out entire populations on colony worlds, Shona comes in to do her job…only to find that those behind this manufactured epidemic are trying to frame her for it.
Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
At 13, Daine has had a special connection with animals all her life that goes well beyond a knack — it’s magic straight from the wild. After taking a job handling horses with the Queen’s Riders, she meets the master mage Numair and begins learning to truly use her magic. Her education is quickly interrupted by the arrival of the Immortals, beings who have escaped the Divine Realms after being imprisoned there for 400 years and are determined to make it everyone’s problem. Daine finds herself on the front lines with Numair and her other new friends to defend her world and her animals.
In this age of science, magic has long been forgotten…and in that forgetting, the mythic animals are beginning to disappear from the world. Ziska is the scion of a long line of mages, but she ends up apprenticed to a veterinarian rather than another mage — because she wants to learn to heal magical creatures in this world that is leaving them behind. But her veterinarian master has only worked with ordinary animals, meaning the learning will have to go both ways.
And trust me, these aren’t the only veterinarian-centric sci-fi and fantasy books out there! If you’re looking for more animal-centered fiction, check out this list of fantastic animal fiction for grown-ups. I’m also a fan of this funny list of pointers for actually keeping literary pets.