Desert Creatures

Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister was an interesting dystopian novel. We follow Magdala as she grows up in a world not built for her.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:
In a world that has become treacherous and desiccated, Magdala has always had to fight to survive. At nine years old, she and her father, Xavier, are exiled from their home, fleeing through the Sonoran Desert, searching for refuge.

As violence pursues them, they join a handful of survivors on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where it is said the vigilante saints reside, bright with neon power. Magdala, born with a clubfoot, is going to be healed. But when faced with the strange horrors of the desert, one by one the pilgrims fall victim to a hideous sickness—leaving Magdala to fend for herself.

After surviving for seven years on her own, Magdala is sick of waiting for her miracle. Recruiting an exiled Vegas priest named Elam at gunpoint to serve as her guide, Magdala turns her gaze to Vegas once more, and this time, nothing will stop her. The pair form a fragile alliance as they navigate the darkest and strangest reaches of the desert on a trip that takes her further from salvation even as she nears the holy city.

With ferocious imagination and poetic precision, Desert Creatures is a story of endurance at the expense of redemption. What compromise does survival require of a woman, and can she ever unlearn the instincts that have kept her alive?

Characters: 6 | Atmosphere: 8 | Writing: 5 | Plot: 2 | Intrigue: 8 | Logic: 2 | Enjoyment: 5
Total: 5.14

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“My sin was pride,” I said, to put her mind at rest. “I thought God wanted me for something. I was disabused of that notion.”

Desert Creatures was definitely an interesting read. However, I felt like I spent the majority of my time trying to understand the system and its saints. While the pacing of this book was quick, I would have appreciated slowing down a bit and building the world a bit more or making more sense of the world that was provided.

A heretic is just a priest who’s been found out, she had said. Some part of her had understood that we were all rotten. She should never have hoped for more than bald-faced hypocrisy and an occasional psalm from me.

I want to say I enjoyed this book, but I’m not really sure that I know what I read. The character shifting was disorienting and the time jumping felt confusing. I’ve read intentionally confusing books before, but this didn’t feel like ever having an “aha” moment of sense or a moment where I could make my own assumptions about what was going on.

“Be careful, tenderfoot. Wouldn’t want to bring my wrath upon you. You’re on shaky ground already, what with the thieving and all that horseback jostling of my sacred bones.”

There was a lot of groundwork for something fantastic and sci-fi, but the execution fell flat and didn’t succeed. While this wasn’t a particularly long book, there still would have been more room for world-building and exploring, which I would have appreciated. The pacing felt off, sometimes fast and slow, and frequently I found myself wondering why I was still reading.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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