A feminist eco-horror set in the near-future American West, Desert Creatures combines the subversive inventiveness of Inland by Téa Obreht with the eco-surrealism of Jeff Vandermeer's Dead Astronauts and the themes of survival and morality in Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Award-winning short fiction writer Kay Chronister transfigures genre and the myth of the West in this stylish and original debut novel.

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?

Don't just take our word for it...

“Chronister pierces with her prose…. Desert Creatures is not a comfort read — it is rife with horror, betrayal, and a landscape that will burn itself on your consciousness. But in the end, this book will comfort you.”
– Book Riot, Best Books of 2022

“Kay Chronister has crafted an incredible setting, pushing the wild weirdness of the Sonoran Desert toward the furthest extremes of possibility. I will never forget this uncanny world, nor brave Magdala’s quest across it, contending with holy saints and hellish killers in a landscape whose every inch and inhabitant is as dangerous as they are in dire need of healing.”
– Matt Bell, author of the New York Times Notable Book Appleseed

“If The Canterbury Tales was set in future Sonoran and Mojave deserts, it might look a little like this . . . [A] strange and frightening vision.”
– Publishers Weekly

Taste the very first page

The fire came at night, a flash of gasoline scent and shattered glass, then a column of flame that swept across the floor. As the room burned, Magdala followed her father, Xavier, out the window. When she was still a few feet from the ground, she crumpled into his arms. Xavier steadied her on her feet, looped her arm around his back and set her clubbed right foot atop his left one. And then they were gone. They ran for hours, for miles. From a distance, they might have been one two-headed creature.

When the light on the cliffs became soft and blue-yellow, he stropped them at a thicket of creosote bush. “Rest your feet a little,” he said. Magdala laid down in the shadow of the brush, then rolled onto her side to face her father. He sat with his gun propped between his knees, his back stiff, facing the horizon.

“Papa,” she said to him. “Where will we go?”

He wouldn’t look at her. “We’ll find somewhere. We’re not troublesome people. Someone will take us in,” he said. Her gaze stayed on him as she stared ahead, his eyes shutting then snapping open, then shutting again. She fell asleep counting his breaths…