Desert Chimera by Leigh Podgorski

Six eclectic characters converge on an isolated desert cafe; powerful thunderheads close in, wolves howl in the distance.

Desert chimera“As evening deepened into night, the rain became a steady drumbeat tapping against the roof and pattering and sliding across the windows of the Desert Inn Cafe. The moon and her entourage of stars were hidden once again behind rolling clouds, and the sands shifted in wet dark waves of midnight black.”

If this setting suggests to you there’s about to be an epic conflict engaged and resolved, you’d be right. Protagonist and antagonist, both complex characters fashioned through remarkable back-stories, engage in a classic confrontation of good and evil, but also young and old, innocence and experience, apprentice and master. Dramatic tension inside the cafe mirrors the energy in the storm outside. As the inside conflict escalates, the storm intensifies, the howling increases, the pace accelerates. I swiped Kindle pages faster and faster as the action progressed, eager to learn what comes next.

Desert Chimera’s main tension is character-against-character but there’s also conflict internal to the protagonist, extending the novel’s overall focus on its characters. Some characters are sympathetic (in fact most are). One is deliciously evil, though even there the back-story hints at a tragic past giving explanation, if not exculpation, for the wickedness.

A chimera is (1) a fire-breathing monster or (2) a thing hoped for but impossible to achieve. The first meaning is the oldest, going back to ancient Greek Χίμαιρα and Homer’s story about Bellerophon’s slaying of the lion-headed, goat-bodied, serpent-tailed monster whose “breath came out in terrible blasts of burning flame.” It’s surprising one word has these seemingly unrelated meanings. Which sort of chimera do we have here? I think an argument can be made for either (or both). I won’t go into details, but suggest it’s something to keep in mind as you read this intriguing book.

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