Chimera by Vaun Murphrey
Cassandra is a prisoner. Living day to day in solitary confinement, with only her silent, cruel guards for company, you would imagine her mind would be fading. However, that is quite the opposite, because unknown to her, Cassandra is part of an elite breed of human, who are able to mentally tap into The Web, a space-like network to communicate and share information: the Weavers.
From here, Cassandra is rescued by the same strange, mental powers she doesn’t understand, and finds herself amongst family, and other Weavers in a colony of sorts, cut off from the rest of civilization. Here, she makes friends, as well as enemies and begins her journey to understanding who she is, and what she’s really capable of.
Chimera had a great premise: an unusual sci-fi element, a resolute heroine, and a story of survival. However, the actual result did not quite meet expectations, with the plot feeling muddled and unclear and leaving the reader wondering which direction Murphrey is really going in.
Cassandra quickly becomes determined to do away with the man who was holding her captive, believing this is now her mission. Yet, there is a deep sense of the impossible with this and the plot definitely suffers. As a thirteen year old girl who has spent most of her life in captivity, and is only now learning about herself, it seems far-fetched that she would decide to chase down a villain she knows next to nothing about, including his location. Murphrey doesn't expand on the villain’s character either, other than supplying us with some background as to who he is.
The plot only turns muddier. Due to a lack of focus on certain plot points and secondary characters, the climax of the story feels askew. Emphasis is simply not placed heavily enough on areas that need focus, leaving the reader not quite sure where the plot is headed, and not an exciting, twisty way. It simply feels disorganised.
The characters of Chimera are largely lovable. The relationship drawn up between Cassandra and her aunt is intimate and relatable while Cassandra’s other friendships exude warmth and realism, the reader able to quickly form attachments. However, some secondary characters lack development, and the dialogue throughout can feel a little false at times, simply due to the unrealistic, artificial language used. It jars against casual settings and intimate relationships, leaving the reader feeling a little detached.
Despite the straying plot points, this novel’s true strength lies in its originality and uniqueness. The sci-fi section of YA lit tends to focus on dystopian worlds, with anxieties about free will and technology. Murphrey moves away from that and presents something unexpected: present day Texas, mixed with evolutionary advances to the human race. The idea of the Web is compelling and fascinating, as is the Weaver breed in general, and it’s enough to keep you reading.