Friday, July 24, 2015

Never Knew Another

Sometimes I just stumble across a book when I am minding my own business. Never Knew Another by J.M. McDermott was such an example. A bit weird, a bit uneven, a bit crude and unpolished, but somehow all of these qualities and each of these descriptors gave rise to something greater than its technique and its roughness. A story about two approaches to life, one open and take things as they come. The other closed and fearful. A story about two hunted souls with shameful and despised roots who didn't know there were others like them. Somehow they found each other and brought a kindred mind and a brief respite from their troubles.

In a world where demons taint the land and spread their infectious evil, they are hunted by priests tasked with their elimination. History has known such abominations as despicable, wicked beings that must be eradicated. Yet not all demon children fit the stereotype and the lore. Two such souls are Rachel and Jona. Rachel is the child of a demon who has spent her life running from the priests that would burn her at the stake. She is protected by her brother Djoss who has sworn his spirit to hers. They are both broken weary souls who are trying to make a life for themselves in Dogsland, living in a squalid hovel. Rachel working as a maid in a seedy, low-end brothel. Djoss working as a bouncer and a smuggler. Rachel has spent her life jumping at shadows that have always sought her blood. Jona is the son of a lord whose wealth was stripped from him when he was discovered to carry the demon's taint. Jona works for the king's guard and lives a hard and thankless life as an enforcer and a pawn. However, he has always gone about living despite the risk of being found out.

Eventually the paths of Rachel and Jona come together and they take their first tentative steps to opening up their well of secrets to each other. Their shared burdens making their loads lighter for a time. An interesting story with a deft touch at world building and a wholly effective narrative that brings home the squalor and the desperation of people who must do what it takes to survive. I will ultimately get to the second book in the Dogsland trilogy, When We Were Executioners.