Richly dark, Never Knew Another by J. M. McDermott is a perfect melding of fantasy tropes with an unusual presentation, captivating prose, and fascinating characters. This entrancing dark fantasy is reminiscent of the best aspects of Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur or The City & The City by China Miéville.
The story is twofold. First there is a metanarrative. In this metanarrative, a pair of mated werewolves come across a skull in the woods. Being skilled demon-hunters, they quickly ascertain that this skull belongs to Jona, a former city guard with a demonic heritage. Through the integration of his memories into the mind of the female werewolf, the intrepid hunters then ferret out other half-human/half-demons hiding in the city limits of the place they call “Dogsland”. The metanarrative peaks into the core story at points, giving the reader background information on the whole demon situation and its horrendous effects on the lives it touches.
There are times when you think this may all be a metaphor for gays or some other ostracized group, but the demon children really are dangerous. Their bodily fluids are acidic and infectious; even accidental contact with them can cause people to sicken and die. When one is discovered, the contagion has to be burned out, even if that means destroying an entire city block.
A quick response to the notion that this is not really about gays or some other ostracized group: GLBT-themes definitely inspired this book. I made them literally harmful, in part, to show how, even if there was some real danger, (which there obviously isn't), but so some people in the world there is supposedly some boogie-man-like-danger to the gay... Well, even then, the person is a person and just a person trying to live their life, and society treating someone or some group like a monster is a short road to actually creating one.
Also, if I wrote explicitly about a GLBT character, many individuals who would probably benefit from a message of tolerance would probably misinterpret the book as "not for them", because the book is about "teh gay". One could hand my book to someone who is homophobic, and it would sneak past their mental defenses against such things as the proverbial gay.
Also, CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG by Maureen McHugh should be required reading in high school. Just throwing that out there. (Or, maybe, MISSION CHILD? Maybe both?)