Never Knew Another by J. M. McDermott
They slip in among the men and women of day to day life, the offspring of demons whose blood is acid and whose very presence can cause a person to sicken. Their deformities, reminders of their demonic heritage, can be hidden like the wings Jona’s mother cut from his back, or debilitating like the long forked tongue, black scales, and talons Rachel’s father left her.
To be a demon child is to be marked for death. So Jona works hard as a Kings Man, passing for mortal day by day. Rachel moves from city to city with her brother, dressed as a mystic, ready to flee in an instant.
Never did either of them know that there were others like them until they met each other.
Never Knew Another is an eerie, beautiful book. The lives of the demon children unfold with a rare delicacy and awareness of just how precarious life is for them. The main narrator is one of two Walkers- wolves that can take the shape of man and who are holy hunters of the demon children- as she moves through Jona’s memories in pursuit of another demon child. It is a point of view that is more alien than that of the demon children themselves, and I think it strengthens the overall pull of the story.
It is a book about fear and loneliness, and need for connection and community and the comfort of things that are familiar. It is eerie and wonderful and will linger with you long after you have turned the last page.
Vodnik by Bryce Moore
Ten years ago, something bad happened to Tomas in Slovakia. Something he doesn’t quite remember, but that left horrible burns on his body and prompted his parents to move the family to America. But a house fire leaves the family in a poor financial situation and they move back to Slovakia with Tomas, now 16, who sees things that could not, should not be. Tomas is a reclusive American boy, who wants nothing more than to watch his movies. He is not at all prepared for fire vilas, water demons, or the prejudice against his own Roma heritage.
But none of that is willing to leave him alone. Least of all Death herself who offers him a bargain he cannot help but take.
Vodnik is an excellent read for those who are looking for fantasy with a spark of something new. I had a lot of fun reading a mythology less common than the usual fantasy/urban fantasy fare, and that newness made up for the slight pacing and predictability issues that snuck in and out of the chapters. Tomas is a reluctant hero that many a young reader will be able to relate to- and he deals with some hard issues like racial prejudice and bullying that are important for folks to read and think about. It is a book about growing up, as many young adult books are, but it avoids being preachy and remains pleasant. It is a book about family and love and everything that draws one person to another.
If you are looking for an enjoyable read, give Vodnik a shot. You won’t look at a tea cup the same way again.