The Bone Mother

David Demchuk's debut fantasy novel featuring ghosts, witches and sirens on the eve of war is on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

David Demchuk

Three neighbouring villages on the Ukrainian/Romanian border are the final refuge for the last of the mythical creatures of Eastern Europe. Now, on the eve of the war that may eradicate their kind  — and with the ruthless Night Police descending upon their sanctuary — they tell their stories and confront their destinies. The Rusalka, the beautiful vengeful water spirit who lives in lakes and ponds and lures men and children to their deaths — The Vovkulaka, who changes from her human form into that of a wolf, and hides with her kind deep in the densest forests; The Strigoi, a revenant who feasts on blood and twists the minds of those who love, serve and shelter him — The Dvoynik, an apparition that impersonates its victim and draws him into a web of evil in order to free itself — And the Bone Mother, a skeletal crone with iron teeth who lurks in her house in the heart of the woods, and cooks and eats those who fail her vexing challenges.

Eerie and unsettling like the best fairy tales, these incisor-sharp portraits of ghosts, witches, sirens and seers  — and the mortals who live at their side and in their thrall  — will chill your marrow and tear at your heart. (From ChiZine Publications

From the book

I looked up and saw the men peering over the edge, but I was too deep for them to see me. Suddenly, I felt the little fish quiver and curl inside me again, felt it flicker and warm me like a tiny red flame. The heat spread through me to the tips of my fingers and the ends of my toes. My body grew long and lithe, my breasts full and rounded. My hair, now long and lush and red like oxblood, eddied and swirled around me.

I swam out into the centre of the lake, then spiralled up to the surface — looked across to where the cluster of men now poked at the water with long sticks and hooks. Even though it was impossibly far, I saw Mama, saw her face, and I fancied she saw me.

And then I turned and I dove down

down and


From The Bone Mother by David Demchuk ©2017. Published by ChiZine Publications.


David Demchuk on his horror novel "The Bone Mother," a book of interconnected stories where myth and reality intersect.