May 10, 2021

#BookReview: The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston

Synopsis: In a world which believes her to be a monster, a young striga fights to harness the power of her second heart, while her mother sacrifices everything to stop her...

In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with two hearts. This child is called a striga and is considered a demon who must be abandoned on the edge of the forest. The child's mother must then decide to leave with her infant, or stay and try to forget.

Nineteen year-old striga, Salka, and her mother, Miriat, made the choice to leave and live a life of deprivation and squalor in an isolated village. The striga tribe share the human belief that to follow the impulses of their other hearts is dangerous, inviting unspoken horrors and bringing ruin onto them all.

Salka, a headstrong and independent young woman, finds herself in a life threatening situation that forces her to explore the depths of her true nature and test the bonds between mother and child...

Goodreads | 

Rating: 3 Stars
My Review: This felt to me like I was dropped into an already going story.  I was thinking maybe it was a book two or maybe there was a small prequel out but I couldn't find anything.  I wanted to love it but it just felt clunky and off. I loved the setting I wish we had mountains where I lived as I loved hiking. The change of POV bothered me a lot.  Sometimes it works and well sometimes it doesn't and this time for me it just didn't.  Overall, I did lightly enjoy it but don't think I would come back to it. 


"Captivating, provocative and poignant – not to be missed."
– David Wragg, author of The Black Hawks

"This is well worth your time!”
–  Gavin G Smith
author of The Bastard Legion series  

"Houston projects her background of Polish mythologies and dark fairy tales onto this fanciful debut. Redemption, sacrifice, and generosity underpin this story about mother-and-daughter relationships. Fans of mythical yarns and medieval fantasies will enjoy this easy-to-read fable."
–  Library Journal 

"Houston is able to mark the significance of daily events, highlight her characters, and comment on humanity’s capacity for othering. This intimate fantasy offers a heartfelt reflection on what it means to be human that is sure to please."
– Publishers Weekly 

"A claustrophobic but very human tale of bad decisions rather than (totally) bad people, with conflict and magic alike grounded in the rhythms of daily life and the landscape around it."
- SFX Magazine

"A classic coming-of-age novel with a supernatural twist, appealing to readers across different genres, with a conclusion that addresses issues of racism and society within our own society... A masterful tale."
– Booklist

"A very personal story you won’t be able to stop thinking about long after the tale is told."
– Dan Hanks, author of Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire 

"enchanting fairy tale with real-world themes."
– Ginger Smith, author of The Rush's Edge 

"a coming-of-age tale set in a lavishly detailed backdrop drawn from the writer’s native Slavic mythology"
– Tracy Fahey 
author of The Girl in the Fort and New Music For Old Rituals  

"Prose that scintillates, characters that captivate, and a world that is at once enchanting in its magic, horrifying in its realism, and vice-versa. Houston has gifted us with a folktale that is both mythically resonant and all too human." 
– Tyler Hayes
author of The Imaginary Corpse 

"A fresh and provocative spin on the Slavic Stiga mythology, The Second Bell is a smart and complex journey into the meaning of family, community, nature and possibility. A gripping read and full of heart.”
– Soniah Kamal, award-winning author of Unmarriageable 

About the Author

Gabriela was born and raised in Poland, brought up on a diet of mythologies and fairy tales. She spent her summers exploring the woods, foraging and animal tracking with her family. At 19, Gabriela moved to London to study English Literature and obtained a Masters degree in literatures of modernity. She has worked for as an assistant editor and as a freelance writer. Gabriela's short stories have been selected for the Editor's Choice Review by Bewildering Stories and have been featured on the Ladies of Horror Fiction podcast. She lives in London with her husband and two children. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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