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The Second Bell

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…

File Under: Fantasy [ Breaking Taboos | Hidden Shadows | Hungry Like the Wolf | Slavic Story ]

Buy the ebook version now – only £4.99
Available on March 9, 2021.
SKU: AR9780857668912
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…
Release Date



9th March 2021 | 9780857668912 | epub & mobi | £4.99/$6.99/$7.99

US Print

9th March 2021 | 9780857668905 | Trade Paperback | $14.99/$16.99

UK Print

9th March 2021 | 9780857668905 | Paperback | £9.99

Goodreads URL Read & Review

“A lyrical tale of mothers and daughters, the lies we tell ourselves and the choking strictures of petty society. Gabriela Houston’s twist on Slavic folklore offers readers a mediation on the power, beauty and danger of the natural world, seen through the eyes of a rich cast of characters whose behaviour is all too manifestly human, despite their sometimes supernatural nature. Captivating, provocative and poignant – not to be missed.”
– David Wragg, author of The Black Hawks

“Houston has penned a confident and original page turner of a debut novel that reads like authentic folklore. This is well worth your time!”
– Gavin G Smith, author of The Bastard Legion series

“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 fabulous fairytale, beautifully written, full of very human darkness and not-so-human heart. There is magic and joy here, as well as struggle and sacrifice, with characters and 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

“Houston deftly handles both characterization and pacing as she creates a realistic, enchanting fairy tale with real-world themes.”
– Ginger Smith, author of The Rush’s Edge

“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

“Gabriela’s Houston’s debut novel The Second Bell is a captivating tale about the depths humans, and others, will go to hate, to love, to hurt or to help as they struggle between love and duty. A moving and complex mother-daughter pair, Miriat and Salka ask the eternal questions of what exactly a parent owes a child and vice versa. 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

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 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.

More information about the author