The Second Bell (Paperback)
To the world you are an abomination; a monster with unholy abilities. You're shunned and left to fend for yourself. Your only chance of survival is to tap into that dark potential - would you do it?
In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with two hearts. Such a child - a striga - is considered a dangerous demon, which must be abandoned on the edge of the forest to protect the community. The only choice the child's mother can make is whether to leave her home with her infant, or stay behind and try to forget.
Miriat made her choice. She and her nineteen-year-old striga daughter, Salka, now live a life of deprivation and hardship in a remote village, where to follow the impulses of the other heart is forbidden.
But Salka is headstrong and young, and when threatened with losing everything, she is forced to explore the depths of her true nature, testing the bonds between mother and child.
File Under: Fantasy [ Breaking Taboos | Hidden Shadows | Hungry Like the Wolf | Slavic Story ]
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.
"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."
"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