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The Second Bell

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  154 ratings  ·  81 reviews
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
Kindle Edition
Published March 9th 2021 by Angry Robot Books
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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Jan 16, 2021 rated it liked it
The Second Bell follows Salka, a young woman born with two hearts. That makes her a striga, a monster her townsfolk fear and try to kill in the cradle. Except, her mother, Miriat, won’t let it happen. They flee the town and find shelter in a community of outcasts high in the mountains.

Nineteen years later, Salka finds herself in a life-threatening situation. Accused of endangering others, she’s banished to a remote place. To survive the harsh winter, she must embrace her second heart’s power. A
Abbie | nerdyabbie
Jan 14, 2021 rated it liked it
⭐ 2.75 / 5 ⭐

A unique fantasy tale inspired by Slavic folklore about a young girl cursed with two hearts, and the mother who will stop at nothing to protect her.

The entire concept of this was so new to me, and I was really excited to dive into this one. I had never really read a story inspired by Slavic folklore before, and while I was disappointed by this one, it provided me with a nice entryway into reading more books like it.

“In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with
Nils | nilsreviewsit
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Second Bell by debut author Gabriela Houston is a beautiful atmospheric blend of Polish folklore, coming of age and dark fantasy.

The story centres around a mother and her newborn child who are abruptly banished from their village and cast out into the woods. Yet such cruelty is not without its reason, and this child is by no means an ordinary one, for you see she holds a second heart. It is believed that those born with the sound of double heartbeats are born a striga, a terrifying monstrou
Laura (crofteereader)
A little disconnected (there are events, especially at the end, that seem to come out of nowhere and solve all of the problems that were brought up even in passing throughout), but I found myself so fascinated by the world and the magic. I definitely would have wanted a bit more of the magic and how the stigoi works, but I feel like we got just enough explanation by the end to help us understand how it works. (It may also be because it's based on folklore I'm not familiar with)

I really like that
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Second Bell is a stunning, atmospheric debut. Based on Slavic folklore, it follows Salka, a striga born with two hearts, an affliction suffered by others that proves to be much than just the curse many people believe it to be. The setting is amazingly well-rendered and populated by complex, conflicted characters, the prose is to die for, and the ending? SO MANY FEELS. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

ARC provided by NetGalley
Read for review (forthcoming) in SFX magazine. Thoroughly enjoyed this.
Dan Hanks
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written fairytale that feels both small and personal, but epic in heart. At times magical and at others all-too-realistic in its portrayal of the absolute shambles of humanity, I particularly loved the exploration of parenting in the midst of all that. The sacrifices we make for our kids and then how we suffocate them with those choices later on. This is a wonderful, dark, and hopeful read.
Cassidee Lanstra
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it

“‘Their love didn’t hold out long enough for you to heal, did it?’ ‘They hoped mine wouldn’t either,’ Miriat said, looking squarely into the old Dola’s face.”

The Second Bell starts off with a pensive tone as Salka’s mother makes the decision to accept exile from her life to keep her safe. The book quickly flashes forward to Salka’s life in the striga village, where she is expected to control her second heart or deal with the consequences. I thought it was interesting how the book brought attenti
Feb 19, 2021 rated it liked it

Series Info/Source: I got an eGalley of this book review through Edelweiss. This is a stand alone novel.

Story (3/5): I have always been a fan of Angry Robot publishing and was excited to see another book from them. I read the first 44% of this book. There were some things I liked about it: the isolated mountain setting, the striga and their eternal fight with their own dark heart. There was a lot I didn’t like about it: the constantly shifting POV, and the very on and off pacing. The story wa
May 27, 2021 rated it liked it
The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston tackles a unique concept inspired by Slavic folklore, but it is sadly a very mediocre reading experience.

In its pages, we get introduced to the story of Salka, a girl born a stiga, a being born with two hearts and a looming shadow causing fear and prejudice among humans, and her mother who is willing to sacrifice everything for the wellbeing of her daughter.

The points of view however shatter among so many characters it is hard to find the time to connect with
Mar 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was an arc that I received from @angryrobotbooks and @gabrielahouston1

This is a powerful story that truly portrays mother's unconditional love and the importance of self acceptance even when others tell you to shun parts of yourself to be accepted in the society. We see in our world how people fear the unknown, and how we have different coping mechanisms to deal with this fear.
This is an entertaining fantasy story where abovementioned topics are very thoughtfully put together. The subtle n
Translator Monkey
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Something amazing will be hitting bookshelves a month from now: ‘The Second Bell,’ by Gabriela Houston. I was very fortunate to have received an advance reading copy from Angry Robot through the NetGalley service I’ve written about in the past. My sincere thanks to the publisher, NetGalley, and to the author – I just finished reading this an hour ago, and still have gooseflesh.

Let’s set the stage: a mountain community seems to frequently see the arrival of babies born with two hearts – known loc
Queen Terrible Timy
This review was originally posted on Queen's Book Asylum.

I got an ARC via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. Thanks to Angry Robot for the copy!

I think what got me interested in The Second Bell at first was the fact that it’s inspired by Eastern European based myths and folklore. You do not often come across something like that – The Witcher series probably being the most prominent. Though I did not read that series and I’m not familiar with said Eastern European myths and folklores. So
Anoeska Nossol
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC.

'The Second Bell' tells the story of the 'strigas'. It are creatures born with two hearts. Whenever they are born in a certain village, the citizens put the baby's outside the town. Mothers can choose to go with them or leave the child behind. Many strigas end up in a closed community, somewhere in the mounts. Where they live in a very strict community.

When I first read the synopsis, I was interested right away. I remember a few old Slavic and Pol
Chantal Lyons
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Despite a lot of rough edges, I found 'The Second Bell' to be very readable, and I finished it in no time!

The central concept of the striga is from Slavic mythology, and Houston does it great justice. It's a simple, almost beautiful creation - sometimes people are born with two hearts, and two souls, one of them a shadowy magical being that must always be kept in check lest the person become an evil stigoi.

The story begins in the most intriguing of ways - a woman being exiled from her village w
The Second Bell is a fantasy story about a young striga and her exiled mother, living and surviving in the harsh conditions of an isolated mountain village. Strigas, who are born with two hearts and a shadow they have trouble controlling, are demonised among humans and seen as blood-drinking monsters. When Miriat gives birth to a baby girl with twin heartbeats, she takes on the banishment from her human village, and goes with her daughter, Salka, to live in a nearby striga village.

There's a lot
Shivvani Rao (Carrot)
A 3.75 stars.
I didn’t know much about Striga/Stigoi, so I was really excited for this book.
This book is basically ‘life as a Striga’- with all it’s hardships. I never read fantasy written unlike fantasy(?), so this was a new experience. The setting was small- the story revolves around some mountains and there’s no heavy world building but the descriptions of the environment were rich.
I didn’t like Salka as the main protagonist but I did like the POVs of all the other characters. Salka despite b
Emma Cathryne
Full review to come after publication.

This will be a weird metaphor, but bear with me. I'm gluten-free, and have been for a while now. My fellow gluten-free pals will probably get this better than most, but this book felt like finding the BEST and most beautifully packaged gluten-free brownie substitute you've ever seen, taking a big bite out of it, and having it taste, tragically, bland.

There are a few elements of a good story here, and a decent premise besides, but the novel as a whole fails
May 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
CW/TW: graphic animal deaths, flooding, traumatic births, murder.


This book is not YA only technically, but it read much like YA: teenager drama, overbearing parents, fantasies of freedom from judgement & rules, and basic themes of humanity. While Salka is the youngest at 19, many of the characters (who have to be at least in their mid twenties) act like teenagers.  The story had a lot of potential, and was really intriguing when we saw striga working in tandem with their stagoi hearts, but
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the premise of the book delving into the Eastern European mythology about Striga. Unfortunately, the mythology was never fully fleshed out. In the novel striga have a second heart that gives them the power to do things like heal or kill, but exactly what they power is and why everyone fears it is never really explained.

Still I generally thought it was an interesting concept and would have rated it a little higher if not for the novel's main villan. Dran is the only disabled chara
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was such a beautifully woven story about finding oneself, trusting in your heart and the bonds between a mother and daughter. It was such an atmospheric read, I found myself fully immersed in the story with its vivid descriptions. I really felt I was there and experiencing it all alongside Salka and her mother Miriat.
Dan Bassett
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with two hearts. A Striga, as they are known, is considered a threat and a danger to others and therefore are abandoned on the edge of the forest and offered up to keep the community safe and protected...
However, should the mother choose to keep her infant, both of them must leave the community forever and never return.
Miriat makes her choice without a second guess. She is keeping Salka, her Striga daughter and others be damned if she
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
This is my first time reading about a strigae, I am still not as informed as I'd like to fool myself into thinking when it comes to supernatural stuff. This was my opportunity to learn a bit and while I don't think that the depiction matches what I've read online, I did like reading about a different type of culture for a bit.

The author is Polish and as a non-native English speaker, I find that pretty fun in itself.

I have received this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you Angry Robo
Ginger Smith
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all ages
In THE SECOND BELL, striga Salka has to fight the fear and superstition of society while also struggling to control her supernatural dual nature in this wonderful debut. Houston deftly handles both characterization and pacing throughout the novel, and the world creation is very realistic –The Second Bell from the customs and beliefs of society to the people who inhabit the villages. Her descriptive prose brings the people and the landscapes alive. Another thing I really love about this story is ...more
Dean Osborne
Mar 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Might just turn out to be Angry Robot’s very own Marmite… ‘You’ll either love it or hate it’.

When I first learnt of The Second Bell’s conception I knew I needed a copy at the earliest opportunity. After reading the synopsis and seeing that amazing cover with its strong and bold colours I was sold. I have never before read anything based off of Slavic folklore before and I do enjoy my fair share of folklore so I should enjoy this one right? That’s what I thought anyway. Now I’m not going to say t
Apr 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to for providing me with a free copy of The Second Bell in exchange for an honest review.

This novel centers on Miriat and her daughter Salka, born with two hearts and marking her as a striga. In Miriat’s village, all babies born striagas must be killed or banished to the striga village, out of fear that the striga will listen to their second heart and become a stigoi, an irredeemably evil creature. When Salka is born, Miriat makes a decision that few others have--she goes
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways-arcs
Based on Slavic folklore, this novel follows Salka, a young striga born with a second heart. To her people striga’s are demons and she must do everything in her power to not let the second heart loose and consume her. When an excursion outside of the village goes wrong, Salka is condemned to a three month banishment during the harsh of winter. She is not the only one to blame though, just the only one punished. A young child left to survive on her own in brutal conditions. Will she give in to th ...more
🌙 Anne 🌙
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the eARC of The Second Bell!

Those born with a second heart are the striga, monsters that aren’t safe to keep in town. When Miriat gives birth, she never expected to hear that second heartbeat and she makes the decision to leave with her baby and go to the striga village up the mountain. Nineteen years later, her daughter Salka and her are still trying to survive in a world against the striga, as Salka tries to fight the urges of her second heart.

The Se
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
When Salka was born, her mother had two choices - leave Heyne Town forever with her baby, or leave the infant in the woods to die. All because Salka was born with two hearts. Salka's mom took her to the only place that would have them, a community of banished outcasts. Salka knows only the poverty of the striga village and their strict, constant counsel to keep her second heart quiet at all costs. Nearly everyone in the village was born like Salka, and breaking this law comes with dire consequen ...more
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