Review: The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston (Blog Tour Post)

My Rating: 7.75/10


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.


It’s blog tour day for The Second Bell and I originally was meant to post this on my old blog but then I moved over to FanFiAddict. Thanks for bearing with me! Angry Robot was nice enough to send me a copy to review, which I’m always grateful for.

“‘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 attention to the willingness of people to accept the expectations of other people. The striga in the village are no more accepting of their inherent abilities than the humans in the town that they fled from. When generation after generation of people are told that they are evil, they start to believe it and are willing to throw their own people to the wolves.

This book is full of emotion, showing the lengths that a mother is willing to go for her child. It’s also about the journey to accepting ourselves, taking the things that are supposed to be a weakness and turning them into a strength. Salka is a warm, giving heart in a harsh environment. There’s a stark contrast here that makes for beautiful storytelling.

“‘Following your other heart will change you in ways I understand to be wrong and frightful.’

‘Are they wrong and frightful because you don’t understand them then?’ Salka said, her finger tracing an invisible pattern on her knee.”

At moments, I felt like things moved along too quickly, some things happened too conveniently but I didn’t think it took away from the overall plot too much. On the other side, I was grateful for how quickly things went at certain points. There’s a time when Salka is punished for something not entirely her fault and part of me thought that we would spend a lot of time focused on her punishment. I was actually happy that the story didn’t stall there and kept moving along.

The Second Bell is sure to delight fans of folklore and releases on March 9th, 2021. You can get your own edition from The Broken Binding, complete with a signed bookplate.

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