Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. Alex Stern is back and the Ivy League is going straight to hell in #1 New York Timesbestselling author Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent.
Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.
Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.
Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters.
Title : Hell Bent
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : Alex Stern (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 20, 2023
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
Starting the year off with a book you’ve been anticipating since July of 2019 takes some courage. What if it’s bad? What if you have to stew in that disappointment for the next three plus years (or longer.. though, ideally, less) until the next instalment is out?
Thankfully I don’t have to reckon with either because Hell Bent was not bad. It was very not bad. Which just means I have to once more desperately anticipate a sequel. Darn. But also yay?
What had he imagined? Some muttered words, a voice from the beyond? Had he thought there would be dignity in this? But this is what real magic looked like — indecent, decadent, perverse.
This sequel opens with a banger of a chapter but, of course, it wouldn’t be the Alex Stern series if we didn’t bounce around in the timeline a bit. At first I worried it would feel samey, especially having just reread Ninth House, but it didn’t. I enjoyed it. It just worked so well and, in some ways, I hope it sorta becomes the vibe of this series going forward. Or not. I’ll be happy either way. Mostly just happy for more..
Anyway, what can be said about the plot of this without giving away the whole game for book one? Not much, really! But everything you loved from the first instalment is here.. and more. We get some solid found family/Scooby Gang vibes (but make it hell-ish and oh how I love the little twist to one of their addition near the end) adventures and some new paranormal additions beyond the rituals and artifacts we’ve seen so far. We were teased on Alex’s potential (and oh my the callback to book one was [chefs kiss]) along with a psych-out that literally had me wanting to throw my book against the wall (in a good frustrated kind of way, not mad at all). Not to be forgotten we, of course, had Darlington Darlington Darlington, plus an image of the aforementioned gentleman demon that will live in my head rent free for all eternity, a heist (of sorts!), and so much more.
“[Darlington]’d go to hell for me, for you, for anyone who needed saving.”
“Alex, he’d go to hell just to take notes on the climate.“
Bardugo really leans into the darkness of this world. Not just in the deeds or the presence of violence but in the sense that magic isn’t sparkly rainbow funtimes. The preparation, the doing, the results? It’s messy. It’s messed up. And, like so much, it benefits only a certain crowd because who has access, who has the power at their fingertips, and is willing to do whatever they can to keep it? You know the answer.
But at the same time, I love that we got to see a side of Alex that is the opposite of the one who has dwelled in a different kind of darkness, one who could see herself at Yale, at lectures, learning and living a different kind of existence. There was such a great balance to the events of this book, to the characters, to how they’ve changed, and who they might still become, and it’s all mixed up into this perfect little.. well, tempest in a teapot.
In many ways Hell Bent has done more to whet my appetite for this series than Ninth House did because we’re just that much closer to seeing some things play out and become realized. Even if I think we’ll be waiting quite a while for most (all?) of it to come to fruition. And that’s even if it ever does.
That was all there was in this world. No heroes or villains, just the people you’d brave the waves for, and the ones you’d let drown.
I truly can’t wait for what comes next. I’m just hoping it doesn’t require a trip to hell to magic it into existence! But, like so many things, this was worth the wait. And I know the rest will be, too.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **