Book Review: Alex Stern #2

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: January 10, 2023

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

This is the second in a series, and there won’t be spoilers for this book, but there might be for book one, so read at your own risk. If you would like to read my review of book one click here.

Confession:

While I really liked this book, I really wish that I would have held off reading it until I had the time to devote to it and focus on just it. My life was kind of crazy the week I decided to read it and I think my enjoyment of it suffered for that. That said, I still think it was an amazing book, and I will probably enjoy it that much more the second time around, and yes there will definitely be a reread of this one.

There was so much more character development in this one, for almost everyone we met in book one. But Alex was the one who stood out the most to me. She is really beginning to understand and develop the skills that she has, and not just the supernatural ones, but also as a leader who can get things done. I loved how her relationship with Dawes developed in this book and also with Turner. They do work well together even when things go totally to hell (literally). There ended up being much more to Dawes than we ever saw in the first book, although you could tell even then that she had it in her.

Two minor characters from book one also get bigger roles in this book. Mercy, Alex’s roommate, gets drawn into all of the Alex’s challenges and issues and has an important role to play in getting Darlington back. Tripp also helps out, although he ends up getting more than he probably bargained for.

Then of course there is Darlington. I don’t want to give too much away by talking about him, but I still really like him, even though he has changed so much from his trip to hell. He sometimes broke my heart and I just wanted to give him a big hug, but I’m afraid that isn’t a good idea anymore. I might just burst into flames!

The story itself was a bit confusing, but I think that is on me and not the story itself. I loved all of the historic and interesting little facts about New Haven and Yale, but I could see where that might bore some people. I grew up there, so I found all of that fascinating. There were also some chapters that seemed to drag or not fit into the main storylines, but these didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story over alI. One of the things that I really enjoyed in the first book, was all of the magic that the other houses did. There wasn’t as much of that in this one. I also wasn’t sure about the introduction of some new evil characters, they didn’t really seem to fit into the world, but they were interesting and it did fit with Darlington’s storyline and it was an interesting take on demons.

Overall I really did enjoy this book. I really enjoyed the characters and seeing them come together as group and get shit done. I had thought that this was going to be a duology, but I am so glad that there will be another book. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 3ish years for that one.

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