Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. Alex Stern is back and the Ivy League is going straight to hell in #1 New York Times bestselling 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.

Audiobook review

“Come on Darlington, let’s give them hell!”

All the stars!

Can I just say that it was freaking brilliant and that everyone should read it?

Well that won’t be enough maybe but this is truly what I am thinking about that book!

I reread Ninth House this month when I thought about just skimming it to recall the main events. I read it in 2019 and I forget a lot of things about books. But I couldn’t stop listening to it again!

So, with a refreshed memory I listened to Hell Bent right after. That means around 32 hours total for the two books and not one minute was boring!

Hell Bent is the sequel to Ninth House and MUST be read in order.

The whole plot in Hell Bent with a minor side plot is to get Darlington back from hell.

Dawes and Alex known that they can’t ask for official help as Lethe has been very clear: Darlington must stay in hell as he is not human anymore.

But Alex may be white trash, unpolished compared to these YALE students she is loyal above all else! And cunning. And resourceful.

After being haunted by ghosts all her live and escaping from a drugged life, Alex is the definition of a survivor! She has no education, no financial support but she has violence and her ghosts so maybe, with the help of Dawes and a ragtag group, that will be enough.

“Life is cruel. Magic is real. And I’m not ready to die”

I adored the found family in this sequel!

Alex knows she won’t get Darlington back alone and she’ll find unexpected allies who will feel like friends by the end of the book!

Dawes or Oculus of course but also Mercy her roommate, detective Turner or Centurion and another unexpected boy that I won’t name to keep some mystery. They are all vastly different and yet they’ll make a very determined team in that rescue mission.

I loved the characters growth too!

Alex is now Virgil and no longer Dante as she had to step into Darlington’s shoes. With no one to guide her, she is still expected to supervise the rituals from the other eight houses and keep everything as it should be.

Well she does it but she will of course create her own kind of disturbance. But through it all she will learn about magic and she will learn very fast! From total magic newbie to empowered leader, her character development will be fabulous!

She has had a taste of magic and now she wants the whole meal. She never wants to leave El Baston that has become her house. That Lethe lair filled with a sentient library and dangerous magic artifacts.

“But this was what real magic looked like: indecent, decadent, perverse.”

Dawes is another character who really grew into someone else! Gone was the mouse. Dawes is still a scholar but her quest to free Darlington will have her become bolder. He brilliant mind and huge  knowledge of magic history, rituals and artifacts will be crucial to their heist. She will fight alongside Alex and outside of the cocoon of El Baston! Countless times she will nurse Alex back to health and life.

Detective Turner will also play a central role in Hell Bent. We will learn more about his past, the secret he is hiding and some surprising ability. Reluctant to help Alex, he still can’t stand that a good soul would be trapped in hell. Wearing his faith like a cloak, this is the battle of good versus evil for him.

Mercy is one more member to “Free Darlington”’s crew. Unaware of magic in the first book, she’ll open eyes like saucers. But as Alex saved her in Ninth House it will be :

You rescue me. I rescue you. That’s how
this works. To pay your debts, you had to know who you owed. You had to decide who you were willing to go to war for and who you trusted to jump into the fray for you. 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.”

The worldbuilding is becoming richer.

We still will see dark academia YALE but what will fill the book is a whole new lore. Demons of course as we are talking about hell and …more.

Laigh Bardugo also added lots of history and magical history of New Haven to keep us intrigued. Never gratuitous, always some clues of what will come or how to solve a riddle.

Of course, the most surprising and alluring will be Darlington, the gentleman demon.

I said it in the first book, I fell for Darlington and I am still his enthusiastic fan here! This will be the proof of his iron will and sense of chivalry and self-sacrifice.

“I will serve you ’til the end of days.”

Expect several huge surprises and twists in the book!

Most of the characters are in shades of grey and Alex (Galaxy) Stern is their queen! Nothing is clearcut. And I love it! I said it in Ninth House and I am saying it again!

There is magic, a quest, plenty of twists, character growth, sacrifices, secrets and lots of surprises! And now, I want the sequel!

Let’s just hope that we won’t need to wait for nearly four years to read it!

Last parting words: Lauren Fortgang’s narration was impeccable as always!

Thanks for reading!


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