Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review!

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.

You know when you finish a book and think ‘this is gonna be a bitch to review.’ Not because you didn’t love it, but because you did and you just know nothing you say will do it justice? Well that’s how I feel about Hell Bent and why I didn’t review Ninth House, but I buddy read this with Leah (review here) and our chats did help me get my thoughts together a little more so here goes…

Man do I love Alex. She is one of the most unapologetically morally grey character there is, but she also reads as so realistic. We know from book one that Alex has done some sketchy things to survive, things that might scare some people off but things that just make her come to life as a character and feel that much more real. She carries her wit and lack of morals from book one, but in Hell Bent we get to see more of the emotional side of her. The side that cares and gets scared. She’s still brusque and more likely to insult you, even when asking for help, but she starts to develop relationships and bonds in this book that just make her feel more human, more real, more like a girl who is in way over her head and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

Our side cast stays pretty much the same as book one with a few new additions. Dawes, the caretaker for Lethe, Turner the detective on Lethe’s payroll and Mercy, Alex’s roommate and friend at Yale, but with Hell Bent we get SO much more development for these characters. They each become main characters in their own right and some even get their own POV’s, and I adored seeing Alex developing relationships with them all, slowly opening herself up and similarly, them coming to see the real Alex underneath all the sarcasm and danger. I’m not going to say they become a found family, but they definitely give off that vibe, only a family with some serious issues (what family doesn’t?). And then we have Darlington, my sweet summer child. I can’t mention too much about him because of spoilers, but we do get his POV towards the end of the book and I desperately need more of it in book three. We get a deeper dive into his past and see how he became the broken boy desperately searching for somewhere to belong and I just fell in love with him even more.

Bardugo takes the lore she wove into book one and somehow managed to give us an even deeper dive into the world of Lethe and the magical societies, still managing to give us historical snippets whilst never making it seem dumpy in anyway. With Alex and co planning a trip to Hell we learn more about the realm itself as well as the dangers that await them there, but my truly favourite part of this book was the planning. The team spend a good portion of the book researching how to find a portal to hell and what they need to do once they find one and I just found it all so fascinating. The research that Bardugo must have put into this certainly paid off because, while normally spending that much time building to the actual event might annoy me, I found myself getting as involved in the plan as the characters were and with the addition of another mystery that gets woven through, she certainly manages to keep us entertained. That being said, I do think she spent a little too long setting up the jaunt into hell, because the actual event and the last part of the book in general absolutely flew by, so I do think the pacing could have been a little better.

Written with Bardugo’s trademark immersive and almost seductive writing style, she completely immerses you in her magical world and makes it hard to believe that there isn’t a magical underbelly to Yale University. Her descriptions of Hell certainly leave nothing to the imagination and apart from one part that I found a little humorous, it adds a terror and danger to the story that has you wondering whether Alex and co are going to make it through unscathed. Blending together the perfect amount of wit and danger, mystery and terror you never quite know where the story is going, who will make it out and who we can trust. This, along with some incredibly well placed twists and some truly shocking and emotional moments created a story that I struggled to put down. I do feel there were a few moments when Bardugo went a little OTT with the scene or description, but this never detracted from my overall love for the story.

The romance guys! The tension, the electricity… if Darlington and Alex don’t bang in the third book I will revolt. I’m telling you these two broken fools are made for each other and the addition of Darlingtons’s POV just cemented this for me. They see each other as two sides of the same coin and there were a few scenes where the tension was just off the charts. If you haven’t read this series and are up for the slowest of slow burn romances, secret societies, murderous ghosts and humans and plenty of terror & mystery to keep you glued to the pages you seriously need to check this out.

2 replies »

  1. Becky, you absolutely nailed it with your review! You touched on so much of what we discussed in our chats, and after this, we definitely have to buddy read the third book when it comes out.

    Liked by 1 person

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