Hell Bent – Terrifically Twisted

Hell Bent CoverHell Bent is finally here, and the continuation of Galaxy “Alex” Stern’s story was everything I could have hoped for and more. It’s been over three years since Ninth House was published, and I was both desperate and wary of jumping into the long-anticipated sequel. But have no fear, Leigh Bardugo brought the heat in chapter one and didn’t stop.

Alex is desperate. She needs to find a doorway to hell and fast. She has no support from the secret societies but has just enough magical knowledge to be dangerous. The lies begin to pour from Alex’s mouth, and she will use every advantage she can get, even if it takes a little coercion and violence. As if skirting Lethe’s rules isn’t hard enough, a dangerous man from Alex’s past puts her in a difficult bind, and then the murders on campus begin. New and old horrors are around every corner, but Alex is a survivor and she will use anything and anyone to make it out alive. 

Alex’s past in Los Angeles and her present at Yale are colliding. In book one, her past frames the story, but it stayed focused on setting the stage at Yale and ingratiating Alex into Lethe. I love that Alex’s past comes back to haunt her with a vengeance in book two. Bardugo does a phenomenal job intertwining the old life she is trying to run from and the new world she is desperately trying to hold on to. Both worlds have monsters, some that are human and others not so much. The pressure surrounding Alex ramped up so much in this book. Bardugo delighted in backing Alex into a corner just to see her fight her way out. Hell Bent expands on the story beautifully without losing sight of Alex’s unique predicament and the different worlds she walks. The book has all of the same great strengths, but with a more pessimistic and tense atmosphere, stressing me out and adding a strained vibe to everything. Quite frankly everything is going to shit, and the hellhounds are closing in on Alex Stern.

Love or hate her, Alex is a compelling character. I personally cannot get enough of her and will claim her as one of the best characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. But I also know many who have entered Alex’s orbit and left without being enraptured by her fierce chaos. Alex is like a warm fire you want to get close to but you just end up getting burned in the process. I love that about her though. She’s unpredictable and will survive at all costs. Maybe she’s cold but hard decisions must be made if you want to live another minute, another hour, another day. Alex is harsh and brilliant and someone you absolutely want on your side because you need this recklessly brave young woman to push you over the edge.

A common theme in this book is the terrifying power of privilege and wealth. Regardless if it’s an extravagantly rich drug lord or the honored men of Yale, they call the shots and make decisions through their warped sense of justice. Alex is a stubborn rock disrupting the flow of their supremacy. They can’t seem to shake her, and she doesn’t give a damn about their rules. Hell Bent continues to expose the ugly side of Yale’s secret societies, the doors it opens, and the problems it erases (often at the expense of others). Through Alex’s eyes, we see large egos, rampant entitlement, and destruction that chews up anyone less fortunate before spitting them out.

I love Hell Bent. It’s a book that made me want to hide from the world just so I could devote my time and devour it whole. This whole series has been unique and intriguing, and it continues to stand out amongst my completed reading even years later. Leigh Bardugo has created a world and characters that I can sink my teeth into, and I’m not ready for this series to end just yet. 

Rating: Hell Bent – 9.5/10


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