by Leigh Bardugo
Publication: January 10, 2023
Series: Alex Stern #2
I’m not the biggest fan of dark academia. In the case of Ninth House, I begrudgingly read it because it was a book club pick. Surprise, surprise…I loved it! It was a 5-star read despite the slow start, essentially setting the bar very high for anything in the series that would follow. I was ecstatic to find out a second book was finally going to arrive.
With the world established in the first book, Hell Bent further expands it in interesting ways including more ghosts and monsters. Alex is slowly coming into her own and growing in confidence in her role as a sort of fixer. She is also a bit softer around the edges, but I liked her just as much. The element of found family is more prevalent, which is something I wanted for Alex. I wanted her to find her people, those she could count on so she would not have to go through this alone. The book satisfied this for me. Now I just need the added element of romance…hahaha
While I enjoyed Hell Bent, it was missing the first book’s effective combination of mystery noir with paranormal elements. (I know this will make me old but think Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but grittier and set in college.) With a focus on trying to save Darlington, the book shifts away from the pesky but still very much part of Alex’s business of helping to solve mysterious comings and goings on campus. Rather than integrating the many storylines and creating underlying tension, the secondary plotlines felt more like a bothersome fly one is trying to shoo away.
This is not to say I did not like the book. I still enjoyed the story. Bardugo managed to not only surprise me in multiple places but made me squee too. However, there were also multiple times I lost interest and forgot what I read. I often grew impatient with Alex and the progress in figuring out how to save Darlington. The pace was somewhat inconsistent, dragging in parts but perfectly fine in others.
If you enjoyed Ninth House, Hell Bent is a must-read. I am more than ready for the next book.
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