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Reviews for Hell Bent

by Leigh Bardugo

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

As a freshman at Yale, Alex Stern was introduced to the school's secret societies that use occult rituals to gain wealth and power and cemented her place in Lethe house, the clandestine group tasked with keeping the others in line. In this sequel that lives up to its predecessor, Ninth House, she begins her second year with a demanding course load and a past that won't stay buried—not to mention her mentor Darlington is trapped in hell. Determined to rescue him from his fate, Alex places her future at Yale and in Lethe in danger by defying the board's instructions to move on, instead using magical artifacts of dubious origin and teaming up with questionable allies to achieve her ends. Adding in faculty members dying of unnatural causes, angry ghosts, and a blackmailing mob boss, makes for an exciting second installment in this hit series that mixes real New Haven history with a world of magic only Bardugo could imagine. VERDICT Fans of the series will be thrilled to reenter the world of Lethe house, and the current popularity of dark academia will send it to the top of TBR piles.—Portia Kapraun

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Bestseller Bardugo, best known for her YA Grishaverse novels, returns to the more adult struggles of Alex Stern, low-level L.A. drug dealer turned Yale scholarship student thanks to her ability to see and corral ghosts (“Grays”), in this thrilling sequel to 2019’s Ninth House. Now employed as a Virgil by Lethe House, the Yale body that oversees the magical rituals of the campus’s many secret societies, Alex is pulled in several directions as she tries to fill the role left empty when her upperclassman mentor, Darlington, was sent to Hell by a diabolical dean. Ignoring her patrons’ instructions to move on, she persists in digging into the secrets of Lethe’s past, searching for a way to open a portal and bring Darlington back. Alex’s own past will not stay hidden either; her L.A. supplier, Eitan Harel, having learned of her ability, comes calling with jobs for her, including intimidating a strangely unaging former Yalie. Bardugo surrounds Alex with fascinating supporting players, among them a damaged New Haven cop and a naive roommate excited by the lure of the supernatural, while keeping the story’s drive firmly in Alex’s grip for another scrappy underdog tale. The taut plot, often grisly magic, lavish scene-setting, and wry humor combine to make this just as un-put-downable as the first installment. Readers will be wowed. (Jan.)

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In Ninth House, best-selling YA author Bardugo's much-cheered adult debut, Galaxy "Alex" Stern can see the dead, which wins her a free ride to Yale from benefactors concerned to track the occult activities of the university's secret societies. Here, she's determined to rescue her mentor from hell, even if (heaven forfend!) it loses her a place at Yale. With a 500,000-copy first printing.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Alex Stern returns for her second year of college as a representative of Lethe House, the body tasked with keeping the other secret societies at Yale in line. In the continued absence of her mentor Daniel Arlington (aka Darlington), Alex now serves as Lethe’s first in command. Darlington is trapped in hell, and against all advice and common sense, Alex and her allies—a reluctant police detective, a Skull and Bones bro, Lethe’s researcher, and Alex’s roommate—set out to retrieve him. As in Ninth House (2019), Bardugo doesn’t flinch from the dark sides of magic and human nature: everything requires sacrifice and everything has a price. Readers will be swept along as the group unravels an intricate puzzle to discover the location of the mysterious Gauntlet, which will open a doorway to hell. The problematic history of Yale and New Haven provides context for many of the clues, while also introducing additional threats. Even if Alex and her team do somehow manage to get to hell and find Darlington, how will they ever make it back unscathed? This portrait of a survivor’s dogged determination to accomplish her goal will appeal to readers of dark academia, urban fantasy, and horror. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Though the author has said the book isn't for teens, adult and teen readers alike will flock to the sequel to 2019's Ninth House.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A Yale sophomore fights for her life as she balances academics with supernatural extracurriculars in this smart fantasy thriller, the second in a series. Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a member of Lethe House, the ninth of Yale’s secret societies. And not just any member—she’s Virgil, the officer who conducts the society's rituals. In the world of Bardugo’s Alex Stern series, Yale’s secret societies command not just powerful social networks, but actual magic; it’s Lethe’s job to keep that magic in control. Alex is new to the role. She had to take over in a hurry after the previous Virgil, Darlington, her mentor and love interest, disappeared in a cliffhanger at the end of the first book. He appears to be in hell, but is he stuck there for good? Alex and Pamela Dawes—Lethe’s Oculus, or archivist/administrator—have found a reference to a pathway called a Gauntlet that can open a portal to hell, but can they find the Gauntlet itself? And what about the four murderers the Gauntlet ritual requires? Meanwhile, Alex’s past as a small-time drug dealer is catching up with her, adding gritty street crime to the demonic white-collar evil the Yale crowd tends to prefer. The plot is relentless and clever, and the writing is vivid, intelligent, and funny at just the right moments, but best of all are the complex characters, such as the four murderers, each with a backstory that makes it possible for the reader to trust them to enter hell and have the strength to leave again. Like the first book, this one ends with a cliffhanger. Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.