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Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Hell Bent

Repeat author

Leigh Bardugo is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Ninth House and Six of Crows.

by Leigh Bardugo

Excellent choice

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Quick take

In this epic follow-up to Ninth House, Alex Stern thinks one can just casually go to hell and bring friends back . . .

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_2ndSeries

    Second in series

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Academic


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unsettling



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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Hell Bent.
Hell Bent


Alex approached Black Elm as if she were sidling up to a wild animal, cautious in her walk up the long, curving driveway, careful not to show her fear. How many times had she made this walk? But today was different. The house appeared through the bare branches of the trees, as if it had been waiting for her, as if it had heard her footsteps and anticipated her arrival. It didn’t crouch like prey. It stood, two stories of gray stone and peaked roofs, a wolf with paws planted and teeth bared. Black Elm had been tame once, glossy and preening. But it had been left on its own too long.

The boarded-up windows on the second floor made it all so much worse, a wound in the wolf’s side that, left untended, might turn it mad.

She slotted her key into the old back door and slipped into the kitchen. It was chillier inside than out—they couldn’t afford to keep the place heated, and there was no reason to. But despite the cold and the mission she’d come here to fulfill, the room still felt welcoming. Copper pans hung in neat rows above the big vintage stove, bright and ready, eager to be used. The slate floor was spotless, the counters wiped clean and set with a milk bottle full of holly branches that Dawes had arranged just so. The kitchen was the most functional room of Black Elm, alive with regular care, a tidy temple of light. This was how Dawes dealt with all they’d done, with the thing lurking in the ballroom.

Alex had a routine. Well, Dawes had a routine and Alex tried to follow it, and it felt like a rock to cling to now as fear tried to drag her under. Unlock the door, sort the mail and set it on the counter, fill Cosmo’s bowls with fresh food and water.

They were usually empty, but today Cosmo had tipped the food on its side, scattering the floor with fish-shaped pellets, as if in protest. Darlington’s cat was mad at being left alone. Or frightened by not being quite so alone anymore.

“Or maybe you’re just a picky little shit,” Alex muttered, cleaning up the food. “I’ll pass your comments along to the chef.”

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Why I love it

I always head into the new year with a taste for something bracing—a gin gimlet over hot buttered rum, a swim in a cold pool over a lounge in a fuzzy blanket. In other words, an antidote to all things merry and bright. Enter Hell Bent: decidedly unmerry, dark as a devil’s deal, and exactly what I want to sink into this January.

When we last saw Leigh Bardugo’s hard-as-coffin-nails antiheroine Alex Stern, in supernatural barn burner Ninth House, she was reeling from the loss of mentor Darlington, recently banished to literal Hell. In this impeccably titled sequel, Alex is determined to drag him out. She’s entering her second year at Yale, where she’s enrolled at the leisure of Lethe House, oversight body of Yale’s magic-wielding secret societies. Recruited for her ability to see ghosts, Alex is charged with managing the societies’ rituals and navigating their bureaucrats—all while keeping her hunt for a Hell door under wraps. Meanwhile, the wolves of her past keep calling, most pressingly a dangerous drug lord who sees her as a weapon to exploit.

Hell Bent is a taut, complexly plotted headrush, stocked full of complicated monsters, entitled academics, and grifters big-time and small. Its world is an intoxicating mashup of pitch-dark academia and the kind of urban fantasy that has blood under all twenty of its nails. In Alex Stern, Bardugo has created a heroine you’ll trust to have your back on a journey into Hell—and the kind of survivor you can count on to lead you out again.

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Member ratings (12,556)

  • Laura K.

    Austin, TX

    LOVED this. I couldn’t stop reading Ninth House, but I don’t know if I’d say I enjoyed it. This one, hopping back into this world instead of learning it + evolution of the characters, was thrilling.

  • Harlee K.

    Springfield, MO

    I absolutely couldn’t wait for Hell Bent to come out and it did not disappoint. I finally got to find out where Darlington went! The ending was so amazing and I can’t wait to see how the story evolves

  • Sara C.

    Brooklyn , NY

    Waited so long for part 2 and it did not disappoint. I have been looking for an adult version of Harry Potter and this series fulfills that need. It’s so fun and original. Can’t wait for the next one.

  • Regina M.

    New York, NY

    I loved this sequel! Ninth House was a good book and this continuation of the story into hell was sooo good. I couldn’t put it down. It also set up a third book. Can’t wait to see where it goes next.

  • Kelsey M.

    Beach Haven, NJ

    I loved the first book and have been waiting for YEARS (sorry, Leigh) for this one. The author did not disappoint and I ran through this book. There’s violence and drug use, but it’s great nonetheless

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