Hell Bent picks up not too long after the events of Ninth House: Darlington is gone, eaten up by a hell beast and likely sent down to hell. Alex Stern is determined to get Darlington, her friend and mentor back from hell or wherever he might be. And she will use the full might and magic of Lethe and the rest of the magical societies at Yale if she has to. The challenge is that there isn’t much information about descending to hell in any of the magical societies’ records. Stern and her friends are going in blind, consequences be damned.
I was amped to get back to this series. I loved Ninth House immensely and I was excited to see what was coming next for Alex Stern and company. But Ninth House was published at the tail end of 2019. I had to watch a few YouTube recap videos to remind myself of all the events leading up to Hell Bent. Still, there were many moments in Hell Bent that left me scratching my head, puzzling over the exact details of what occurred in the previous book.
This book was fine. I didn’t feel it was as entertaining or impactful as Ninth House though. For one, Hell Bent almost entirely focusing on Lethe rather than the entire magical underground at Yale. We lost a lot of the social and class commentary which was a highlight in Ninth House. Secondly, there just wasn’t very much magic. All and all, there were only three rituals in the whole book. One final knock, a new praetor is introduced about halfway through the book who is an old, old-school misogynist. He’s a frustrating, well-written character that I thought was going to provide some interesting conflict for Alex, but he just fizzles out. He’s in like two scenes in the whole book. Why was he introduced at all?