Tripp’s lower lip jutted out, but he went back to work, and a minute later was singing “Under the Bridge” in a passable falsetto. Alex didn’t have the heart to tell him she’d gladly spend the next two semesters in hell if it meant never hearing the Red Hot Chili Peppers again.
Warning: Spoilers for Ninth House ahead
At the end of Ninth House, Darlington is possibly alive and trapped in hell. Dawes and Alex agree to do what they can to rescue him, despite Lethe essentially writing off his death as collateral damage.
We pick up here, with Dawes and Alex working together to take care of Black Elm and continue their coursework, while also researching how to get into hell and rescue Darlington. Alex is back with the roommates from before, but instead of going it all on her own, she has started to let people in little by little, starting with her roommate Mercy.
Where the first book centered much on the world building, this book dives deeper into the characters, giving us a glimpse into their backstories. While we don’t get as much on Dawes or Mercy as I would have liked, I thoroughly enjoyed the character arcs of detective Turner and Tripp.
My main gripe with this book, as I have with many books, is that certain plot points are tossed in with very little explanation or reason, while other more obvious ones are rehashed again and again. Alex’s struggles and behavior while under duress can be explained. Or there is at least a precedent for her impulsive and self-sacrificing behavior. Dawes’ and Turner’s giant gaps in critical thinking did not match with prior behavior. This became extremely evident the closer they got to the end.
Despite my complaints, this book was far more interesting than Ninth House. The murder mysteries from the first book truly bored me and the ending felt too convenient. The ending of Hell Bent wasn’t perfect, but, unlike Ninth House, I cared less about the what of the magic and far more about the consequences faced by each of the “pilgrims” who chose to walk the Gauntlet for Darlington.