Hell Bent

Macmillan Audio. (Alex Stern, Bk. 2). Jan. 2023. 16:16 hrs. ISBN 9781250859365. $32.99. FANTASY
Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell return to narrate the second installment in Bardugo’s “Alex Stern” series. The fall semester has started at Yale, and Alex must convince the other members of Lethe that Darlington is alive—as much as one can be when stuck in hell. After a failed rescue attempt, it becomes apparent that something wicked has arrived in New Haven. Alex and her colleagues look for other ways to save Darlington without the support of Lethe superiors, facing the demons from their past while battling the demons that have escaped into their world. Performing the majority of the audiobook, Fortgang transports listeners into Alex’s story, allowing them to see the world through her eyes. Distinguishable voices capture the characters’ personalities, keeping listeners immersed in the tale. Fortgang’s narration captures Alex’s disenchanted nature and the scars she’s developed after years of psychological torment. Axtell’s performance is short, narrating the few sections that are from Darlington’s point of view. The choice of a male narrator for those sparse chapters adds something extra to the engaging production.
VERDICT Fortgang’s and Axtell’s performances will have listeners eagerly awaiting the next book in Bardugo’s wholly engaging, well-narrated series.
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