In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey the kids are back together after a year off. When we last left them, they had just thwarted Ledropthra Curatin’s (Mr. Benedict’s evil twin) plan to rule the world. Of course curtain escaped and is back for villainous mischief. Constance, Kate, Reynie, and Sticky are summoned to Mr. Benedict’s only to find that he and his assistant Number Two have been kidnapped. Just before being kidnapped, Mr. Benedict planned a surprise for the children to include following a series of riddles and clues. Now they must use these clues to find and rescue Mr. Benedict and Number Two. Their journey takes them to foreign lands across the ocean and through the sky and into the grips of very dangerous men in black suits, dangling from alarmingly high mountain peaks, and escaping from various scrapes and misfortunes.
I didn’t find this one nearly as exciting as the first book. I read the first recently and generally enjoyed the story and getting to know the characters. In the Perilous Journey we already know the kids so the thrill of meeting them and learning about their strengths is of course not there. New characters were introduced but not much time is spent developing their characters for the reader. The kids are back to solving clues and riddles. Generally, things seem to just come to them without any explanation instead of them actually solving any real problems or riddles. This for me lead to a bit of boredom because you know that if the kids just wait long enough or stare at it long enough the clue will be solved or someone would come to rescue them. They are however, very brave and adventurous children, to the point of blurring what might truly be possible, but it is a kid’s story.
The characters begin to become predictable-we know who they are, their faults and how they will respond to situations. Generally I saw no changes in Kate from the first book-she is still wielding her bucket of useful things (though she has made it more user-friendly), she’s feisty, athletic, and more gutsy than the others (she was previously a member of the circus). Sticky who has a magnet memory seems to grapple with some inner issues. He realizes that he is indeed smart and wants to be recognized for his talents. He also struggles with issues of pride and feeling shameful because of his desires for recognition. Constance (being that she is only 3 but obviously advanced for her age) had seen the most development. She is slowly discovering the gift of foresight, she knows things but does not really understand how she knows them. We see her trying to harness this ability to solve puzzles for the group. Her foul attitude is still very much there but I suppose it isn’t as horrible as it was a year ago. She is also more sentimental since being adopted by Mr. Benedict.
And then there is Reynie who is the unwilling leader and maybe the most intelligent of the group. He is also dealing with interpersonal issues and with issues pertaining to humanity. Reynie is starting to understand human beings, he is starting to see that not all are out to do the right things. He can see faults and begins to mistrust (we especially see this with the captain of the ship). Where Reynie struggles most with this is when he realizes that even if people are not always trustworthy or have faults it is still necessary to learn how to trust and function alongside them. What Reynie seems to be experiencing is an important lesson: we cannot let a few bad apples negatively color our views of the world.
“To a certain degree they all faced the same difficulty-that conflict between heart and brain that arose from being gifted beyond their years-and in sensitive moments such as this one, they felt keenly what it meant to be children in a world of grown-ups.”
As with the first book, some parts were exciting and others didn’t hold my attention very well. What I did notice in this book was a general message of do no harm to others even if harm has been done to you. Instead of fighting there’s dodging and trickery. Even when characters desperately want to throttle their opponents they are able to rationalize that it is not the nicest thing to do.
Maybe the next book- The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma will be a bit more stimulating and perhaps comment more on the growth of the children and the humanity dilemma. It is also completely possible that I am asking too much from a children’s story…