The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart: A global chase
2nd book in the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy (not including prequel The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict and sequel The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages)
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Quality of writing: 8.5/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal
Age level: 10 and up
In this book, the group of four friends known as “The Mysterious Benedict Society” attempt to track down their friend and patron Nicholas Benedict, who has gone missing while attempting to find a legendary plant with mysterious properties. Along the way, they not only unravel a series of intriguing riddles and clues, but also escape the nefarious “Ten Men,” henchmen of the evil genius Ledroptha Curtain. With an engaging, mystery-based storyline and quirky characters, this book includes surprising plot twists, edge-of-your-seat conflicts, and substantial humor.
The plot of this book revolves around the protagonists’ search for Nicholas Benedict, who has mysteriously vanished while searching for “duskwort,” a legendary plant with fabled abilities such as the ability to cure narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder). The plot advances primarily through the characters’ solving riddles left for them by Mr. Benedict, as they retrace his steps across the globe, meanwhile evading the agents of Ledroptha Curtain who are constantly trying to apprehend them. Even more so than the first book in the trilogy, this book’s plot is largely action-driven: fights, chase scenes, and altercations are frequent. Furthermore, the plot is also more linear than that of The Mysterious Benedict Society, and builds to a climactic final confrontation (classic mystery fiction trope, yes, but still satisfying). Overall, the plot of this book is particularly action-based and exciting, while also incorporating puzzling riddles and conundrums. (9/10)
The four protagonists of the previous book return in this book: Reynie, the wise main protagonist; “Sticky” the bald child prodigy; Kate, the jack-of-all-trades; and Constance, the stubborn toddler. These friends’ quirky interactions are honestly simply fun to read, and incorporate plenty of humor and banter. However, the other characters are also well-written. Ledroptha Curtain, the main villain, and his henchmen are good examples of stereotypical villainry (as fits the book’s “mystery” style); SQ Pedalian (another henchman of Mr. Curtain), on the other hand, is an interesting instance of a sympathetic quasi-villain who wavers between evil and good. The book also incorporates a large cast of detailed supporting characters, who provide a realistic backdrop to the protagonists. Overall, the characters in this book merit a 9.5 out of 10.
As in the trilogy’s previous book, this book is not particularly difficult. The style is readable, and there are no tricky instances of descriptive language or literary devices. While Stewart does include many riddles and poems, these are rather straightforward in layout and easy to follow. Overall, this book merits a 3/10 rating on difficulty.
Quality of writing
Stewart does an excellent job of writing within his genre (mystery/action) with the engaging plot and bantering dialogue found in this book. Furthermore, the characters are detailed and humorous (although plenty serious at need), and show an excellent example of friendship. While the narrative style is simple and incorporates less descriptive language than some other works, it certainly serves its purpose and explains the plotline in an exciting and readable manner. Overall, the quality of writing in this book is not particularly complex, but is fun to read (particularly due to all the riddles and codes Stewart includes). (8.5/10)
Like the previous book in the trilogy, this book includes little concerning content. With no sexual content or language, the only potentially concerning scenes are those involving fighting: the “violence” in these is only minor, although fight scenes occur several times throughout the book. Most involve bumps, scrapes, and bruises; a few characters are shot with tranquilizer darts, and the protagonists are threatened and tied up several times, but there is no significantly concerning violence in any of them. Another potentially “scary” scene might be the one in which the Ten Men threaten the protagonists with “Pandora’s Box,” a box which contains a threatening-sounding “something” (which turns out, in the next book, to merely be a ruse—simply a noisemaker). Overall, this book really contains no content to worry about.
This book has an easy-to-read style and an engaging plot, furthermore, the characters are funny and relatable. Overall, based on these qualities, this book is recommended for ages 10 and up.