A Mysterious Society, A Perilous Journey, and A Prisoner’s Dilemma that ends not quite so well.

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Mysterious Benedict Society, the Prisoner’s Dilemma is the third and final book in the Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance are four gifted and “orphaned” children who, in the first book, answer an ad in the paper and find themselves helping Mr. Benedict outwit his evil twin brother (separated at birth) Mr. Curtain who wants to wreak havoc on the world with his brainwashing machine called the Whisperer and cause the entire world to bow at his feet with his ways of illusion, silencing technology, and duskwort, a plant that will cause whole towns to fall asleep just by breathing in the fumes.  The whole thing sounds a bit hokey, I know, but I’m also not a child, so I’d imagine that 11 year olds would find this plot convincing.

What I like about the books are how quirky and unique each character is.  Much like Roald Dahl meets Norton Juster, only more plausible–if you can call evil brain washing machines plausible.  And though I thoroughly enjoyed each book, I admit, this last one was quite disappointing.  The action took too long to begin and everything was wrapped up much too quickly.  I felt that with the aging of the characters (a year spans between the beginnings of each book) their unique voice dropped off.  Especially with Constance, an especially difficult toddler, she begins the book at age 2 and simply likes to be a nuisance and create annoyance whenever she feels the need. It’s her stubbornness to defy anyone and everyone just because she can that saves the world from this unknown evil, but in the third book, she’s almost 4, and starts to have feelings of love toward her friends and her adopted father (Mr. Benedict) and her smarmy rhymes lose their creativity.  She grows up.  And it’s the coming of age that depletes the book’s original endearing qualities.

But I still recommend it, to children and to parents.  Especially if you’re one of those parents who like to know exactly what your child is reading and will throw it out if there is even a hint of immorality–like child characters who backtalk their parents or characters who defeat evil warlords by using witchcraft or ungrateful children who walk out on their parents and sail to a land filled with wild things–well fear nothing, because this book is as lovable as a cuddly teddy and is absent of all those qualities that make childrens’ books so enticing to children and horrific to their parents.  These four children love their new parents and will do anything to fight the evil Mr. Curtain simply by using their own wits, attention to detail, and uncanny memorizing skills.

And what’s even better is that there is a website in which you can go on and play mysterious games and take mysterious quizzes and you can even save Mr. Benedict yourself from the perils that surely await him should Mr. Curtain get a hold of him.



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