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The Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart. Reviewed by Dragonfly (8)

There are books that will deeply move you, and books that won’t; books that make you ponder and books that don’t. Perhaps books with an astonishing style of writing, and books without this magic. Once in a while there comes a book that is engaging, clever, as well as funny and dramatic, and The Mysterious Benedict Society, is one of such book.

While Stonetown orphan Reynard Muldoon ponders over a newspaper classified, “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”, little did he know that in days to come, he is rapidly drawn into an adventure, starting with the twelve year-old taking some odd tests. You see, Reynard Muldoon is not ordinary at all; being an orphan with genius-level intellect, he is then teamed up with a group of children with special talents: the brainiac Sticky Washington, the ready-for-anything, Kate Wetherall, and finally, the extremely grumpy Constance Contraire. An unlikely team, the new friends are recruited into a secret mission by a narcoleptic stranger; the recruiter, introducing himself as Mr. Benedict, leads a mysterious group that includes his adopted daughters Rhonda Kazembe and Number 2, as well as Mr. Benedict’s bodyguard, Milligan. The rather puzzled children, who also happen to be orphans or so thought, are at first skeptical of the tests and towards the recruiters, eventually uncover their identities as secret agents who attempt to stop a shady criminal and his accomplices.

At this point, The Mysterious Benedict Society reminds me of another intriguing tale, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Children are the main protagonists in both series, and these children in both stories venture through a continuous episode of obstacles and quests to solve a mystery. But contrary to the dark and unsettling scenarios in A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Mysterious Benedict Society is rather funny, at times nail biting, and often less morbid with a hopeful tone in the story.

As time passes, Mr. Benedict prepares the children to go undercover in L.I.V.E, (The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened) to foil the villainous headmaster, Ledroptha Curtain’s plans to rule the world for his own selfish reasons. With no idea of the grave danger ahead, the orphans find themselves constantly battling Mr Curtain’s muscular, harassing thugs; Jackson, a short, stout accomplice with a nose as sharp as a knife, and Jillson, Mr Curtain’s hulking, burly, right-hand woman who is ruthless and with no regards for other people. Despite being assisted by their new trusted friends, Mr. Benedict and his loyal associates, the children come to realise that it will need all their own wits and might to stop a sly Mr. Curtain.

The Mysterious Benedict Society will lead you into a world of countless twists and turns, and has captivated me throughout the series. In my opinion, the author, Trenton Lee Stewart, has an amazing way of creating memorable characters with their unique persona and demeanours, such as the resourceful and energetic Kate, and in contrast to the calm nature in Mr. Benedict. The Mysterious Benedict Society also raises a very refreshing idea that children can actually save the world. I particularly enjoyed the unexpected events in the book, and how the story, as soon as something cheerful is going to happen, would take a sharp turn and collide into danger. My favourite character was Milligan, the agent who is utterly loyal and will “die before he lets harm come to the children”, and I especially like his resourcefulness with his stash of weapons and tools.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and its sequels. Through their relentless duel with the evil criminals, the characters in the story have inspired me to never give up. I look forward to reading the prequel of the series (The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict) now that I have read all three books in the series, and I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in spies, codes, and action. Children rule!!!

Ratings: 5/5 stars

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