For reasons that are perhaps not at all sensible, I often find that I am hesitant when it comes to reading sequels to books that I have found particularly fantastic. I can't quite say if it is because I secretly fret over the possibility that the next title will be less fantastic, therefore ruining my happy feelings about the first book, but I suspect that this is probably close to the mark. Which is to say, it took us nearly three years to continue on with the Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy after finishing the first book, despite the fact that both Mariam and myself loved it whole-heartedly.
And I am happy to say, my concerns appear to have been unfounded. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart turns out to be a wonderful, page-turner of a follow up to the first book, and is a worthy story in its own right. Part detective story, part hero's quest, part tale of daring and adventure, the Perilous Journey is engaging, exciting, and every bit as clever as its predecessor. Like in the first novel, Stewart pays incredible attention to including the details that make the story feel real and true- even in moments when the events taking place seem outlandish and implausible.
For her part, Mariam seems to enjoy the fact that the strong, smart, capable kid characters from the first novel remain so in this follow up. The kid geniuses from the first book have all returned for the second, and prove themselves to be just as quick witted and kind hearted in this story. If anything, the characters are slightly more self aware this time around, and Stewart does a remarkable job of writing their individual thought processes and inner conflicts in such a way that their growth as people since the events of the first book is truly apparent. And, like with the first story, The Mysterious Benedict Soceity and the Perilous Journey is, above all, a satisfying tale of the power of friendship, family, and loyalty, so despite all of the harrowing danger faced by the kids as the novel reaches its climax, the hope provided by their reliance on one another always shines through. Also, did I mention that it has moments that are laugh out loud funny? The balance between moments of humor and dramatic tension is very well done here indeed.
So, while I can't exactly why I was so sheepish about picking this one up, I'm certainly glad that we did. It was a great restart to a read aloud routine that needed a bit of attention after the madness of our move. And, I think it will be quickly followed up by the third book in this clearly solid series.