As regular readers will know, I occasionally dip into children’s and young adult fiction particularly fantasy. I find it is often imaginative and creative in a way that similar genres of “adult fiction” are not. And having been reading some more serious non-fiction, I decided to check out The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff. I had picked up the first volume, You Wish, at a library sale for a couple of bucks and decided to give it a read.
It was a quick and easy read, and entertaining in many ways, but not enough to tempt me to keep reading the series. While the premise is interesting, and the hook creative, the characters are just a little too flat and the setting not quite put together.
The basic plot is that Benjamin Bartholomew Piff is sent to an orphanage when his parents die in a plane crash. As is usually the case in this literary situation, it seems to be the default setting these days, things do not go well. He is forced to clean out giant soup pots with a toothbrush. The food is bad and the authorities cruel. Ben plans his escape but is foiled by, of all people, his kind hearted social working showing up with a birthday cake. When he makes wish on his candle, however, he unknowingly followed the rules of wishes exactly and thus is granted his incredible wish: unlimited wishes. Soon Ben is riding high and getting whatever he wants.
This sets off trouble in the realm where wishes are granted. The Wishworks factory is in crisis because it seem wishes are something of a zero sum game, if Ben gets unlimited wishes some children are bound to do without. This powerful wish also opens up an opportunity for the dastardly Cursework factory to build a diabolical weapon. It is up to Ben and the Wishworks team to defeat the Curse-makers. This will involve Ben giving up his deepest wish (and the original unlimited wishes).
As I said, the story moves at a quick pace and the idea of the wishing rules and the Wishworks factory is interesting. But the story doesn’t quite live up to this promise. None of the characters really grab your attention and the setting is a little thin. The Wishworks aspect is the most developed, the author clearly enjoys creating that part of the story, but the rest of it seems a little cookie-cutter. It comes off lighthearted and fun but on the thin side and just too derivative.
Maybe the story gets filled in and developed in the rest of the series, and depending on the reader, not everyone requires a fully developed story and setting. For now I am not planning to read the rest of the series, but if your children are voracious readers always looking for another series to dive into, The Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff might be a good fit.