Monday, January 2, 2012

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Note: Since I read the first 12 books of this series before I started this blog, but just now read the last book, this is a review of the whole series.

Title: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Author: Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)
Publication Date: 1999 - 2006
Length: 13 books

A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of three orphans named Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. The first book, the Bad Beginning, starts with the children learning of the death of their parents in a fire that destroyed their home. Mr. Poe, a friend of their parents', is in charge of finding a home for the Baudelaires, a task at which he fails miserably, putting them with one dreadful guardian after another, starting with the terrifying Count Olaf.

The first three books in the series were definitely the best. In The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window, Olaf is a great villain. You'll find yourself hating all adult characters for their intense stupidity, but in a way that makes for a great story.

Spoiler Alert if you haven't read at least book 5

Although, it's not until Book the Fifth, The Austere Academy, that the ongoing mysteries of the series really get started. The Baudelaires meet the Quagmire triplets, who I wish had more of a role in the rest of the series than they did. The Quagmire's do some research to try to help the Baudelaire's, but all they can tell them is the cryptic acronym VFD before they're dragged away by Count Olaf.

End of Spoiler Alert

The problem I had with this series was that you don't get enough answers. I know that's supposed to be part of its charm or whatever, but I would have liked more mysteries to be solved. As it is, don't expect very many of them to be explained at all. (Note: I haven't read Lemony Snicket's autobiography yet, so to be fair, there could be a few more answers in store for me, but I rather doubt it.)

Also, there's a theme in the last few books that I don't particularly care for. The Baudelaires start to think of themselves as almost as guilty as the villains. They keep parts of their story secret because they're afraid that others will see them as bad people. The trouble is, they never do anything bad. In fact, I'd argue that they're too good. There comes a time, when the system has obviously completely failed you, and your life is constantly in danger, when most normal people would try to defend themselves even outside of the law, but the Baudelaires are determined that Olaf should only be punished through the justice system, even after that fails utterly. It just seems a bit unrealistic. I mean, the guy is trying to kill them.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like the series overall. The writing is clever, the characters lovable. The mysteries, for all I wish that they were solved, were delightful, and really kept me curious. And even if the later books were in some ways not as good as the earlier books (which were truly wonderful), the series still deserves to be read in its entirety, because the Baudelaires' story is one that should not be cut short.

Oh, and a note about The Beatrice Letters: I was right. That book should have waited until after the end of the series. It came out shortly before The End, but made no sense. Having read The End, a lot of The Beatrice Letters finally makes sense to me, and I wish I'd waited to read it until after the series. For once, I go against publishing order!

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