Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)

Release Date: September 30, 1999
Author: Lemony Snicket
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Length: 190 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I'm afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don't be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they'd hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket



Protagonists: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire have escaped the evil clutches of Count Olaf and his dastardly plan to steal their fortune. In the process, however, Count Olaf has escaped. Hoping that their next placement will be better, and if it is, permanent, the children are delighted when their new guardian is a kind and intelligent man who is happy to help foster their own unique talents. That is until something unfortunate happens and Uncle Monty, the children's new guardian, unwittingly hires Count Olaf as his new assistant. Now the children must once again put their collective talents together and hope for a much happier ending this time around. Now, with most Middle-Grade stories this short, there isn't a lot of character development. That's mostly due to the fact that since it's so short there isn't a lot of time to have an exciting plot and develop three main characters. That being said I still enjoy these children. They're much smarter than most kids their age, sure, and the adults that aren't trying to steal their fortune are rather dense, but given that there's a lot of nostalgia when it comes to this book that's something fairly easy to overlook. Regardless, it's exciting to watch these extraordinary children try and escape from the corner Count Olaf always seems to back them into.

World Building: After the children's terrible time with Count Olaf it was nice, for however long it lasted, to see them in a loving and happy home. I love how Snicket can very easily lure the reader into a sense of false hope, that even when you know what's going to happen, that you hope beyond all hope that you're wrong. There isn't that much overall progression of the story in this book, there's still a lot of set up. We don't find out why the Baudelaires' parents want them to live with relatives, or why these relatives are ones they've never heard of. There's still a lot of questions up in the air and even though we don't find out any answers Snicket's writing is so addicting that it's hard to put the book down. Snicket's macabre, ironic, and humorously dry writing style has become iconic and it's not hard to tell why. In most books, you're rooting for a happy ending, yet in this book, you find out, right from the start, that things are not going to end in sunshine and rainbows, that by the end the Baudelaire's lives would still be unfortunate. There's something about that concept of knowing bad things are going to happen and hoping that somehow what you've been told it wrong that makes books like these, books that are so different, yet share small common tropes, that are addicting to read.

Foreshadowing: Once again, when rereading a book it's easy to see where things are going and it's so much fun to notice things you never did before. Since I'm not reading this for the first time as an adult it's hard to tell you what is or is not predictable about this book. That being said, though, I'm not sure if that would even matter as there are a few larger twists that were flat out told to the reader by the author. However, those revelations just add to the tension of the story and it's not as though he gives away the ending. In fact, it's that tension developed by those revelations that lead the urgency felt in the final act of this story. Things begin to heat up and these kids are backed into a corner with seemingly no way out and it's really here when knowing what's going to happen and would end up being a detriment, at least on your first reading. This time it was a less tense since I already knew how thigs would eventually wind up and while I can't really remember my first time reading this book, I'd have to this time was more enjoyable. It was exciting watching everything fall into place as the Baudelaire's used their combined skills to try and survive another of Count Olaf's attacks.

Ending: Looking back over this book I'm not sure where I would place the cutoff for what would begin the end. If I were reading any other book I'd say that nearly the last half is the end, because the events that transpire within the final half of this book would, given that this was a longer and more substantial book, be the actual ending, the final climax of the story followed by the traditional cooling down period. That being said this isn't any other book and I'm not quite sure where the cutoff should be, regardless the ending to this story is really built up and what it builds to, at least if you're in the appropriate age group, is amazing. As an adult it was enjoyable, and I really did like how all the pieces came together, but the ending was a tad on the predictable side.


So I tried to be as unbiased as I possibly could, looking at this book objectively it is a fun and macabre installment in this dark and timeless series, yet there isn't all that much that happens. Things are still being set up and there isn't any real development and honestly except for one or two things in this book you could probably skip the entire thing if you wanted.


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