The End (#13) by Lemony Snicket

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Published: 13 October 2006
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 337
Format: Hardback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Dear Reader,

You are presumably looking at the back of this book, or the end of The End. The end of The End is the best place to begin The End, because if you read The End from the beginning of the beginning of The End to the end of the end of The End, you will arrive at the end of the end of your rope.

 This book is the last in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even if you braved the previous twelve volumes, you probably can’t stand such unpleasantries as a fearsome storm, a suspicious beverage, a herd of wild sheep, an enormous bird cage, and a truly haunting secret about the Baudelaire parents.

 It has been my solemn occupation to complete the history of the Baudelaire orphans, and at last I am finished. You likely have some other occupation, so if I were you I would drop this book at once, so The End does not finish you.

With all due respect,

 Lemony Snicket

Oh Mr Snicket, you’ve done a C.S Lewis on me. How could you! As I finish this final book dubbed “The End” I give you a two. This is a very generous two mind you. You had been building me up for so long, promised me excitement and intrigue, you were making up for the dull start and then…then as book twelve ended you added confusion. Then as Book 13 began you kept me confused, and you took me to a place that made no sense and seemed out of place after all we’d been through. Let’s just quote myself from two book reviews ago shall we? “The ending is certainly being set up to be very exciting and after the hints, clues, and build up Snicket has done, then it should not be a let down.” Oh how wrong I was.

You were grasping at things to tie up your loose ends and some worked, some didn’t. You gave a lot of credit to the readers to piece things together, you seemed to have ignored everything mentioned in the past books aside from names and recapping. Your tangents filled up oh so many unneeded pages, had you run out of story? Had the plot failed you? Why had so much more unnecessariness been added when this was supposed to be the book that made us sit in bed, in our chairs, at the table with a wiggle and a squirm as we saw the pieces come together magnificently and we all went ‘it’s all so clear!’ You hinted, you offered a small amount but nothing like what was expected.

There was a moment, as we refer again back to the dear Mr Lewis who crushed us after being faithful (oh the irony!) for so long, I felt you became a little religious more than once, not as bleeding obvious as Mr Lewis, but golly, there was symbolism and messages by the pageful. And if this was not intended, then what the heck was all that about. I liked these past 12 books, I put up with your failings and odd narrative and writing style and this is how you repay us? I hope there was some religious thing I missed completely otherwise this made no sense whatsoever and it failed magnificently as a conclusion to this great story you has been creating.

I won’t say I liked it and I did not hate it. You balance precariously between the two and if it wasn’t for a few minor things you’d be joining Mr Lewis in his final failings as well. The things you made us sit through these past 12 books as you brushed over them – the murder, the arson, the villainy – all in fun and seen light heartedly. I take nothing of your ‘Unfortunate Events’ philosophy this time and won’t accept it. You changed tones so much in this final book it became depressing, annoying and a little bit mean (we are of course just gonna ignore the amount of unbelievableness in there towards the end no matter how touching it was supposed to be. I’ve been pretty accepting with you before but this was something else).

Your characters were as peculiar as the previous books but when what we knew, what people we knew, what we had accepted and expected changed so much, and in such a strange and confusing way, and seemingly without reason, it just felt wrong. After what these kids have been through and seen and that’s how we’re supposed to believe it went down. I know you tried to imply they changed, but wow. Ambiguity does not work well as a final book Mr Snicket, it’s even worse that you tried to make it concluding. A VERY generous two.

Of course if you wish to continue reading more of Snicket’s books Jess from Bookish informed me that the elusive Snicket has a new book out called Who Could That Be At This Hour? I do remember hearing of this when it was coming out, it is now a New York bestseller it seems. Bookish have posted an excerpt of an interview with him on their site here. I have to say though that like Lewis, Snicket’s last book has made it very hard for me to want to read another of his books for awhile, but please feel free to expand from this series yourselves. I however will need a long time to find the desire to read his work again. I’m sorry Mr Snicket, you elusive strange man, but that is how I feel.

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The Penultimate Peril (#12) by Lemony Snicket

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Published: October 18th 2005
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 353
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Lemony Snicket returns with the last book before the last book of his bestselling Series of Unfortunate Events. Scream and run away before the secrets of the series are revealed!

Very little is known about Lemony Snicket and A Series of Unfortunate Events. What we do know is contained in the following brief list:
-The books have inexplicably sold millions and millions of copies worldwide.
-People in more than 40 countries are consumed by consuming Snicket.
-The movie was as sad as the books, if not more so.
-Like unrefrigerated butter and fungus, the popularity of these books keeps spreading.

Even less is known about book the twelfth in this alarming phenomenon. In this book, things only get worse. What we do know is contained in the following brief list:
-Count Olaf is still evil
 -The Baudelaire orphans do not win a contest.
-The title begins with the word, ‘The’
-Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

First of all, happy birthday Mr Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). In the past I have rather ignored Mr Snicket and his role in The Series in my reviews so I feel that before we get into the rather short review we should discuss Snicket’s contribution to these children’s perils a bit more. Wikipedia has done a lot better job at cataloguing his contribution so you can see the full biography here

(Spoilers, Ye Be Warned), but here is a brief unspoiler version hopefully. Snicket is a harried, troubled writer and researcher falsely accused of felonies and continuously hunted by the police and his enemies. Through the series we are never given any real indication why Snicket is recording the events of the Baudelaire children but there is a hint that he is connected to their story in some way. As the series continues we follow Snicket as he tries to stay safe and record the adventures of the siblings, he also has mysterious connections to a multitude of character that don’t get revealed till the end or near end which makes it rather exciting. So happy birthday, congratulations on very cleverly writing your narrative self into a series, it makes it seem a lot more like a dramatic and thriller like affair when you describe the situations you get yourself in to.

On to the review. This book is where the action, the patience and the waiting of the past books comes together. It is by no means the end, nor does it reveal everything, there is a whole other book to go, but it comes pretty darn close.

For the past few books there has been the odd cameo and reappearance of past (surviving) characters but by book 12 it’s like a convention where they all come together. Book 12 gives the allusion of being concluding and it will all come to a head by the end, but you soon realise it acts more like a very long introduction to the final showdown that I assume will occur in the final book.

The Baudelaire children go undercover in a hotel to try and suss out who is a friend and who is  foe, and aside from confusing them it is confusing to the reader as well. We are not given a lot of information but you are still given clues and revelations which raise the intrigue over the confusion. You have to stay sharp reading this, as I say there are clues and hints, and while sometimes you end up as confused and as bewildered as the Baudelaires you can also figure things out quicker. It’s a pretty good beginning to the final book. Snicket has brought this together wonderfully and I can only imagine what book thirteen will reveal. I will offer nothing else because it will spoil things by revealing things from this book and past ones but I will say that The Penultimate Peril it is cleverly written and pretty surprising as an almost concluding book.

The Grim Grotto (#11) by Lemony Snicket

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Published: September 21st 2004
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 323
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Warning: Your day will become very dark – and possibly damp – if you read this book. Plan to spend this spring in hiding. Lemony Snicket is back with the eleventh book in his New York Times bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Lemony Snicket’s saga about the charming, intelligent and grossly unlucky Baudelaire orphans continues to provoke suspicion and despair in readers the world over. In the eleventh and most alarming volume yet in the bestselling phenomenon A Series of Unfortunate Events, the intrepid siblings delve further into the dark mystery surrounding the death of their parents and the baffling VFD organisation.

Violet is now almost fifteen, Klaus has had his thirteenth birthday and Sunny is no longer a baby apparently so this story has been going awhile. School has been ignored and forgotten, most adults are useless and there have been more deaths and murders than you could count. But it is all very interesting, mysterious and unfortunate as the end draws near.
We are introduced to a couple new characters, a Captain and his step daughter. The Captain is a pretty annoying character. His constant aye’s and his ability to blabber does get tiresome. It distracts from Snicket’s explanations about words and phrases a bit though, I can’t tell if these are better written in or I’m tolerating them more. Either way. There are also a great deal of twists and surprises in this book which adds to the drama and takes the focus as well.

There is something I do always forget to mention about these books. It is not all long winded paragraphs and explaining things, Snicket actually makes it clever if you know what to look for. There are references in here that, certainly if you know the references make you smile. Most of these come out of Sunny’s mouth, disguised as gibberish but are real words or references with meaning behind them. The adult jokes within this story are good because it does validate that you can be over 12 and read them. These books are easily read by adults, but the fact they can also be read by 12 year olds is why there are slightly more aspects aimed in their direction.

The structure from the earlier books has long been abandoned and now it’s all action and adventure. This certainly makes the books more enjoyable, we see different sides of characters, they do exciting things, and for the siblings especially, they aren’t having to tolerate being ignored as much, they are more independent and have finally realised that the adults can rarely help them. The adults that do appear try their best, and of course Snicket hasn’t abandoned his narrative and writing  style altogether, but a few good non-guardian adults are seeping through the mix. This only adds to the confusion of the overall mystery because they all have their reasons for everything they do, but it is a refreshing change. The ending is certainly being set up to be very exciting and after the hints, clues, and build up Snicket has done, then it should not be a let down.

The Slippery Slope (#10) by Lemony Snicket

Published: October 1st 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 337
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Like bad smells, uninvited weekend guests or very old eggs, there are some things that ought to be avoided.

Snicket’s saga about the charming, intelligent, and grossly unlucky Baudelaire orphans continues to alarm its distressed and suspicious fans the world over. The 10th book in this outrageous publishing effort features more than the usual dose of distressing details, such as snow gnats, an organised troupe of youngsters, an evil villain with a dastardly plan, a secret headquarters and some dangerous antics you should not try at home. With the weather turning colder, this is one chilling book you would be better off without.

Book ten brings us very close to the end of the series and you certainly can tell. There is a lot more information being revealed, more time researching and figuring out and a lot less time watching poor guardians being killed and incompetent adults getting in the way. From the beginning of this book things are not going well for Violet and Klaus, being separated from their sister is bad enough but it only gets worse. If I recall correctly I think this is the first book where the siblings have been properly separated for a long period of time, not just the usual kidnappings and almost surgeries.

There is a lot of information provided through this book, secrets are slowly revealed and with the help of a new friend, Violet and Klaus get closer to solving the VFD mystery and hopefully rescuing their sister from Olaf’s clutches. Sunny has been growing up a lot in these books, I assume months have passed by now at the very least so she is walking, talking a bit better and making hot chocolate it seems. We only see her get better here, there is less unrealistic biting and she uses the skills of her absent brother and sister to help herself as she is trapped with these villains.

There is not a lot of action, but there is the greater attraction of piecing together the mysteries. There are more moral dilemmas faced by Violet and Klaus and it is good to see them find alternate ways to get the results they want than resorting to the villainous ways. Use your brains kiddies, not violence screams Snicket through this book.

As I say we find out a great deal by the end of the book, not as much as the siblings had hoped, but certainly enough to get them starting their own proper investigation and not just hoping an off chance mention will bring results.

The siblings do manage to get one over Olaf in a very daring way, which is a lot better than some crummy adult half chasing them or eventually revealing the fake disguise. We do see some interesting things happen in Olaf’s camp which are not fully revealed and naturally by the end we are circling back to a bit of unfortunateness for the Baudelaire’s, but that is to be expected by now.

The Carniverous Carnival (#9) by Lemony Snicket

Published: October 29th 2002
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 286
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dear Reader,
The word “carnivorous” which appears in the title of this book, means “meat-eating,” and once you have read such a bloodthirsty word, there is no reason to read any further. This carnivorous volume contains such a distressing story that consuming any of its contents would be far more stomach-turning than ever the most imbalanced meal.
To avoid causing discomfort, it would be best if I didn’t mention any of the unnerving ingredients of this story, particularly a confusing map, an ambidextrous person, an unruly map, a wooden plank, and Chabo the Wolf Baby.
Sadly for me, my time is filled with researching and recording the displeasing and disenchanting lives of the Baudelaire orphans. But your time might be better filled with something more palatable, such as eating your vegetables, or feeding them to someone else.

We join the dear children where we left them at the end of book eight. There is a large amount of practicality and actual intrigue in this stage of the series. Snicket gets us so close to possibly figuring it all out and there looks like there will be hope for Violet, Klaus and Sunny but then naturally it crumbles. Snicket has gotten better about not totally ruining the entire book plot within the early stages, but also by now you know, being only book nine, nothing good is going to
happen until book 13, maybe not even then.

After escaping their hiding place the children find themselves at a carnival run by fortune teller Madame Lulu who is great friends with Count Olaf. With nowhere to go and the chance of finding out more about their parents and Olaf’s plan they get hired to work at the carnival as freaks as a chance to spy. They manage to blend in with slightly more believability than before with actual props at their disposal. Once again there are no guardians and the children must fend for themselves and Mr Poe hasn’t been seen for awhile which has been good. It is also where we see Olaf as himself for a change, sort of a behind the scenes of his grand schemes.

Whilst at the carnival the children have to perform in the freak show, which itself is filled with absurdness and great hypocrisies. It’s all as degrading as a freak show would be. We see the children grow up a little more through these books too, Klaus was thirteen in Book 7 and now we see Sunny is growing up a bit too.

There were some depressing moments in this book but it is balanced out by the suspense of what the children uncover. Everything has changed so much from the start and the siblings often now find themselves trying very hard not to act like the villains around them. It is interesting that this moral side is thrown in, Snicket casually brushes over serious murder and horror but he does make it clear that if you start doing it you are no better than the people you are running from, even if it is for good reason. That was rather nice.

I’m afraid the end once again does not look good for the Baudelaire children but the cliffhangers and the increase of adventure makes up for it. These final books connect much better than the earlier ones, they connect together like they are like are different parts of one episode, as opposed to separate episodes of a series. On to book ten!

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