The Penultimate Peril

The Penultimate Peril
by Lemony Snicket
MG fantasy. 353 pp.
HarperCollins. 2005.

What with coming to Book the Twelfth, we are only one book away from the end of the Series of Unfortunate Events. I think this is my favorite book in the series. In this book, the Baudelaire orphans end up at the Hotel Denouement. Many things are revealed to them, although these revelations merely lead to more questions. Many of the characters from the previous books in the series are brought back, which does get a bit confusing initially as you try to remember who they were and what they did. But it works.

I think what I liked most about this book is that I feel the author has really matured as a writer over the course of the series. The books are, generally, formulaic. But for this type of series that's a necessity. Kids enjoy that because they feel that they can predict and anticipate what's going to happen. Why do you think Scooby-Doo was so popular? (Okay, maybe it's because Daphne was hot and Freddy was dreamy even though we all identified with Velma or Shaggy. The nerdy or goof-up identification, not the pot-smoking one.) Anyway, this book, moreso than any of the others in the series, seems very naturally written. It still has the excesses of the previous books, but they don't seem so blatant.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the series ends. And I only have to wait another year to find out. If you haven't been reading this series, I think now would be a good time. But only read one book a month. They are formulaic, and you'll enjoy that in the first two, but by the time you get to the end of the third, you're ready for a break. So read one a month. You won't get overwhelmed by the style, and you'll finish the series just after the last book comes out.


Th. said...


I hope you'll understand that I am not reading this post.

I just bought Book 12, but can't read until I finish books 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

And I don't even own 11 yet!

I did like books 1-4 though.

I would like to get the new McSweeney's that Mr Snicket is featured in. Have you happened to see it?

Edgy said...

It's actually okay for you to read this post; surprisingly enough, I say next to nothing about the plot and thus give no spoilers.

And besides, I give good advice about how you should read the series. :)

McSweeney's? I must show my ignorance here and confess to not knowing what McSweeney's is. Please tell me it's not something else I'm going to find myself oddly obssessed with.

Th. said...


(Having now read your post.)

I like the writing style and I think it works--though I am not suggesting that I doubt you when you say it improves.

Incidentally, have you read any other of David Handler(?)'s books?

As to Scooby-Doo, I've thought long and hard about this and I am convinced I loved them because the five of them were just the sort of people I would want to hang out with. Everybody was cool and fun--the perfect friends.

Anyway, McSweeney's. My jury's still out on it, but McSweeney's comes out four times a year, but unlike other periodicals, it is a beautifully bound book. I haven't talked myself into the $80 subscription because I'm not sold on the content. Dave Eggers may or may not be an okay writer but I doubt his skills as an editor.

I own two issues, one that came with an accompanying cd by They Might Be Giants and the one edited by Chris Ware, the comics artist. That one was really good.

Either the new issue or a special issue out now is either edited by or introduced by (or something) Lemony Snicket. I haven't seen it--haven't even been to their website to check it out--but I am intrigued. It's all YA.

Th. said...


I found it.

Th. said...


So, having finally read the books, I agree with you, essentially. I'm sad I couldn't find a review of "The End". It's not too late. I think you should do it now.

Jér said...

Right after my mission, I heard people raving about these books, so I picked up the first one. It was okay—the plot was slight and the writing extremely stylized, but I thought the approach worked for such a short volume. As I read the second book, though, and then the third, I became irritated by the repetitive formulism of the plot, and I didn't get two pages into the fourth book before giving up. I put the series down and didn't think about it for quite some time.

A year ago I was hanging out at my best friend's house, and I noticed she had all the then-available Unfortunate Events volumes in her bookcase. I remarked disparagingly that I had made it to book three before chucking the whole thing, and she was aghast.

"No," she said, "they get better! Things change! Things evolve! You MUST keep reading!!"

So I did. I read book four and then book five and then book six, and it still seemed to be more of the same, kind of. It was with book seven that I really noticed a difference. After that, each succeeding book further challenged and reversed my expectations, and suddenly the child protagonists were facing moral dilemmas, REAL moral dilemmas, where I honestly didn't know which choice they should make. By the time I got to the last page of the last book, I was a firm fan of the series.

That said, I can only wonder how anyone is able to stick with the series from book three to book seven without someone there to coax them on:

"It gets better! Things change! You have to keep going!"