The Miserable Mill, by Lemony Snicket

December 27, 2010 at 22:20 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fairy Tales, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , )


Daniel Handler hits his stride at last with the fourth of the Series, and after an adequate but disappointing third book. By The Miserable Mill, he manages to branch out of the rut he has begun to dig himself, and place his star trio in some newer scenarios. The book is darker and the perils imagined more deadly; the stakes are higher than before, and serious injury and death (which have been constant themes) are brought out from behind the curtain and put on full display.

A braver style of writing is evident, and Handler finds a much clearer balance between consistency and novelty and adaptability. His settings are as imaginative as ever, and he begins to flesh out some characters other than the thrice-accursed Olaf and whichever temporary guests appear.

Most importantly of all, we begin to find concrete glimpses of both the “character” of Lemony Snicket himself, and the whole metafictional construct surrounding the admittedly repetitive lives of those poor tragic Baudeliars (sic). Villains, characters and ideas are introduced that set the stage for a much deeper and lengthier story, and exposition of the kind we haven’t seen since the first chapters of the first book begin to rear its head. The only moment to criticise would be the author’s unfortunate propensity to run out of ideas and lose control of the willing suspension of disbelief. Orphans enslaved in a mill? I’ll buy that. Hypnotism? Sure. A swordfight between a baby (avec teeth) and a sword-wielding maniac? Amusing, but an unwise lapse that is sadly not too foreign to Handler.

Related reviews:
The Ersatz Elevator
The Vile Village

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