The Vile Village, by Lemony Snicket

January 24, 2011 at 12:08 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fairy Tales, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , )

10/10

Up until this point, the characters in the Series of Unfortunate Events have been rather flat.  Likeable (or monstrous villains), but without either depth or motivation.  There are disposable paper villains, who support Olaf’s nefarious schemes unquestioningly and without apparent motive or personality of their own; there are the ubiquitous “adults” after the mold of Mr. Poe, who are lofty and incompetent, and have nothing to say, except that children should be seen and not heard.

In the Vile Village, we meet our first villain who has a motive—and an adulterous and romantic motive—as well as a caretaker who reprises the crippling fears of Aunt Josephine, but in a much more traumatic and believable way.  Hector is the first adult who displays weakness (rather than pig-headed ignorance), and in this he begins to mirror the invulnerable and immutable Count Olaf himself, who we find has a sudden and inexplicable Achilles Heel, and an open heart to another character.  His personality suddenly explodes past the paltry hope of financial gain, and in his philandering we see that he miraculously has more than just one side.  The author even opens up the possibility (although it is swiftly slammed shut) that the villain might even be mortal.  Perhaps even vulnerable.

Woven into the middle of this is a poetic mystery, and if it is a simple puzzle that will not even tax the faculties of the book’s intended audience, it is at least pleasing to see an effort to engage the reader’s creativity, and draw us into the adventure alongside the Baudelaires.  Combined with a conclusion that suddenly alters the formula that the Series has henceforth taken and even includes a feeble ray of sunshine to an admittedly dreary and depressing landscape, and The Vile Village manages to be by far the most interesting book in the Series yet.

Related reviews:
The Miserable Mill
The Ersatz Elevator
 
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