The Ersatz Elevator, by Lemony Snicket

February 16, 2012 at 04:52 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , , )


For a series that has been criticised for being formulaic, this entry is considerably different than the stories preceding it. The Ersatz Elevator builds on the firm foundation set in The Austere Academy, broadening the scope of the story to include more than just the characters of Olaf and the Orphans, who were beginning to feel just a little bit claustrophobic; and opening the prospect for a wider cast throughout the second half of the series.  While none of the characters introduced in this book are particularly spellbinding (both Esmé as a villain and Jerome as her witless accomplice are sadly a little two-dimensional, and mostly absent from the story), the setting marks another first for the series, in the strongest link yet to some sort of coherent story arc, returning the Baudelaires to the beginning of their saga and raising questions that surely must be answered at some point.

“Nowhere in this book will you find the words ‘bubble,’ ‘peacock,’ ‘vacation,’ or, unfortunately for me, anything about an execution being canceled [sic].”

-The Ersatz Elevator

Perhaps in spite of these redeeming characteristics, and notwithstanding the welcome breath of fresh air that it is to the series, as a stand alone book this is not one of the stronger installments in the Series of Unfortunate Events.  There is a little too much time spent on retroactively mending the structure of the series rather than presenting the reader with an engaging and interesting story.  In the wider story arc there need to be pit stops along the way, lest the reader grow wearied with the Baudelaires’ state of continual peril.   For all the menace that is forced into this story, the apartment of Esmé and Jerome is a safe place, and provides for this need admirably. But all of the high points we see here are exciting for what they suggest of the rest of the series; all of the most baffling clues or more stunning revelations are temporary visitors to this story, and belong properly to leftover events from the last book, or answer questions posed by the first book.  While this will undoubtedly be one of the more eagerly consumed volumes of this series, it stands on the merits of the books bracketing it, and not as a convincing adventure in its own right.

Related reviews:
The Miserable Mill
The Vile Village


  1. Michael Cargill said,

    Is that that same Lemony Snicket that the film Jim Carey starred in?

    I thought that was quite entertaining.

    • J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

      That’s the one. The film was based upon the first three books in his thirteen book series. The books themselves vary quite a bit in quality, from some that are rather good, to some that are unfortunately rather mundane.

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