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4.7 out of 5 stars43
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on 20 October 2005
The 12th book in 'Series of Unfortunate Events', actually entitled 'The Penultimate Peril', is the strangest one so far. Far from being conventional childrens' novels, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) has written very intelligent books, name-dropping authors or novels who make a point he can use to comic effect. Also, the plot is very convoluted, and while this book does answer one or two questions, it poses about a hundred other left unanswered. But in a year, we'll get the final book, and I have every confidnece it will be worth the wait.
This book finds the Baudelaires reaching the Hotel Denouement, and the mysteries that lie therein. The plot whizzes along at a cracking pace, with the reader being just as confused as the siblings at several points. One neat part allows you to choose the order in which you will read the chapters, as each centres on either Violet, Klaus or Sunny. Also, many of the characters from previous books return, as the loose ends from the past begin to come together. As Snicket himself says at one point, a denouement refers to the tying-together of loose ends, but not necessarily the end.
This is the case here - once again, the novel ends on a cliffhanger, but the final book is set up marvelously, with much at stake for our heroes. The full mystery of VFD has yet to be resolved, as does the mystery of Beatrice, the Snickets, and why a fire department would want animals ... Overall, this book works reasonably well on its own, but essentially whets the reader's appetite for what should be an excellent ending.
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on 14 November 2005
The twelfth and Penultimate book in the series is another corker. It offers more tantalising morsels of what final acts of Peril await our 3 intrepid explorers but again leaves us with a feeling that the end maybe something quite unexpected. This book is the first one in the series where you really get the feeling that all may not end in a happy way. Throughout the terrifying ordeals that the Baudelaire’s have gone through you have been left with a sense that something will make everything better. I am really not so sure anymore…
The story picks up where the Grim Grotto leaves off with Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire still hunting down the Hotel Denouncement and the final safe place for VFD, they are currently assisted by mysterious Kit Snickett – will she be another guardian for the Baudelaire’s to fear? Or will she be noble of mind, brave of spirit and frankly useless as a guide? Or will she finally be the allusive guardian the Baudelaire’s have been searching for? Someone who will bring them up in a protective, caring environment?
One thing I should mention at this point is that this is the twelfth book in the series and as such if you chose to start it here you are going to miss out on a lot of back story. As with all of the Series of Unfortunate Events books they have been easy to read stand alone, I do feel you lose something from not reading them in the order that they were intended to be written.
However, back to the dastardly plot…
The books have been plunging head first towards a crescendo of an ending for sometime now. We can see this more clearly than ever in this book as so many of the central characters from the past 11 books (including Charles and Sir from the Lucky Smells Lumber Yard, Hugo, Collette and Kevin from The Carnivorous Carnival, Justice Strauss from the Bad Beginning, as well as sundry other appearances, and a whole host of others). This gathering is not coincidental but the point of them being there doesn't come apparent until near the end with emergence of the man with a beard and no hair and the women with hair and no beard, however can even they match the wickedness that pours through the veins of non-other than Count Olaf himself…
Once again Lemony Snickett has written a book that both adults and children can really enjoy, there is energy, a plot, a good storyline and most importantly of all good writing. These books are such great fun that I would recommend them to anyone.
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on 19 October 2005
Warning! This may contain spoliers:
When i bought the Penultimate Peril i was expecting a great, action-packed mystery book. I had read every other book in the series and had been looking forward to this book for months. I was not let down. The Penultimate Peril is a fantastic book, just what you'd expect it to be, maybe even more. The book is well planned, from beginning to end, with some funny jokes too. There are a lot of events, which are all exciting for the reader, infact i hardly put the book down. I read it within 24 hours of release, and can't wait for the next book. The Baudelaires travel to the Hotel Denouement with Kit Snicket, a strange woman we met in the last book. There, they have a picnic- my favourite part- and discuss what they will all be doing for the next few days. The Baudelaires will become concierges and will try to find the mysterious JS, either a volunteer or villain. Will they succeed? Or will the notorious Count Olaf reach the sugar bowl before them? All awaits in the Penultimate Peril. Great book. No wait... fantastic.
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on 4 December 2005
I loved this book. Lemony Snicket's books are stuffed to the brim with character and confusion - which is what makes them interesting. Some people may argue that the books are horribly repetitive, and that once you're read the first, you might as well have read them all. On the contrary, Snicket comes up with a diverse plot with hilarious unique events that are new and original. Part of the fun that gives this book its light is the misery the poor orphaned main characters, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, have to go through - but don't let this put you off if its a laugh you're looking for rather than a tear-jerker. You'll find yourself really sympathizing with the children, yet giggling at the stupidity of Snicket’s fabulous world. Strangely enough, unlike in your usual children’s story, the heroes aren’t always perfect. In any average fairy-tale the hero who saves the main characters at the end is brave, wise and noble – but in this book the heroes are far from wise, not too brave or noble, and very rarely manage to save the main characters. The Penultimate Peril is different, and that’s part of its charm. Anybody who wants a laugh and a taste of wacky fun mixed with hilarious misfortune – read this book.
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on 27 November 2005
Another great book from Lemony Snicket and as always, you find you can't put the book down. However it is not the best book. In this book the Baudelaire's have to go to the Hotel Denouement, an upside hotel where both good and evil people reside. So, the Baudelaires have to find out who are the good people and who are the evil ones.
However as they go looking for these people they come across some faces from the past like Justice Strauss from The Bad Bweginning and Sir from the Miserable Mill. But as always things don't go there way and so do something that they deeply regret to do but have no choice at the end.
Whilst this book has some great ideas and has the potential to be the best, at times Lemony Snicket waffles on about stuff that isn't completely necessary and means you have to skip pages. Despite this it is still one of the best books of the year and I would definitely recommend to everyone.
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2005
If you’ve reached this far in this unhappy series of unfortunate events, what I have to say will probably not make you any more upset than you already are, as you may already be in need of some Very Fortified Diazepam, which means in this sentence “little pill of extra strength sedating medication”
The longest book in the series, it is the one that has the least to say, advancing the plot not one iota, which here means “we’re pretty much the same place we started after 353 pages”.
The Baudelaire orphans next destination is the confusing Hotel Denouement, where the rooms are organized according to the Dewey Decimal System, which means, in case you didn’t know, “absurdly complicated library classification system understood only by librarians and people who spend a lot of time in libraries”.
Disguised as concierges, by which we mean “hotel employees who have to do flunky work for annoying guests”, the Baudelaire’s mission is to be flaneurs, which is Kit Snicket’s fancy word for “sneaky spies”.
Three new characters named Frank, Ernest and Dewey are introduced, even though we don’t know which is which, but the Baudelaires are amazed and horrified to find out that many terrible people from their past are guests at the hotel. Unrecognizable in their clever disguises, Violet, Klaus and Sunny encounter Esme Squalor, Carmelita Spats, Geraldine Julienne, Sir and Charles from “The Miserable Mill”, Vice-Principal Nero, Mrs. Bass and Mr. Remora from “The Austere Academy”, and Hal from “The Hostile Hospital”. The mysterious J.S. is supposed to be at the hotel, and both Justice Strauss and Jerome Squalor arrive, each assuming that someone is trying to contact them. No story would be complete without Count Olaf, who of course shows up none too soon with Hugo, Colette, and Kevin, the three carnival freaks from “The Carnivorous Carnival”
An unfortunate accident leads to a Violently Freaky Death, and Justice Strauss calls for a trial, ordering the accused Baudelaires and Count Olaf to be locked in rooms until their case is called. With everybody blindfolded except the judges, the trial begins amidst pages and pages of useless evidence, and it is only after this that the book gets truly interesting.
A kidnapping, a Vernacularly Fastened Door, a drag-chuted falling boat and a Very Fiery Display highlight the ending, which leaves us not high and dry, but very damp.
This book resuscitates many of the surviving characters from the other books, and throws them together to set the scene for what hopefully will be “The Efficacious Ending”, but it rambles on too long, and has too many pages of unnecessary filler material.
Not Snicket’s finest hour. Rated 3.5 stars
Amanda Richards
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 13 December 2014
It's hard not to rave about this incredibly clever and original series of books, that genuinely appeal to both adults and children equally. Adults will appreciate the unusual style and sheer imagination and the chance to read something that is genuinely different from other stories, whilst children love the morbid humour, the unpatronising style, and the creative energy. The thirteen books should be read in order, so go back and start with number one if you haven't already read the predecessors.

The Penultimate Peril is the last-but-one of the series, and is full of dramatic and unexpected turns. It's surprising what Lemony Snicket can fit into 13 large print chapters. In this story, the Baudelaire orphans are working as concierges in a hotel organised according to the Dewey decimal system (only Snicket could have thought of something like that!). It's full of joys, such as a swimming pool where sunbathers are turned over with a giant spatula - it's these eccentric touches that make Snicket's books such great fun for young and old alike.

In these later books of the series, Snicket has moved away from the formula of the first half, where the children would be shipped off to a new guardian and then spend the story trying evade the dastardly Count Olaf in various ridiculous disguises. Those always ended with Olaf exposed but escaped, and the children left without a home or parent for whatever reason. Now the stories are at a different stage - the children are more capable and grown up - typified by baby Sunny who now walks and speaks recognisable sentences. They now move around independently - though still from one perilous situation to another, and still pursued by Olaf, who has now been joined by his villainous girlfriend Esme and by Carmelita Spats, who is the very epitome of a horrible spoilt child.

This book brings back many of the characters who have been introduced and lost along the way, of which there are a lot, given how much the children move around. As such, it brings things together in a way they have not been before. However don't expect too many answers - Snicket keeps things mysterious and introduces more new puzzles than he solves old ones. The ending is truly unexpected and rather shocking - I will say no more, but it sets us up for a thrilling conclusion. In his later books, Snicket starts to introduce some moral concepts, quite subtle for those of a children's book, about right and wrong and whether 'fight fire with fire' is a good tenet to live by or not. He expands on this here, with our three plucky heroes left in an impossible situation.

Complicated yet simple, funny yet dark, this is one of the strongest books yet in this series that is full of contradiction and defies easy description. All I can say is, read it.
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on 29 July 2014
Lemony snicket is a amazing author who I personally think is one of the best in the world. even thought it am still a child he explains different words so I can use them in my school work. I chose 5 stars because these series of books are truly amazing. They really get you thinking about the life of the Baudelaire orphans and how many "Unfortunate Events" happen to them. Like I said, I am still only a child but these books are a non-stop reader and I would tell anyone who listened about about them.

PS I recently heard that there has been a movie made out to the first 3 books. in an still to watch it but just a sleek peek... Count Olaf = Jim Carey . There are 13 phenomenal books to this amazing series and I do love them very much and I think Lemony Snicket has done a amazing job in creating the "Unfortunate Events" that the poor Baudelaire orphans lives and woes. I am yet to Finnish the 13th book but I am sure that it will be great.

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on 13 January 2008
Probably the next-to-last things you would like to read about are a harpoon gun, a rooftop sunbathing salon, two mysterious initials, three unidentified triplets, a notorious villain, and an unsavoury curry and the last thing you would want to do is experience these things. Since you do not want to know how it feels, you can feel sorry for the three children, the Baudelaire orphans, in the book which I am reviewing, who do know how it feels. This book is rather frightening but still is rather fantastic though very upsetting. The rating I would give this book is a disturbing 7/ 10.
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on 4 June 2009
A great book and great price. Would recommend the series to any kid over 7. My daughter has devoured the whole series. It's way better than the film....
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