Friday, 21 March 2008

THE END, Volume 13, A Series of Unfortunate Events Lemony Snicket, ill Brent Helquist, HarperCollins, 339 pages, hardback, $24.99.
ISBN 0-0644-1016-1

The End at last! The 13 chapters of Volume 13 lead us to – well – the 14th chapter, where the three Baudelaire orphans aren’t the only ones to get surprises. As always, Count Olaf is maniacally evil, Violet is inventive, Klaus knows his onions and Sunny’s limited vocabulary is expressive. Not as expressive of course as the vocabulary of Lemony Snicket, who is not only narrates A Series of Unfortunate Events but also emerges as a participant.

The final volume begins with everyone washed up on the shores of an unusual island and manages to provide them with a series of life-threatening adventures as well as recapitulating almost the entire plot in a mind-tumbling series of schisms, coups, revelations and erudite definitions.

Lemony Snicket also makes subtle references to every book in literature, from Genesis (a serpent and an apple are crucial) to The Little Engine That Could (“one of the most tedious stories on Earth”). Even the Bounty mutineers are subtly present, as Count Olaf snarls at the orphans, “You think you can triumph in this world with nothing more than a keen mind, a pile of books and the occasional gourmet meal.” Those who read The End will find whether he is right.

Trevor Agnew

This review first appeared in The Press, Christchurch, on 24th February 2007.

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