Note: This is my 75th book review!!
The Reptile Room is the second book in A Series of Unfortuante Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 1999 by HarperCollins.
Genre: Children’s, Mystery
If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first when the Baudelaire children spend item in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.
In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamps, and the reappearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.
I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.
With all due respect,
The Reptile Room was made entirely out of glass, with bright, clear glass walls and a high glass ceiling that rose up to a point like the inside of a cathedral. Outside the walls was a bright green field of glasses and shrubs which was of course perfectly visible though the transparent walls, so standing in the Reptile Room was like being inside and outside at the same time. But as remarkable as the room itself was, what was inside the Reptile Room was much more exiting. Reptiles, of course, were lined up in locked metal cages that sat on wooden tables in four neat rows all the way down the room. There were all sorts of snakes, naturally, but there were also lizards, toads, and assorted other animals that the children had never seen before, not even in pictures, or at the zoo. There was a very fat toad with two wings coming out of its back, and a two-headed lizard that had bright yellow stripes on its belly .There was a snake that had three mouths, one on top of the other, and another that seemed to have no mouth at all. There was a lizard that looked like an owl, with wide eyes that gazed at them from the log on which it was perched in its cage, and a toad that looked just like a church, complete with stained-glass eyes. And there was a cage with a white cloth on top of it, so you couldn’t see what was inside at all.
“Goodness!” he [Mr. Poe] cried. “Golly! Good God! Blessed Allah! Zeus and Hera! Mary and Joseph! Nathaniel Hawthorne! Don’t touch her! Grab her! Move closer! Run away! Don’t move! Kill the snake! Leave it alone! Give it some food! Don’t let it bite her! Lure the snake away! Here, snakey! Here, snakey snakey!”
“For Beatrice—My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not.”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
Enter Uncle Monty, the guardian with whom the Baudelaires were perhaps the most happy (and that’s saying a lot, as this is only the second book). As ineffective as Uncle Monty was, the Baudelaires’ other guardians are even worse (and so are their circumstances), so I feel that this is perhaps the best situation in which the Baudelaires find themselves. Also enter the Incredibly Deadly Viper! I love the Incredibly Deadly Viper! It’s so adorable when it interacts with Sunny (yes, yes…I know it’s called Incredibly Deadly).
Also enter the first Count Olaf disguise! Here’s the basic run-down of Olaf’s disguise-related plot:
–other adults will always use his one long eyebrow and his eye tattoo in their identification of him
–Olaf hides/gets rid of his eyebrow and his tattoo in order to disguise himself: in this case, he shaved his eyebrow and did spoiler to his tattoo
–however, the Baudelaires always recognize him, mostly by his shiny, shiny eyes
–the problem comes when they try to get adults to recognize him, and since Olaf has disguised his eyebrow and his tattoo in some way, the adults always think the children are wrong (hence, the ineffectiveness/stupidity of the adults that I talked about in my first review).
–therefore, the Baudelaires must come up with a way to mess up/get rid of/ruin Olaf’s disguise in order to get the adults to recognize him
That’s how the plot generally goes (for the first few books, anyway…). There are other things involved, of course, but that’s generally the way it goes down.
Count Olaf really shows his villainy off here. He’s not a dumb villain at all—he’s very smart and cunning, in addition to being cruel and evil. That makes for a dangerous combination.
Oh, and as well as the first Olaf disguise, it’s the first accomplice disguise! This one actually is quite good. It threw me for a loop the first time I read this book. I wasn’t expecting it. Pay attention to the way Snicket describes features of a person…
The quotes section does not do this book justice. There are numerous other great quotes, including one where Snicket fills a whole page by repeating the word “ever.” He’s very adamant about never ever fiddling with electric devices.
What I Didn’t Like:
Uncle Monty, why are you so ineffective? Mr. Poe, why are you so condescending? Adults, why are you so obtuse?
People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (spoilers be here):
-the taxi driver (specifically, “Not everybody wants to hear about your new baby, you know.”)
-names and anagrams (a certain spoilery name is an anagram of Count Olaf)
-the Incredibly Deadly Viper
–Zombies in the Snow
A man has on a sports jacket with the name Lachrymose Leeches on the back, referencing the next book, The Wide Window.
The Reptile Room not only shows how resourceful and determined (and unfortunate) the Baudelaires truly are, but it also starts showing how cunning and cruel Count Olaf truly is. It also sets up even more foreshadowing for the series and, all in all, is at times delightful, at times hilarious, and at all times unfortunate. There are no major weaknesses yet for the series.
Coming Up Next: The Wide Window