The Reptile Room is the second book in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series describes the events in the lives of the Baudelaire children, the fourteen-year-old Violet, twelve year-old Klaus and baby Sunny, after the death of their parents. Their evil relative, Count Olaf, is after their immense fortune, and the children manage, with their resourcefulness and teamwork, to foil his sinister plans time and again.
The Baudelaire children are happy in the care of a distant relative, Dr. Montgomery. ‘Uncle Monty’ is a herpetologist with a room full of rare snakes and other reptiles. He loves the children, and is even planning to take them on an exciting expedition to Peru. But danger arrives all too soon in the form of Uncle Monty’s new assistant Stephano. The children know that it is Count Olaf in disguise, but cannot prove it. Uncle Monty is found dead and now the children must act quickly, or the cruel Count would kidnap them to Peru. Violet, the inventor, devises a plan to collect the evidence. Klaus, the researcher, digs up vital information at the nick of time. And Sunny uses her ingenuity and sharp teeth to create a diversion. The murderous villain is exposed, just in time, but he escapes with his accomplice. And the readers can actually rejoice, as this means that they can look forward to yet another encounter between the Baudelaires and the ridiculously evil Count!
Lemony Snicket (believed to be Daniel Handler in real life) is a wonderful writer. He warns us that we ought not to expect a conventional cheery tale, and encourages us to put the book down to pick up something else. This tantalizing note lures us at once to the book. His narrative style is very unusual. He imitates the writing style of the 18th century in many places. Difficult words and phrases are explained, and even serious situations are described with humour. This is how he describes the frustration of the Baudelaires:
“It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is wrong is the one who is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right. Right?”
The author, to add a melancholy touch to the series, has planned thirteen books in all, each with thirteen chapters! The tenth book in the series (The Slippery Slope) is already out, so run through the series quickly. Suitable for children eleven years and older.