Even Books are Superior- a REview of The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

This aeon long journey of gradually finishing rereads of this long-ass series continues. You would know that thus far my opinions of A Series of Unfortunate Events has fluctuated between books and quite often I wonder if I should actually continue this series. But there seems to be a pattern with my opinion of these books.

The Baudelaires, no longer having legal guardians to take care of them, have been put into a new home of sorts. They are forced to work in a sawmill with questionable working conditions nobody has the guts to fight back on. But that isn’t the worst of the problems. When an accident has Klaus’s glasses break, his return from an eye doctor has him acting strangely. Maybe Count Olaf is right around the corner plotting against the Baudelaires still.

A lot of this book I had forgotten the plot of before I read it again. I think I only remembered Count Olaf’s disguise and alias from this book, so I went into this book expecting it to be forgetful. Stereotypical. Without excitement. All I remembered was a mill and Count Olaf. But as I read it the contents slowly came back to me.

We have lost the repetition I complained about in the previous novel, thankfully. That was my biggest fear coming into this book was that the plot was going to be yet another rehash, but I was pleasantly surprised instead by the mystery elements in this book. For a long time Count Olaf is not in the picture but working within the shadows, wreaking havoc in the mill in his own little ways. And we’re just seeing the results of his plotting and planning coming into fruition. It was refreshing to see him in such a light and to see other terrible people affecting the Baudelaires.

This novel particularly leaned into the absurdity of the Baudelaire’s situation, and while it took a while for me to suspend my disbelief it turned into some more dark comedic angles later on. Children working in a mill with terrible conditions? It’s a wonder they got into such a position in the first place, knowing what comes up in later books that are arguably better. But the adults are treated just as bad in the place. Knowing the consumer environment we live in today, some of the allusions hit a little too close to home. It felt very sweatshop adjacent.

This novel was also a chance for Violet to shine as the main person knowing things are awry, and the main person to have agency to save her siblings. This is especially in ways that are not typical of her. She’s performing the research Klaus is normally known for and making investigations. She still has some inventive moments to shine, but it is good to see her out of her comfort zone and still able to solve problems. An element that shakes things up for this middle grade audience.

But now I’m sitting here scared that book 5 is not going to be good if this odd/even pattern continues.

The Miserable Mill gets a score of 4/5. I have faith that book 6 in the series will be good now.

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