I always knew that I would, at some point, reread the entire Series of Unfortunate Events. It was a huge deal for me back when I was a kid and I think I read each one as they were released, starting with the very first book back in 1999. When I saw them on Hoopla at the end of March, I knew I should get started on the audiobooks. Chris had listened to a few of them while working but never finished the series. I remember him saying how crazy the audiobooks were because they had different voice actors. I didn’t realize they also had actual sound effects. It’s literally like listening to a movie for the first few books. Most of the books are pretty short, and the audiobooks range from 2.5 hours long to 6.5 hours. All of them in general are much shorter than any other audiobooks I’ve experienced. It was super easy to breeze through them, one after another. The entire process took me about a month and I loved every second of it. I don’t want to bore people with individual review posts for all 13 books (especially because most people probably read them as kids), so here I’ll chat a little about each book: my rating, overall feels, what I remembered, etc.
As I mentioned, I started these probably right around 1999 when they came out. I had no idea it was going to be a huge 13-book series at the time, but I remember loving every single one. I also vaguely kind of remember each book having a cliffhanger that made me so angry I had to wait for the next book! I read these books through high school and I borrowed The End from one of my friends sophomore year. I hope I can find my collection someday; I think they’re around my parents’ house somewhere! My bad bookish memory means that I barely remembered the events of the series as a whole, let alone each individual book. I know Count Olaf was an asshole who found a way to get to the kids in every book, they tried to find out the meanings of the eye symbol and VFD, and they travelled around a lot. With my lack of memory and excitement to start it up again, I embarked on my 13 book audio reread.
The Bad Beginning • Book 1
Loved it: I was immediately impressed with the audiobook! Holy crap, this narrator is awesome. On top of his skills, there are various voice actors and other sound effects that make this top-notch. It seriously feels like you’re listening to a movie with your eyes shut. Aside from the actual audio, being back in this series was amazing. Lemony Snicket’s writing style is LOL-funny most of the time, between the definitions of words and talking directly to the reader.
Not a fan of: I know that these three are just kids, but they’re portrayed as VERY smart children. Violent invents things, Klaus reads a lot of books, and Sunny seems to know what’s going on even though she’s a baby. How did they not think it was a good idea to talk to Justice Strauss about everything that Olaf was doing? She was clearly an ally for them from the beginning. They should have known right away that she would try to help them get out of their situation, instead of assuming she would rather be in the play.
Major feels: It was super gross to revisit the “marriage” between Count Olaf and Violet. I remembered what was going to happen the minute he talked to them about it over breakfast and got so creeped out. He went from asking them to call him their father to trying to marry Violet in a matter of days. Yuck.
The Reptile Room • Book 2
Loved it: As usual, being in this “world” is a lot of fun, even though it’s pretty miserable. Nothing beats this series! This book is the last one I really remember in the series, actually.
Liked it: Well I was definitely sad to see that the audiobook for this one didn’t have the character actors and sound effects… but it was still VERY good! Tim Curry is a great narrator. So, yeah, the audio for the rest of the series will still be good but not the same as the first book.
Not a fan of: Uncle Monty was a weird guy who was obviously using their brains for his benefit. I could definitely see he cared for the kids, but didn’t strike me as an actual parent – more like an employer! Violet could invent traps, Klaus could read about Peru, and Sunny could split apart the rope. Mixed feelings on him overall because of the work, but at least the kids liked him! He also took them to movies and made them yummy food. The end of the book felt dragged out a little bit too.
Major feels: Monty was an interesting character in general, but it was very sad for the kids to feel at home… and then have it ripped away so quickly. I could imagine them being really happy there reading books and inventing with Monty. Just felt bad for them, as usual, because it seemed like a good place.
The Wide Window • Book 3
Liked it: The Hoopla collection for this series is weird. This audiobook is narrated by “Lemony Snicket” himself, which is very cool obviously… but it’s frustrating that there hasn’t been continuity with audiobook styles and narrators. Apparently there are a set of these audiobooks where Tim Curry narrates all of them, but Hoopla has a mix of TC and LS. Not really an issue in general, once I got used to it, but it may be frustrating going forward. I do, however, love when authors narrate their own books!
Not a fan of: I’ve noticed that the endings seem to drag on a little bit with these books. The kids figure out what Olaf is up to around the halfway mark, and then the rest of the book feels dragged out, like someone could have just believed them sooner and everything would have been resolved immediately. It might be more obvious in the audiobooks because I’m looking at the amount of time left and wondering how it’s possible the book will continue for another 1.5 hours. Also, Aunt Josephine was irritating with her endless list of fears and grammar corrections every two seconds. AND, these kids are smart but I did want to shake some sense into them when they discovered the “suicide note” from Josephine. It’s like watching Blue’s Clues and screaming at Steve because it’s so goddamn obvious where the clue is.
Major feels: I didn’t get a lot of feels for this one, comparatively, because I just think Mr. Poe is a moron who needs to get his head out of his ass. These kids have been extremely correct before when predicting Olaf’s disguises; you’d think he would take them seriously now.
The Miserable Mill • Book 4
Loved it: I definitely like this one more than its predecessor. I also didn’t remember nearly anything about this book, so it was nice to go into it kind of blindly. Poor Klaus.
Liked it: Definitely getting okay with the audio changes. It’s so weird that Hoopla’s collection isn’t standardized, but there is something special about hearing the author read their own book, in their own words. It makes it feel even more real, kind of?
Not a fan of: Going back to the audio very quickly – as much as I do enjoy LS narrating too, he has NO volume control. Some characters yell while the rest of the book is practically whispered. I can never get the right volume level while listening. *eye roll* As usual, it’s insane how incompetent the adults are here. “Don’t mind them. The kids see Count Olaf everywhere.” “Yeah because he IS everywhere.” – come on, Mr. Poe. Get your shit together immediately.
Major feels: I just always feel so bad for these kids. Their lives just took such a horrible turn. It legitimately enraged me that this dude put them to work. One of them is an INFANT. And he pays his employees in coupons?! Come on, guy. This was terrible.
The Austere Academy • Book 5
Loved it: Nero is obviously a moron, like the rest of them, but the audio was funny whenever he mimicked them. Good work, Snicket. You made me LOL many times. Overall, this story has been my favorite so far. There’s just something about it that I really love. I think it mostly has to do with the Quagmire “triplets” and the fact that VFD is introduced at the end.
Liked it: Finally it seems like Mr. Poe is a little more useful to them. He could definitely get with the times a bit faster than he does, but at least he agreed to check out the ankle/eyebrow situation right away instead of arguing with them forever about it. I also liked how the two teachers ended up on their side at the end of the story. Didn’t make much of a difference, but still refreshing.
Not a fan of: I can’t think of much, honestly. Clearly Nero is an asshole and so is Olaf.
Major feels: This book just finally has a few people on their side. It seems like they encounter at least one or two thoughtful characters per book. This one, though, just hit me in the feels. Those Quagmires are great. And VFD! Major feels about what’s to come.
Highlights so far:
Favorite: The Austere Academy
Least favorite: The Wide Window
Remembered the most: The Reptile Room
Remembered the least: The Miserable Mill