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The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket is the second volume in Snicket’s thirteen book series: A Series of Unfortunate Events, which features the adventures of the incredibly unfortunate Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny.

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My son, Oscar, finished reading the first book in the series recently, and immediately began on volume two. It is fair to say that he has enjoyed this second book more than the first. I think this has to do with a number of factors. Firstly, the adventures of the second book feature less in the film A Series of Unfortunate Events, so he was more intrigued to find out what was happening. Secondly, the characters have become established and well known to him, and he enjoyed delving into their characters more, and thirdly, he just enjoyed reading about poisonous snakes more!

In this book, Violet, Klaus and Sunny are taken by their hopeless guardian, Mr. Poe, to stay with their long lost relative, Montgomery Montgomery, a snake specialist. Uncle Monty, it turns out, is a delightful man, who wishes to take the orphans with him on a snake discovering expedition in Peru, and the orphans are thrilled at the prospect of going with him.

Sadly, Uncle Monty’s new assistant, Stephano, is not all that he seems, bearing an uncanny resemblance as he does, to the Baudelaire orphans’ nemesis, Count Olaf. Can the children escape his evil clutches one more time?

The plots in these books are fairly formulaic. What makes them joyful to read is the black humour that Snicket infuses in every chapter of the book, and the children’s resourcefulness in the face of incompetent adults. The complex language of the book and its refusal to talk down to the reader is also very refreshing. It makes for great talking points, and also allows the reader to feel pretty great when they figure out a new word or phrase.

Oscar loved this. He’s having a break before reading any more, as they do get a little bit repetitious and the relentless misery the orphans endure can be pretty gruelling despite the humour of some of the situations they find themselves in.

It’s a good, strong series with a nice pacey style, a decent plot and lots to recommend it for the independent reader who wants a challenge and something to really get their teeth into.

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