The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) HarperCollins 1999
The Economist gave this children's book series a rave review, saying it compares well with Harry Potter. I bought the first three for Ross, and read the first two. The author, who intrudes regularly, advises squeamish readers to stop at once. The three Baudelaire children (orphans after the first chapter) are smart, polite and resourceful. The villain, Count Olaf, wants the Baudelaire fortune, and is willing to murder anyone or, worse, wed 14-year old Violet for it. He also drinks too much wine, and has a bunch of cronies who seem to come from a Charles Addams drawing, except scarier. Snicket has a habit of defining big words as part of the story, which at least teaches children something, I suppose. Sometimes it is funny, but the whole facetious self-referential overtone gets pretty annoying. Ross, a few chapters into the first story, said he found it more boring than horrible. I asked if the parents had already died in the fire, and said, well sure. But I notice that he has zipped through all three of them now. And you can see why -- there's a plot, and if you like reading a series with predictable tropes, then there's no point in stopping. But it is no phenomenon like Rowling's stuff - I can imagine it compares to any of those ubiquitous slim "juvenile reading" series, just more nicely bound. I think the Economist is guilty of hype, or just horribly sick of Harry.
His website reveals that the author is Daniel Handler who has written some other macabre stuff.
Diana wrote: Thanks for the tip for Ross - I ordered the next 3 (and the first for myself!)
Neil wrote: Thanks for the warning. I'll stick to The Amber Spyglass for now.