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The Penultimate Peril (A Series of…

The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)

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4,76660981 (3.92)40
Title:The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12)
Authors:Lemony Snicket
Other authors:Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
Info:HarperCollins (2005), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read 2013, fiction, young adult, children's

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The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket (2005)



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"For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came."

This book is probably the most daring in the series, literarily speaking. GR's spell check is telling me "literarily" isn't an actual word, but it's wrong. "Literarily" can be derived logically, so deal with it, spell check.

Snicket *crafts* this book. There are whole passages in mirror-writing. There's a "Not A Chapter." There are three chapters in a row that can be read in any order, because they take place simultaneously. None of this is whimsical or tossed carelessly onto the page. It's deliberate, significant, and a pleasure to read.

There are also numerous literary references, as is typical for the series. None of them are to the book of Job; but I quoted the verses above because to me they sum up the arc of this book perfectly.

The Baudelaires are fleeing from peril, as they have been all through this series. They come to what has been called "the last safe place." In the last few books, they have grappled with serious moral issues. They've agonized over whether their behavior is distinguishable from their enemies', and wondered if they really are standing on moral high ground.

In this penultimate peril, they learn that the most terrifying thing that can happen to heroes and heroines is not to be caught and captured by a villain, but to spark his admiration. Not because he's seen the error of his ways, but because he has a soft spot for the error of other people's ways -- especially people who have been in the habit of scorning his badness and taking their own virtue as a given.

As always, Snicket leaves me wanting to read more -- of his books and of those he quotes. ( )
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
A good book. The Baudelaires get a lot of their questions answered, but now they have more. The story is becoming more about them and their personalities and internal struggles, which I really like. It does so without become pretentious, perhaps because the rest of the world is so ridiculous.

It's a very good almost-last book. Everything comes together. Sort of. ( )
  BrynDahlquis | Apr 10, 2015 |
The series of unfortunate events is nearly at its end. As the title clearly indicates, this is the penultimate book in the records covering the lives of the Baudelaire children. After narrowly surviving their underwater ordeal in the last book, they were whisked away by Kit Snicket, the mysterious person awaiting them after they decoded the message with a secret meeting spot. This book picks up at the moment the last one concluded, as Kit drives the Baudelaires to an impromptu picnic outside the fashionable Hotel Denouement, revealing a delicious spread set out by an anonymous volunteer that appears as if by magic in front of the tired and hungry children. Kit informs the Baudelaires that they must infiltrate the hotel, in the disguise of concierges, to determine whether it is still a safe place. The next meeting of the VFD is scheduled to occur in just three days, in this last safe place, but they suspect it is safe no longer. The Baudelaire's mission is to spy on the volunteers and villains, determine if the hotel is still safe, and send up a signal if they deem the hotel too big a risk.

Kit speaks in riddles and mysteries, as do all the adults connected with the VFD, and the children are still bewildered by the variety of strange occurrences surrounding them. One answer is always obtained at the expense of several more mysteries. However, of one thing they are certain, and that is that they must help the noble VFD stop villainous persons like Count Olaf. They agree to their task.

Their new adventure is replete with outrageous and hilarious characters, verbal sparring, ludicrous analogies and metaphors, mistaken identity and an abundance of disguises; all trademarks of the series. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are dispatched to different floors of the hotel on their first day of work, where they observe nefarious plots underway. Violet is unfortunate enough to meet Esme Squalor and Carmelita Spats, who don't recognize her in the concierge uniform, and request a harpoon. Klaus meets Sir and Charles from the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, and Sunny overhears a conversation with criminal overtones shared by their old principal and teachers from the Prufrock Prepatory School. Much is stirring at the hotel, but the siblings can't fit all the clues together. When they meet the third Denoument, a secret triplet that knows where the real secret of Hotel Denouement is kept, they are reunited with two people from their past, Justice Strauss and Jerome Squalor, and feel unexpected tinglings of hope. These good thoughts are soon dashed, however, when Olaf appears on the scene and indirectly brings about the death of the third Denouement triplet. The Baudelaires and Olaf are then imprisoned until their trial the following day, where Justice Strauss assures the children that the High Court will end this villainy once and for all.

Readers of the series will be unsurprised to hear that the High Court does not work out so well. This is a chronicle of unfortunate events, after all. To begin with, the judicial system takes the phrase justice is blind far too literally, and when the Baudelaires recognize the voices of the other judges and remove their blindfolds, they discover that all of the judges besides Justice Strauss are villains. The failure of the judicial system pushes the children to take matters into their own hands, resulting in a climax that involves a kidnapping rescue, a burning building, and an improbable escape by boat from the roof of the hotel.

As the series draws towards its conclusion, the black streak of humor runs just as dark as in previous stories, and the absurd antics remain delightfully ridiculous. The author indulges in a verbal profusion of zaniness that embraces the potentials of language and exploits them. This story doesn't reach the fever pitch of insanity evident in other books in the series, but on the other hand, it devotes more time to bringing some points of the intricate plot to a conclusion. Of course, whenever Handler (Snicket) resolves one mystery, he makes sure to bring in at least two others. Still, the plot of this series is clearly heading toward its climax and resolution. The Baudelaires have evolved a great deal since the bad beginnings, and have retained my sympathy and support throughout. Despite Snicket's constant assurances that everything will end badly, I am hoping the Baudelaire's find a future more hopeful than the threats warrant. While the adults continue to be useless, it was nice to see the children fully aware of this flaw, and to see a couple of old characters return to prove that not all the grown ups in the story are as gullible and manipulated as they seemed. Olaf continues to be truly evil, and hilarious, and even picks up a slightly softer side in this book. I am happy with how the series has progressed, and think this book continues the momentum. A fun series for readers who appreciate finely done black comedy. ( )
  nmhale | Mar 6, 2015 |
I love finishing a book in a couple of hours!

I was expecting this book to be fantastic! We're coming to the end! The orphans' lives are going to start to come together! All their questions will be answered! They'll be reunited from friends ... loved one!

And ... no. This was heart-wrenching. ._.
Everyone from the orphans' past comes back and ... and ... and ... heart-wrenching ._.

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Dec 27, 2014 |
The next-to-last book in the series: A Series of Unfortunate Events!! Almost there... In this book the Baudelaires are taken to the Hotel Denouement in which many characters, both good and evil, from the previous 11 books make an appearance. Something is going to happen at this hotel, which is actually a kind of library (based on the Dewey Decimal system) of everything and everyone involved with the VFD and the Baudelaires. The children ponder whether or not they have acted for good or for evil. Whether their parents have been entirely good? What makes an action good or bad? Could Count Olaf actually be related to them? What is going on?! Just one more book left. Please let it be resolved!!! ( )
  Marse | Sep 2, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lemony Snicketprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Snicket, Lemonymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Helquist, BrettIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Curry, TimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Beatrice -- No one could extinguish my love, or your house.
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Certain people have said that the world is like a calm pond, and that anytime a person does even the smallest thing, it is as if a stone has dropped into the pond, spreading circles of ripples further and further out, until the entire world has been changed by one tiny action.
The burning of a book is a sad, sad sight, for even though a book is nothing but ink and paper, it feels as if the ideas contained in the book are disappearing as the pages turn to ashes and the cover and binding—which is the term for the stitching and glue that holds the pages together—blacken and curl as the flames do their wicked work. When someone is burning a book, they are showing utter contempt for all of the thinking that produced its ideas, all of the labor that went into its words and sentences, and all of the trouble that befell the author.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0064410153, Hardcover)

10 Second Interview: A Few Words with Daniel Handler

Q: Your Wikipedia (online encyclopedia) entry defines you as author, screenwriter, and accordionist. Is that how you would describe yourself?
A: I find that nothing makes people back away faster at a social gathering than "accordionist." Except perhaps "screenwriter." And, even "author" always makes people nervous, so I usually say "writer."

Q: How long have you been writing?
A: All my life really, since I was able to write all I wanted to do was write. I think largely I ended up becoming a writer because I could think of nothing else that I was good at--at all. As a kid, I always wanted to be a writer, and I had no backup plan whatsoever as an adult.

Q: Are the Baudelaire children ever going to be happy?
A: Well, they are happy on a regular basis, just not for very long. Um, are they ever going to be happy permanently? I don't know any permanently happy people, thank goodness.

Q: Okay, then is the series going to end on a happy note?
A: Well, I always remind readers of the Snicket books that happy is a comparative term, so the end will be happier than some people would think, but less happy than others.

Q: When can fans expect the final book?
A: I believe the thirteenth volume will be released in the fall of 2006, although something terrible could happen to the author at any moment and then the books would not be released at all.

Looking for more from Daniel Handler? Check out his answers to Amazon.com's The Significant Seven.

An Interview with Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket has captured the hearts of childen and adults alike with the hilariously gloomy series that began, of course, with The Bad Beginning. Amazon.com had a chance to question the author of this marvelously morbid and delightfully depressing series, and the communication was grim indeed. Read the cumbersome communique and see for yourself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:02 -0400)

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The Baudelaire orphans disguise themselves as employees of the Hotel Denoument and find themselves pursued by the evil Count Olaf and by others.

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