The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

Title: The Miserable Mill.
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #4.
Writer(s): Lemony Snicket.
Illustrator(s): Brett Helquist.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: April 5th, 2000.
Pages: 194.
Genre(s): Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult.
ISBN13: 9780064407694.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Previously in A Series of Unfortunate Events series:
The Bad Beginning (Book #1).
The Reptile Room (Book #2).
The Wide Window (Book #3).


You’d think that the odds of continuously finding yourself in a depressive and agonizing situation throughout life are slim, bound to be interrupted by at least one joyful and peaceful event. Unfortunately, for the Baudelaire orphans, there are no such things as odds, not unless the elusive and terrifying Count Olaf can be taken out of the equation, as they continue to be destined to a life full of torment and only each other to keep themselves together. The fourth book in the series (out of an unlucky 13), once more narrated by an omniscient narrator who happens to be the only person out there left to recount the adventures of these children, sends the kids to a dangerous place where they must particularly watch out for where they set their feet if they aren’t to cause an accident with tragic repercussions.

What is The Miserable Mill about? Following up on the events that took place in The Wide Window, where they met their Aunt Josephine who lived at the edge of a hill on top of Lake Lachrymose, the orphans are now sent to Paltryville where they are to work at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill under the assumed protection of their caretaker Sir (called so because his other name is impossible to pronounce). With Count Olag nowhere to be seen but surely around the corner, disguised in ways that adults could never identify him (because adults sure are inattentive and careless humans), the children must survive through child labour (from using dangerous machinery to poorly eating), Klaus somehow losing control over himself, and the enigmatic optometrist who might be hiding more than the eye can see.

“A new experience can be extremely pleasurable, or extremely irritating, or somewhere in between, and you never know until you try it out.”

Lemony Snicket.

Stepping into this treacherous world has become a nostalgic exercise more than anything else. The formula is once more similar to the previous books, with little to no novelty when it comes to structure and denouement. It doesn’t necessarily take away much from the story itself, which is still predictable, with many elements effortlessly anticipatable by readers, but it does remind you that there’s no way whatsoever that there’s anything truly good that’s bound to happen this early into the series, knowing that there are still nine more books to go. The fun parts are still omnipresent throughout the story, from idioms and expressions integrated into the dialogue, only for the narrator to explain them in simple words, and watching these kids utilize their wits to try and fix problems or prevent tragedies.

This time around, there were some elements that were a bit more on the silly end of the stick, notably a battle with sharp things, with a sword wielded by an adult woman on one end, and Sunny using her teeth on the other end (yep… a baby going at it with her teeth). Even the final act, with the alarming tragedy, clearly implicating a lot of blood (the story omits to go into details though), should have far more psychological trauma implicated for all the witnesses, including the children. These elements take you out of the story quite abruptly and remind you that this world, although clearly not one similar to ours with past events in the previous books, definitely can’t be of our realm with these implausible moments this time around. Nonetheless, once you put aside reason and logic, you find yourself in the midst of a universe that is still somehow familiar and pleasant (definitely not for these orphans though) and that alone is enough to keep going and hope that these kids will eventually find a home where they won’t be troubled by a greedy and psychopathic maniac.

The Miserable Mill is another captivating and unfortunate event leaving the Baudelaire orphans hopeless in their search for peace and happiness.



19 thoughts on “The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

  1. Great review, Lashaan. I couldn’t believe how many kids checked these books out of my library. I always found them a bit depressing. I know they were well loved though and I am glad they are still being read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to see there’s still enough to keep you coming back for more, though it does sound like this might be suffering from a bit of a mid-series slump. Hopefully it picks up a bit as the series progresses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review Lashaan! I remember reading at least the first three books when I was a kid and I was convinced I had read more, but the plot didn’t ring a bell at all… Maybe I should pick up the series again!

    Liked by 1 person

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