The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

Title: The Austere Academy.
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #5.
Writer(s): Lemony Snicket.
Illustrator(s): Brett Helquist.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: August 8th, 2000.
Pages: 201.
Genre(s): Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult.
ISBN13: 9780064408639.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 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).
The Miserable Mill (Book #4).


You’d think that school would be a safe place for children, that it would promote their growth, their happiness, and their self-realization. You’d think that teachers, principals, and deans would look out for these children as if they were their own, that they would always protect them from all sorts of danger, even those that grow within us. You’d think that children would learn everything they need to do better than the previous generation within these educational environments rich in knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, once more, can’t catch a break and find themselves at the mercy of wicked adults and a rude, violent, and filthy girl in this latest misadventure in their lives. The fifth novel in the A Series of Unfortunate Events is another chapter into the tales of survival of the Baudelaire orphans as the always-in-disguise Count Olaf continues to haunt them as long as they live and breathe.

What is The Austere Academy about? Welcome to Prufrock Preparatory School, the latest destination for the Baudelaire children after their last miserable experience at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill left them without care again. Dropped off at the boarding school by Mr. Poe to be under the supervision of Vice Principal Nero, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are condemned into rotting away in a crab-infested and fungus-full shack, forbidden to profit from all the school’s benefits (except two particularly boring classes) without a living guardian to sign a permission slip. Unfortunately for them, despite being in an environment supposedly beneficial for learning and discovery, they find themselves suffering through the strict rules of this academy, not only from the Vice Principal but also the new gym teacher Coach Genghis. What follows is another series of unfortunate events as the relentless Count Olaf strikes again.

“Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to makebombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcakeif you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble.”

Lemony Snicket.

Unlike the previous book, this one doesn’t feature any deadly sword fights or a bloody death that could traumatize even the most cold-blooded of psychopaths, that is, if you exclude the tragic fate of the old gym teacher who then gets replaced by a new one who we all know who he really is pretending not to be. Once more, the adults in this story are incompetent in more ways than one, not showing a semblance of understanding or wit to notice what’s unfolding right under their noses. Vice Principal Nero, in particular, is incredibly condescending and narcissistic and mimics whatever the children say with an obnoxious tone. Thankfully, the Baudelaire orphans have learned so much from their past experiences and know how to play the game when it comes to talking to adults. Although they mature faster than any other children of their age, their family name makes it so that they can’t have a moment of respite, even when they do their best to turn lemons into lemonade.

This isn’t a tragic story without a single happy moment though. Author Lemony Snicket once more plays with our feelings by introducing new children, the Quagmire triplets, although they’re just two with one having died in a fire, who resemble the Baudelaire in so many ways. To see how compassionate, understanding, and friendly these two were with Violet, Klaus, and Sunny is just wonderful to read about, especially after everything they’ve already gone through. However, like anyone who should know by now how author Lemony Snicket writes his stories, nothing good ever lasts longer than necessary. While everything is quite predictable in this tale, it’s written and executed quite wonderfully, quite addictivelywith the usual cynical humour, numerous definitions of complicated words integrated into the story, and some fourth-wall breakingmaking you want to continuously root for the orphans and pray that they get a happy ending. Unfortunately, it is not in this one that they get anything that looks like a happy ending.

The Austere Academy is another twistedly-inviting installment in the sad and unfortunate events that compounds into the life of the Baudelaire children, this time in a hellish boarding school.



30 thoughts on “The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

  1. I must say I never read any of the books, but I did enjoy the Netflix series quite a lot! The unrelenting tragedy leavened by black humor and sardonic wit definitely put The Series of Unfortunate Events in its very own category when it comes to children’s literature 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahhh, the Quagmire Triplets. I’m pretty sure they show up at least once more in the series. I enjoyed their inclusion, as they were about the only hopeful note that the Baudelaires ever came across…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lashaan,

        I had been meaning to revisit the series years ago … you are right. The series was completed a long time ago now.

        I await your post on the series in the future. Perhaps, it would jog my memory as well.

        There are so many books on the shelves that I want to read that I have not gotten around to …

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A Series of Unfortunate Events was my absolute favorite series as a child and I devoured each new book, sharing them with my cousins after I had read them to discuss. I think I always hoped that Lemony Snicket was toying with us, that there would be a form of a happy ending at the end of it all, but that was an obvious delusion of mine.
    Still, I think the reason these books work so well for children is because they show just how incompetent adults can be (most of us are faking it anyway, right?) and that not everything is always happy go lucky. Kids can take a dose of reality, meaning not everything is fair and will work out in their favor. I guess I just appreciated that as a kid myself.
    Also, I felt wicked smart reading these books and learning things alongside the Baudelaires.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still vividly remember reading them back in elementary too, but in French. I enjoyed the series a lot but I don’t remember much of the later books which is why I’m slowly working my way through these books again, enjoying the journey quite a lot in fact. I do understand what you mean there, I probably also loved the idea that these kids could outsmart adults anytime in their world. It made you realize that adults aren’t always the ultimate know-it-all reference in life. 😛


      1. I hear you! I also remember the earlier books more clearly than the later ones, but I attribute that at least in part to the movie with Jim Carrey as Count Olaf. I loved the books more than that movie, but I really liked the movie as well. I even had a playstation game based on it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I know both older grandchildren derived enormous enjoyment from this series – although I found the first two very uncomfortable, given the way the children are horribly let down by the adults in their lives… Glad you’re finding the reread so much fun, Lashaan:)).

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s