Review: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

“It is a relief, in hectic and frightening times, to find true friends.”

Cover: The Austere Academy
Title: The Austere Academy
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5
Author: Lemony Snicket
Genre: Fiction, Children’s, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 221
Read: March 2016

the book | the author | the series

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket


My thoughts: (little to no spoiler)

Instead of a proper guardian, the Baudelaires were sent to a boarding school. Looks like Mr. Poe is very busy in his bank duties he can’t oversee the children’s affairs. Well, it doesn’t really matter because as Violet says, he is rarely being helpful.

The idea of the orphans having friends is very comforting, especially after of all the misfortunes that has happened to them. But for a second there I actually thought about the possibility of them being more than friends. Ha. Ha. Ha.

More or less, it’s still the same plot as the previous books. Personally, I thought about giving up the series because I can’t continue reading the same thing for the next 8 books or so. But there’s something at the end of the book that made me realize there is something more to what’s happening than just Olaf being greedy and trying to get the Baudelaire fortune at all costs (but that bit is absolutely true).

I think I’m going to give the next books a shot to see what happens next and how this grander thing that surrounds them develops.

More thoughts: (spoilers start here)

Welcome to Prufrock Preparatory School – the most orphan-unfriendly boarding school, ever!

  1. The administrative building is off-limits to students. Students who go to the building without permission will not be allowed to use silverware at any of their meals.
  2. Students who are late in class will have their hands tied behind their backs during meals. They will have to lean down and eat their food like a dog.
  3. Meals are served promptly at breakfast time, lunchtime, and dinnertime. Late students will have their cups and glasses taken away and their beverages will be served in large puddles.
  4. It is mandatory for students to attend Vice Principal Nero’s six-hour violin recital at the auditorium. Students who don’t show up will have to buy the Vice Principal a large bag of candy and watch him eat it.

What a set of rather absurd rules.

The children were assured that “Count Olaf’s complete description – everything from his one long eyebrow to the tattoo of an eye on his left ankle – has been programmed into the computer.” I’m not really sure how a computer, sitting in a room corner can protect the children from Count Olaf unless it comes with several security cameras placed around the school and a facial recognition software. But I guess it doesn’t because Count Olaf still managed to appear as the new gym teacher without being recognized.

The Quagmires’ experiences were very similar to the Baudelaires’ – home burned down, parents died in the fire. Although in Duncan and Isadora’s case, their other sibling Quigley died, too. Both set of parents also left valuable fortunes for their children. Hmmm… there’s something going on here.

While researching about Olaf’s plans, they discovered information about his past. It looks like he had been doing nasty needs ever since in different parts of the world. The Quagmires were not able to tell these directly to the Baudelaires but they wrote it down in their notebook – which they gave to Klaus before they were finally kidnapped by Olaf. Unfortunately, Olaf got hold of the notebook, too.

In just a few moments, the Baudelaires lost their friends and the crucial information about Count Olaf. All they’re left with are exhaustion, tears, and three letters:


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  1. Ouch! You seem quite critical of the series – I personally love these books and I am currently in the process of re-reading them!

    I understand that the structure can be a little repetitive, but isn’t that the case in every series of books, or indeed in every book? The basic structure of a narrative is repeated in almost every single book out there – exposition, build up, climax, resolution.

    The stories are designed to be quirky and odd, which is what I think makes them such a unique set of children’s books – they’re written in a completely different style to most conventional books nowadays.

    I really like these books – I might be tempted to write my own reviews of them over on my blog (I review books and films)! Great post though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, thank you for your comment!

      I agree with you about the structure of books and how this one is presented in a different manner from the other books. Maybe I’m just troubled with the repetitive plot because Olaf keeps showing up again and again, and the guy is evil, and it’s frustrating. Or maybe the books are messing with my emotions. Haha.

      I liked this book actually, and it was my turning point. I really enjoyed the succeeding books, too! I am currently reading The Slippery Slope and I’m beyond grateful I decided to continue with the series. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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