For anyone who isn't familiar with Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, it's a 13 part children's book series that follows the lives of the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny after their parents perish in a fire that destroyed their family home. Cheerful right? Honestly, it's wonderful.The story is told from the narrative perspective of Lemony Snicket. The concept, the literary devices, the language used are all wholly unique to me. The fact that Daniel Handler created his pseudonym, Lemony Snicket to actually be part of the story is just pure genius in my eyes. Especially since the effect was so positively received. Snicket speaks to the reader directly, explaining things as he goes along and simply being thoroughly entertaining in the process. One thing I really love is that he never speaks down to the reader who is obviously meant to be a child. Even when blatantly explaining things it's always done in a round about fashion to the effect of you're terribly clever so I'm sure you already know this but I suppose I'll say it just for the sake of things. Absolutely brilliant. Anyway. Moving on.The Reptile Room is the second novella in the series. The first volume, The Bad Beginning, does a fabulous job of setting up our main protagonists and antagonists. We are with the Baudelaire's when they hear the news of their parents death. We are with them as they get sent to live with a distant relative, Count Olaf, who turns out to be the antithesis of all evil and wants nothing more then to get rid of the children so he can inherit their large fortune which won't be available til Violet's 18th birthday (who is only 12 at the start of out story). We are there as they use their wits and courage to escape from Count Olaf's grasp and we are there as the hold on to hope that their lives can at least be a fraction of what they were meant to be.The beginning of The Reptile Room sees the children sent off to live with another relative. This one infinity more satisfactory then Count Olaf. Uncle Monty is a kind and loving herpetologist (studier of snakes and reptiles) who instantly takes the children into his care with love and devotion only to have Count Olaf show up again but this time disguised as Monty's new assistant, Stephano. The children instantly see through this facade but aren't able to make Uncle Monty understand in time to prevent his death.The Reptile Room is a brilliant follow up to The Bad Beginning. With each volume we get a better insight into these three fine children and what it is that makes them so remarkable. Handlers depiction of the children is perfect from the start with simple but very effective descriptions of the children and their unique talents and personalities being instigated from the first chapter of the first book. Violet we learn is an inventor and has a mind for the inner workings of machines. We also learn that when she is busy thinking she ties her hair up with a ribbon so she can focus on her thoughts. Klaus is an avid reader, constantly researching subjects of interest and we learn that young Sunny is much unlike regular babies in the fact that she likes to use her few teeth to bite extremely hard objects.All three children use their respective skills and interests to their advantage time and again throughout the series.One thing that I really love about this series is how it has been marketed as a complete package. The writing and the stories alone are incredible but on top of that we have the invention of Lemony Snicket as this mysterious author figure and then we have the design of the actual books themselves. The books were originally published in hard cover. The pages are cut somewhat jagged and haphazard, creating a wonderfully distressed effect but one of the most important and beautiful aspects is the incredible illustrations by Brett Helquist. The cover art, including the inside cover and an illustration that appears at the beginning of each chapter is all designed by Helquist's skillful hand. The effect they have is almost difficult to encapsulate in words. The illustrations capture the tone and sensibilities of the books perfectly and actually assist to engage the reader further into Snicket's complex world of murder and mystery. One of if not, the most perfect children's series I've ever had the great fortune to stumble upon.