I began reading these series a while back, and have posted a blog entry on Series #1,2,3. I have finished the fourth book a while back, but never got around to posting my thoughts on it. Since today I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to buy the fifth book in the series, I would like to officially post the fourth book review.
In the fourth book of the series the setting is the Miserable Mill. Again, just as previously mentioned, the author puts a disclaimer at the beginning of the book warning you this will not be a happy story, but one where misery, horror, and despair fills the atmosphere. You don't have to have read the first three books to understand what's going on. If you feel like you have already watched the movie, and you don't want to read the book, then by all means just skip to the fourth to see how the series continues. In fact, I would even advice you to do that it's much more pleasant this way :), and well, less redundant.
The main theme in this book is to make every challenge an opportunity. They are face with a horrible disposition when they enter the miserable mill, and find themselves being put to work with only a piece of gum for lunch. The story is much much much worse than that, as you will see when you read. I don't want to give too much away. What keeps these kids together is knowing that they will make the most of what they have, where they are, with what they have. Everything they have, as little as it may be, is a resource of tremendous use, or that's how they make use of what they have.
There are also themes about being optomistic, first appearances and 'judging a book by its covers,' but also fair deals. When the kids arrive on the mill, the owner makes a deal with them. The children instantly see this deal to be quite unfair, and they struggle in accepting that's how it will be even though it is quite an unfair deal. What's a fair deal anyway? Is there such a thing as a fair deal, in life, afterall? It is what you make it to be, and these kids have to cope with it and make the most of the situation, they have no other option.
There is definitely a stylistic consistency to the series. This book just continues the adventures, the lessons, the morals, and the struggles of the Baudelaire children. I am extremely excited to see what happens in the fifth book of the series.