Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)
By: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.
I was waiting desperately for my copy of Imprudence to arrive in the mail when I decided to dig into another of Gail Carriger’s novels, Etiquette and Espionage. I’d been a fan of Gail Carriger from the first page of Soulless, and Etiquette and Espionage was no exception. It was a fabulously steampunk romp of the first order.
One of the things that I adore about Gail Carriger’s novels is the characterization, and Sophronia is an excellent character. She has a lot of the same pragmatic nature and lightning-sharp wit as Alexia, combined with an inventiveness and problem-solving ability that is uniquely hers. I enjoyed how she never allowed other people to get her out of her own scrapes, and how she was constantly piecing things together. I also loved her group of friends–Dimity, Pillover, Vieve and others added dimension to Sophronia’s story, as well as their own unique personalities.
I was waiting for the point at which the connection to Soulless would be revealed–fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. I loved seeing Sidheag in finishing school, and I couldn’t get enough of little nine-year-old Genevieve running around in pants and causing adorable trouble. Considering that this is set about 20 years before Soulless, I’m also wondering how much this series will reveal about events that play a part in the Soulless series.
But I also loved this book for its individuality. I absolutely adored the whole floating-dirigible-school-of-espionage thing. It was inventive, unique and really allowed Sophronia to showcase her talents. It was fun to meet the professors (Captain Niall and Beatrice Lefoux being others who I knew from other books), and to sense what sort of school would train girls in both social graces and poisons.
Also, big round of applause to Gail Carriger in adding a POC to a Victorian Steampunk story. I adore the character of Soap, and the immediate, yet undeveloped connection between him and Sophronia. I definitely understand why there’s no romance, since Sophronia is only 13, but I’m eagerly awaiting the point at which she’s old enough to get romanced (and am desperately hoping that it’s by Soap).
All in all, Etiquette and Espionage is a grand continuation of Carriger’s theme, a joyful romp in the world she’s created, and yet new enough to keep me guessing about what was about to happen. I did have one complaint, and that was that this book felt so obviously as if it were part of a series–I’m not sure it’s capable of standing on its own. This may be the finishing school aspect, because I know that Sophronia is nowhere near finished yet. But the ending was almost unsatisfying, because I knew that this was a tiny piece of the story, and I wanted a whole story.
However, not to worry–the rest of the Finishing School series should be on my bookshelf shortly, along with Imprudence. Hurrah!
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.