Etiquette & Espionage
by Gail Carriger
Book 1 of 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.
This was an absurdly fun read with a lovely, humorous narration, as well as an interestingly created steampunk world! I would totally count this towards my Reading Assignment challenge as well, except that I started reading it in February. Darn...
I don't read a whole lot of steampunk, if only because I've never really had much exposure to them, but after this book, I might find myself exploring the genre more often. Or at least, I know I'll be reading more from this particular series, and maybe even from this author. I understand that Finishing School actually takes place in a world that Carriger created in another series, so I may pick up those books as well.
But meanwhile, I'm finding that Etiquette & Espionage stands out very well on it's own!
Sophronia wanted to say something about the prototype, but she knew when she was being dismissed. She bobbed a curtsy. "Thank you, my lady."
Lady Linette winced. "Miss Temminneck, arrange after-hours lessons with Professor Braithwope, do. We really must work on that curtsy of yours, dear."
"But I have advanced eyelash fluttering to practice, and a mathematics problem concerning how to order strychnine and a lamb dinner on a limited budget, and three chapters on court etiquette to read, and my handkerchief to starch, and the quadrille to memorize!"
"No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear."
While extremely entertaining as a whole, the book had started off a little slow, but that was to be expected considering all the introductions to the world, the finishing school, and to Sophronia, that needed to be made. The first half of the book involved a lot of set-up, but fortunately, we even have a tiny mystery going on in the background, and some rather over-the-top comedic antics by almost all of our characters.
I had been expecting a darker setting, with the lessons on dealing death, and fighting vampires and werewolves, but the book kept to it's more comedic, nonsensical tone. Supposing that this book is geared more towards a middle grade age, that makes a lot of sense, though I had expected a more mature voice until I remembered that Sophronia and friends are only around thirteen or fourteen years old.
And, my, what characters! A little deliberate in execution, and somewhat more juvenile than I'd expected, as I mentioned, but I absolutely loved all the strange little quirks each character had. I was only disappointed that some of the side characters weren't fleshed out just a little bit more, or that Sophronia's attempts at using the skills she's learned were less than graceful, to be frank.
There also appear to be a few loose ends here and there with a few of the side tangents.
And still, I had tons of fun reading this book and will certainly be moving onto the next book. I'd just love to see more from the side characters such as Vieve, Soap, Pillover, and even Professor Braithwope. I imagine we'll expand more on Sophronia's friendships as the series progresses? Because that would be so very excellent.