Thursday, February 21, 2013
Review: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger
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.
Sophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners -- and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But 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. ~ Goodreads
Steampunk is very much a hit or miss genre for me, but the idea of a young girl engaged in covert espionage peaked my curiosity to the point that I just couldn't resist giving this book a try.
I'm glad that I did because for the most part Etiquette & Espionage was so much fun to read. As you would imagine with Victorian era steampunk, there is no end to the whimsical descriptions of mechanical maids, mechanimals, airship schools and a fun touch of the paranormal with vampires and werewolves. The descriptions did at times veer towards whimsy overload but I could truly visualize living in this world and would have loved to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School for Girls.
I loved how Carriger created a world that while it's important to have good posture and flutter ones eyelashes prettily, it is also important for a girl to be intelligent and think on her feet. Our heroine, a very wise for her 14 years Sophronia Angelina Temminnick, gets to put her natural spy skills to work right away when a fellow student acts suspiciously and the school comes under attack.
There is just the tiniest hint of romance with the focus staying more on the girls Sophronia meets at this special girls only etiquette/espionage school. It was nice to read the different dynamic she had with each girl. Female friendships are usually overlooked these days.
I felt the end was wrapped up a bit too quickly and would have loved to have read in greater detail about Sophronia's espionage lessons. Maybe the next book will delve into that further. I like the idea of the series starting with a girl who is 14 and watching her develop into a young woman. It gives a wonderful opportunity for character growth over the span of the series.
Final thoughts: Not every character is developed as much as I would have liked and the whimsical descriptions occasionally overpowered the plot but Etiquette & Espionage is a wonderful introduction to a clever world where brains are valued just as much as proper etiquette.
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Source: Provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via Netgalley for my honest review
Buy the book! Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School)