Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

This is the first book in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, released February 5th, 2013.

The Blurb

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.

e&eFourteen-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. Temminick 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.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.

The Review

First, I want to remind you that this is a YA series. That means that this book has a totally different feel than the Parasol Protectorate series. This book lacks Alexia’s acerbic wit (I’m sure Sophronia will develop hers in time) and the more adult themes of love/sex/marriage (at least for now). Most YA series focus on the problems of becoming an adult, and Finishing School is no different. The only difference is, Sophronia will become an adult knowing how to curtsy properly, sneak appropriately, and how to poison one person specifically at a dinner party for fifty.

I also love the name Sophronia. Probably because it’s like Sephrenia and when someone asks me what my middle initial stands for, I tell them Sephrenia. (I like to be mysterious.)

It is a genuine pleasure to, in this book, see some familiar characters at younger stages in their life. You may recognize such people as Sidheag Maccon, Niall the werewolf, and Genevieve “Vivi” Lefoux. I’m still trying to figure out if we’ve seen Sophronia anywhere in the Parasol Protectorate series and we just don’t know it (or maybe I don’t remember it), but if so she wasn’t ever mentioned by her first name.

I didn’t fall in love with Sophronia the way I did with Alexia. Sophronia is missing an element of snark that I love a lot. I assume, however, that since she’s young she’ll grow into it. (I imagine that quite a lot of Victorian ladies dealt with their world with snark. I know I would.) So this book doesn’t quite rate as highly as it’s predecessor series. However, if you’d enjoy seeing a Victorian Hogwarts with steam and gears instead of magic (and on a dirigible!) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]