Title: Etiquette and Espionage
(Finishing School: Book The First)
Author: Gail Carriger
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Little Brown
Rating: 4 stars
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 the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe. -Goodreads
This book takes a little getting used to. While it is true that Sophronia Temminnick is a very likable character and Etiquette and Espionage is a very readable book; both take a while to warm up to.
This is not a story that finds it's feet within the first few chapters and then proceeds to carry the reader along.
You really don't become fully aware of where the book and it's half-pint heroine are going until you are about 35% into the read. (If read on a Kindle.)
The details of her education are sketchy and the who's and why's of a certain device that gets alluded to to no end, are sadly lacking.
The saving graces of all this uncertainty are: you, as the reader are experiencing them with Sopronia and there are a whole host of wonderful friends and characters to entertain you while things are being sorted.
Those readers who are familiar with Ms. Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series will be pleased to find that this book is full of the author's quick wit, Victorian sensibilities, and steampunk savvy. There are even a few supes thrown in for good measure.
There is also quite a bit of character cross-over from Parasol to this series with earlier glimpses of Sidheag O'Connell and Genevieve Lefoux. (What a treat!)
Though there are admitted similarities, this book is not, nor is it intended to be a shadow of the Parasol series.
Please bear in mind that this series is intended for younger readers, and as such there is a bit of Pollyanna to be expected.
What I mean by this is...as our unlikely heroine finds her feet and as such, her confidence, she tends to save the day a lot.
In any other book, this could get old fast, but given the hilarity that often results in Sophronia's case, that is not a worry for this read.
This book is a must read for lovers of Gail Carriger, steampunk, Victoriana, and FUN!