Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette and Espionage
by Gail Carriger
Published February 5, 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 the 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's legions of fans have come to adore. 

My review:

Etiquette and Espionage is a fun read but I think the best audience for this story are those teens and adults who are already fans of the Parasol Protectorate books. The content of this book is definitely appropriate for younger teens compared to Soulless but I think that the Parasol Protectorate series does a better job of introducing readers to the Victorian steampunk world. That said, it does not mean that newcomers will not like this book. The author does use Sophronia's lack of experience with supernaturals to inform the reader too.

What I like about Carriger's writing is the dry wit as well as the more approachable version of steampunk. I never felt overwhelmed with the details and could imagine what she describes. I thought with this book in particular that she vividly portrays the setting of the school and its mechanics as Sophronia goes exploring on her adventures. I especially loved Bumbersnoot and want my own mechanimal pet!

I liked Sophronia as a character. She is smart (like Alexia Tarabotti), adventurous, and a good friend though she sometimes makes mistakes. I also liked Sophronia's new best friend Dimity as well as Sidheag  and Vieve (who are characters from the Parasol Protectorate series). The other characters were not quite as well drawn but I look forward to getting to know them better as the series goes along. 

There is a mystery introduced towards the beginning of the book that kept the narrative going but I thought it was resolved kind of quickly in the end (and not entirely to my satisfaction). Hopefully things will be explained more in the sequel. 

All in all, I was pleased with this first book in the Finishing School series. It was nice to be back in the world of the Parasol Protectorate, albeit 20-some years earlier. I hope that teens will enjoy this book though the writing style may appeal more to adults. Fans of Kady Cross's steampunk books might be interested in this one though there is not much in the way of romance on offer (yet anyway). The spunky teen heroine should be a draw and teen readers who appreciate British humor may enjoy it too.

Note: I received an e-ARC of this title for review courtesy of the publishers and Edelweiss


  1. The only steampunk book I've read is The Girl in the Steel Corset (and Clockwork Collar, #2), which I enjoyed far more than I thought I would. From then I've been meaning to try some more steampunk novels. This author is definitely at the top of my list, as well as Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series. I didn't really know this was a companion series follow-up kind of thing to her first steampunk series. Nice review!

  2. I read the first book in the Parasol Protectorate so I hope that will be enough background for checking out the YA series which I am fully expecting to love!

  3. Great review! I have been reading a lot of mixed reviews of this one and I haven't read any Carriger, but I definitely want to. I have a copy of Soulless, so maybe I will start with that one instead.

  4. I haven't read any of these yet, but sounds great.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  5. I didn't realize that these books were actually set in the same world at parasol protectorate! interesting!

  6. Steampunk, dry wit, mechanimal pets...this sounds like such fun!

    Fabulous review, Christina! :)

  7. I like steampunk but I haven't read the Parasol Protectorate series yet so might tackle it first. Enjoyed your review :)


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