Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
(Finishing School #1)
February 5, 2013
Genre: YA Steampunk
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.
The first word that came to mind both at the start and the finish of this book was "fun." This was a fun book to read. Despite the references to espionage, poisoning, and all the other covert operation potential these girls are being trained for, this was a lot of fun to read. I don't know how the rest of the series will pan out, but this first book is on the younger side of the YA scale. But I actually liked that aspect. It is refreshing to read a well-written YA book that focuses on things other than foul language and sex.
Sophronia is 14 years old, a bit of a tomboy, sharp as a tack, and not at the boy-crazy stage yet. I loved watching her throughout the story, leading the plot and progress, and being entertaining at the same time. She has a great personality and is a great choice for the lead of this series. Dimity, her closest friend at school, adds the girly touch the book needs without overdoing it. Then Soap gives us a glimpse of not only the prejudices of the time but sparks some hope for future romance (because even an espionage series deserves some romance).
This book has a lot of set-up for the series. Now I enjoyed this aspect as I am not generally a big steampunk reader. This world of both steampunk and espionage training took some adjusting for me, but I felt like the author did a good job drawing the reader in, giving quality information without info-dumping, and continuing to entertain me with the many mysterious aspects to this novel. Along with Sophronia's education there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work she has involved herself in, and all were fun to read about and get involved in, coalescing in an exciting end to book one.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to continuing this series. Outside of some references to seduction training and painted ladies, this is a clean book. I really hope the series stays on the clean side, because it is nice to have a YA series that is great for anyone.