Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published: Feb. 5th, 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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.
I <3 Gail Carriger. And yes, I did just do the <3. Hey, everyone's doing it! (I did it right, right?) No, but for serious, she really creates a great mix of mystery and humor to go along with her fantastic (and very funny) characters.
To anyone who has read Gail Carriger before and is familiar with the characters, I can tell you that these ones are just as great! Actually they are very similar in personality, just younger. And in addition there are crossover characters! This takes place before the Parasol Protectorate series (about 25 years, I think) so they are a bit different, but still there!
This book was full of hilarious moments. I read this while my daughter was sick, so I'd burst out laughing while cuddling her and every time she said "What mom? Read it to me." Here's one favorite bit of mine. This is when Sophronia and Dimity are discussing practicing their eyelash flutter on the boys at the evil genius school.
"Well, is that wise? Having a mess of seedling evil geniuses falling in love with you willy-nilly? What if they feel spurned?"
"Ah, but in the interim, think of the lovely gifts they can make you. Monique bragged that one of her boys made her silver and wood hair sticks as anti-supernatural weapons. With amethyst inlay. And another made her an exploding wicker chicken."
"Goodness, what's that for?"
Dimity pursed her lips. "Who doesn't want an exploding wicker chicken?"
Part of the humor is that it's just so matter of fact. Sophronia just takes everything in stride and is really rarely ever shocked. She arrives at her new 'finishing' school and barely bats an an eye when she discovers that there's a werewolf AND a vampire employed and the truth behind this school. But while maybe it's a bit silly, it's silly in a good way and it utterly hilarious.
There's a bit of mystery in the book but it really felt back burner until the end when it was what played out the very action'y conclusion to the book. Mostly this was Sophronia's adventures (or shall we say mis- adventures?) at finishing school. And Sophronia is not satisfied just sitting around learning stuff, oh no, she wants to know all the secrets and find out more about everything. While on her little late night adventures she makes friends with the 'sooties' and learns how to get around the mechanicals that patrol the halls. This school is actually not at all a normal sort of school. Rather than giving it away I will just tell you that this sort of school does not just sit in one place.
This definitely is a Steampunk book but while it felt very steampunk there wasn't any sort of crazy contraptions or anything that was overly difficult to understand. I think that it was all done very well to keep it YA and appealing to even those who may not be big fans of steampunk.
There's no romance, but there's something hinted at that may occur in future books. There's definitely a few 'moments' between these two characters and I really like how it's playing out so far.
I really recommend you check this book out! It's one of the funniest I have read this year but still has more 'serious' moments. And there's no bad language or sexual situations so it's recommended for all YA readers.