Author: Gail Carriger
Publication Date: February 5th 2013
Length: 307 pages (Hardcover)
Series: Finishing School #1
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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. 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.
If you’ve ever been here before, you might have seen me mention Gail Carriger once or twice in my posts. If you have, then you might also be able to imagine how excited I was about this book, Etiquette & Espionage. This, you see, is the first novel in her new YA series, taking place before Parasol Protectorate, which I finished recently, and very much liked (let’s just say there were a few superlatives involved).
The problem with series you like, though, is the fact that they tend to result in some very high expectations. Expectations then often lead to comparisons, and we all know from experience that that seldom end well. It’s almost impossible to meet expectations, you know, especially if they are high. It’s best to just try to separate the two things, and let the new book become amazing in peace.
I know that.
It didn’t stop me from comparing this book with Parasol Protectorate, though…
Oh, the shame…just imagine it! Exposing a poor little book to such high expectations.
*whispers* Such high expectations….
Well, nothing to do about that now, I’m afraid. Let’s just jump straight to it!
First, I’m very happy to tell you that Etiquette & Espionage is filled with many of the lovely things I adored in the first series. That is, the humour, the steampunk, the personality and the charm. Gail Carriger is such a great author, and her writing is my piece of cake exactly! Sadly, though, this time it lacked a bit when it came to the supernatural element previously seen in her books. Sure, it was present, but in Etiquette & Espionage, the focus is mostly put on the steampunk aspect of this amazing world. Don’t get me wrong, that is GREAT (who doesn’t love steampunk?)…..but I just really missed those crazy warewolves and vampires, and if that was your absolute favourite part in Parasol Protectorate, then there’s a chance you’ll be disappointed.
Secondly, I want to talk about our main character, Sophronia. To be honest, I was really afraid she would be an exact replica of Alexia (from Parasol Protectorate), but luckily, she wasn’t . Not entirely at least. I mean, sure, they do share a few traits, like strong, daring personalities, a mind of their own, a family that is ashamed of them, and choice of friends (Dimity and Ivy is quite alike), but Sophronia has…..more soul (both literary and figuratively speaking), I guess, than Alexia. She’s a tiny bit more childish, imaginative, has a less scientific view on the world, and doesn’t care about silly things such as fashion and appearance (not at first at least). She’s simply like Alexia, but without the smaller things that made Alexia…Alexia. With those things gone, there were some room left for Sophronia to become her own character. A character that is bold and stands up for her opinions. A character I really enjoyed.
“In all her fourteen long years, she had never stayed stationary and uninvolved in anything.”
When it comes to the other characters, I think they’ll have to grow on me a bit more. I mean, they did show potential….but didn’t manage to make that strong of an impression on me. My favourite parts were definitely the ones where the old and familiar characters made appearances, especially when they were not expected.
The plot itself was very interesting and fun, and I love the idea of a school for young, female spies. If you like Gallagher Girls, you might very well enjoy this as well. Etiquette & Espionage was very much about introducing the reader to the new characters and the environment, though, and was therefore kind of slow at times. I would have wanted it to be a bit more exciting and action packed, but that is something I think we can expect to get more of in the future books.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t quite as funny as Parasol Protectorate, which is more my cup of tea, but it has a lot potential to become something really great. The main character is strong, clever and enjoyable, and I’m curious to see what may happen to her and her friends. The writing was excellent as always, and I’m definitely interested in picking up the next book in the series, as soon as it comes out. :)
“Sophronia flopped over onto her back with a sigh. She should check herself for injuries, or see to finding the rest of her dress, but flopping was more dramatic.”
“How it worked? What kind of question is that for a young lady to ask? How often have I warned you against fraternizingwith technology?”
“She isn’t very ladylike.”
“I don’t think that is necessarily a character flaw. Some of the most disagreeable people I know are the mst ladylike.”