Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: February 2013
Publisher: Atom (UK)
Genre: YA fantasy
Description: 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.
My thoughts: I love Gail Carriger's 'Parasol Protectorate' series, so I was looking forward to this new 'Finishing School' series, which is set in the same world, 25 years earlier. Thankfully Ms Carriger did not disappoint: 'Etiquette & Espionage' is as much fun to read as her previous novels.
We first meet Sophronia as she is trying to hide in the dumbwaiter in her house to spy on the conversation her mother is having with a neighbour. Unfortunately it doesn't go as planned, and an incident with a trifle leads to having to meet a mother who seems more exasperated than angry - a state she seems to be in a lot around Sophronia. That same afternoon, Sophronia is whisked off to the finishing school, but right from the start, things don't go to plan. Before they even make it to the school, the carriage is attacked by 'flywaymen', who use contraptions like hot air balloons to attack passing carriages. As they get to the school and start to learn more, Sophronia and her new friend and roommate Dimity realise that it was no random attack, and start trying to piece together what the flywaymen were looking for, and why.
As readers have come to expect from Gail Carriger, the book is a lot of fun. She continues to paint this steampunk, alternate-history Britain in beautiful little details, while keeping up a plot that had me racing through the story. Fans of the series will be glad to see some familiar faces, albeit a little younger. One of my favourite things was seeing a young Madame Lefoux, who has always been one of my favourite characters. I also thought it was fun to meet a new vampire, one of the Professors, and another werewolf, both of whom seem like very interesting characters with much more to them than we get to see in this book. There is just enough to hint at the fascinating personal stories the two must have, and given Sophronia's constant curiosity, I'm sure there will be more revealed about them in the future books.
I've always enjoyed books set in boarding schools - Enid Blyton, Hogwarts, and many others, and reading something like that again was a flashback of being curled up on a cushion in the school library, reading about the adventures people could have living away from home. Sophronia and her friend get to try things like figuring out how to get past mechanical hall guards, how to sneak in and out of the ship's boiler room, and how to pass notes undetected while dancing.
With 'Etiquette and Espionage', Gail Carriger has produced just the sort of fun-filled story readers have come to expect from her, and the Finishing School series promises to put a new twist on the 'adventures at boarding school' theme.
Overall, I give Etiquette & Espionage 8 out of 10.