Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1), by Gail Carriger
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 the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.
Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me a copy of this book for review!
I had heard so many wonderful things about Gail Carriger’s writing that the second I saw that she was releasing a YA series — Finishing School — I knew I had to get me hands on the first book, Etiquette & Espionage! I felt it would be a great introduction to her writing and a prequel to reading her Parasol Protectorate series.
While I expected the novel to be a good stepping stone to Gail’s other series, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did! In fact, when I first saw it, I couldn’t help admiring the gorgeous cover — the purple background with the mix of baroque and machine parts, the black and white silhouette of a girl holding scissors, and the gorgeous layout of the title with the gold ampersand swirling all through the cover.
I love a good cover.
When I cracked open the book and started reading, I was immediately hooked. It reminded me just a smidgen of Harry Potter — but with steampunk instead of witchcraft. It was also a bit older and more mature than HP, with plenty of humour, action, and just a little bit of silliness. It also had plenty of what I expect in a good steampunk novel — machines, fancy dresses and corsets, and a very cool school.
I really enjoyed all of the characters, especially the main character, Sophronia. She’s quirky and a perfect blend of tomboy, innocence, and naiveté. I loved how she was always wanting to break the rules. All of the other girls at the finishing school were perfect compliments to Sophronia’s character. I only wish that there was a little more including of Mlle. Geraldine — even though the school is named after her, she seems to have a real background role.
This really is a great introduction to Gail Carriger’s writing. It’s smart, funny, and exactly what I’m looking for in a good steampunk novel — and it would be perfect for someone just new to the genre. I think this will be a very exciting series to read — and I can’t wait to read more of what Gail Carriger has to offer!
If you enjoy steampunk, but want a lighter read in the genre, this one is a good fit. I liked that it was YA and didn’t demand too much from me — sometimes that’s good in a book! If you like a good mix of humour, action, and just plain ol’ fun, this is a good pick.