Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School Series Book 1) by Gail Carriger
SUMMARY (from back):
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.
WHAT I THOUGHT: Steampunk is always a fun read for me because authors invent so many steam-powered gadgets that folks back in Victorian times only wished they had, for all the time and effort they would have saved. But Carriger displayed more creativity than many as she built this world starting with her mechanimals (mechanical animals), a finishing school that floats as a dirigible, mechanical servants on tracks that keep students in line, and more.
The first hint I had that I was in for a treat was the character names–Sophronia, Mrs. Barnaclegoose, Mrs. Temminnick, Diminty Ann Plumleigh-Teignmott, Pillover, Monique Pelouse, Bumbersnoot, Soap, and more. She also included flywaymen (airbourne bandits) to add conflict.
I also fell in love with the language the author employed–long, sophisticated words retired from common usage with much gratitude–some examples: a private conveyance (car), deportment, articulated hassock, affronted, flabbergasted, and so many more I’d love to expound but lack the space. A steampunk novel requires language such as this to effectively carry the genre and Carriger did a splendid job (LOL, I couldn’t resist). But my use of “splendid” brings up another point that I loved about this story: the fact that as I kept reading, I almost wanted to start speaking like the characters…too fun 🙂
The story begins with Sophronia’s misadventure with a dumbwaiter to evesdrop on a conversation and continues through a variety of jaunts as she comes to understand one of the students possesses a valuable object the bad guys (flywaymen) are willing to go to great lengths to steal. As an author, I weave in humor. for I know readers love to laugh. Well, clearly Carriger recognizes that as well, for much humor ensues as the author has her characters observe the absurd decorum of Victorian times. Imagine, a prop-per lady in prop-per apparal, fighting bandits with all manner of propriety, fainting properly (always backward, never forward), or fluttering ones eyes in a correct manner so as to distract the opposite sex.
This was a fun tale and worth continuing on to book 2, Curtsies & Conspiracies, in the Finishing School Series. I give this 4.5 stars.
Get Etiquette & Espionage (at Amazon)
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