Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
My Review: This was such a fun book! I’ve never read anything by Gail Carriger before, though it’s been said that she’s one of the best steampunk writers out there at the moment. I’m really glad to say I loved her writing, so I’m really looking forward to reading Soulless, now!
Etiquette and Espionage is the first story in a new series featuring Sophronia, but set in the same world as Gail’s Soulless books. That means steampunk awesomeness, plus vampires and werewolves. Sophronia is a bit of a different girl; who’s always exploring and being generally unladylike – and one day, her mother decides that it’s time she’s sent off to a finishing school, in order to learn more etiquette and become a better lady. It’s a bit of a give away in the title; the finishing school isn’t entirely what Sophronia’s mother thinks it is! In fact, they learn to curtsy on top of learning espionage skills- and a couple of the teachers aren’t human, too.
I absolutely loved the idea behind this book. It has elements of Victorian society- you can see that through the etiquette school, obviously- and with a lot of steampunk fantasy thrown in. Early on in the book, I learned about the Flywaymen- highwaymen, but in airships- I loved that idea, and especially the part that played later on in the book! The school reminded me, a lot, of a Victorian version of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls school series- where everyone on the outside of the building thinks it’s a normal girl’s school- but on the inside, it’s an espionage training school. Though it seems very similar, it definitely didn’t copy anything. Etiquette & Espionage had a very original plot, and I really loved reading it! At some points, though, I felt like some parts weren’t explained as well as they could have been. Reading this in school, maybe I didn’t take in everything… so was the mysterious Prototype explained in more depth? I’m not that sure! I didn’t feel it was, massively- so I hope more is revealed in book 2, should the same events carry on.
Sophronia is a great character, and led the story really well. I liked her, because whilst she was pretty girly at points, she had a tomboy element that I could really relate to! I loved her relationships with three of the supporting characters- Dimity, Vieve, and Soap. Dimity is a little irritating at points, but it’s hard not to like her. Vieve is a nine year old mechanical genius. Spin-off novels about her, please, Gail! (: Soap is a boy who works beneath the school, and he was so loveable. Thought not that much was revealed about him in this book, I could tell that he and Sophronia were definitely growing quite close. I really want them to be together in the sequel- he’s such a brilliant male character (and, having a finishing school student and a coal worker would cause some very amusing problems).
Overall, Etiquette and Espionage was an enjoyable read. Sophronia is a relatable character who I loved as a protagonist. At points, I really wanted Soap to take center stage more, because he was just… awesome! More of him and his inventing, slightly crazy companion Vieve, soon please! Gail’s writing is brilliant. She combines action and thrills, with humor and laughs. I just fell in love with her writing! It’s very addictive- as I found myself hooked on the book, and a big reason was because I loved Gail’s vivid steampunk descriptions, and witty dialogue, hugely. Another reason was the plot; which was really well written and fun. I think there’s a lot to be built upon in this book, so I’m hoping more things that I want to know are revealed in book two, which is Curtsies and Conspiracies!
I received a copy of Etiquette and Espionage from Nina at Death, Books and Tea, as a part of a book swap (Thanks Nina!)