Sunday, March 10, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

If you've never read a steampunk book, but you love Alan Bradley's character Flavia de Luce in his mysteries, I have the perfect book to introduce you to the genre. Carriger wrote the Parasol Protectorate series, beginning with Soulless. But, now she takes that same Victorian world in which vampires and werewolves exist in a world fascinated by mechanical technology, and introduces a fourteen-year-old girl in the first book in a young adult series. Meet Sophronia Temminnick, heroine of the first Finishing School book, Etiquette & Espionage.

Sophronia isn't at all a proper lady for 1851. She's the despair of her mother who has too many children to try to cope with her youngest daughter, and her accident in the dumbwaiter while trying to overhear a conversation is the last straw. Sophronia can hardly blink before she's packed up and sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

Even the journey to the school isn't quiet what she expected when Mademoiselle Geraldine turns out to be an imposter, and the carriage is attacked by flywaymen intent on finding "a prototype". It's Sophronia's ingenuity that saves the passengers, but she makes a terrible enemy in Monique, the fake headmistress.

To Sophronia's astonishment, though, the finishing school turns out to be a floating structure made of dirigibles, and it's a young man who turns into a werewolf who helps them board. The more she learns about the school and the students, the more she realizes her mother would not at all be happy with Sophronia's academy. It seems all the young women are there to have lessons in espionage and deceit, with the intent they will be able to handle "Anything or anyone who needs finishing". The young girl who took apart her parents' dumbwaiter is delighted to learn to faint, dance, and use a scissors as a weapon. And, she also secretly explores her new school from top to boiler room, where she discovers allies; allies she'll need when she learns that flywaymen, the Pickleman, and others are attacking the school, demanding the missing prototype.

Sophronia is an ingenious young woman. As the youngest daughter in a large family, she's learned to study other people, a skill that will come in handy as she makes friends and carefully plots against her enemies. Etiquette & Espionage is an entertaining book that examines the rituals of polite society in 1851, and the clever women who manipulate it behind the scenes. This is a fun example of steampunk, incorporating all the elements of technology and immortal creatures in Victorian England.  It's a humorous book focusing on a young woman who can't help but find herself in scrapes. She's Flavia de Luce, with quite a bit more confidence, but her own talents for Etiquette & Espionage.

Gail Carriger's website is

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. Little, Brown & Company. 2013. ISBN 9780316180084 (hardcover), 307p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book


holdenj said...

The Flavia comparison has me intrigued! Thanks for the info!

Lesa said...

You're welcome. Let me know what you think if you read it!

Susan said...

Oh I've got to read this one. I read book one of her other series, and really enjoyed it, but haven't got around to finishing it (just not enough time in the day!). This one looks like so much fun, and I hadn't heard about it yet. Thanks, Lesa!