I've read other steampunk books, but Gail Carriger's Finishing School series really are my favorite ones. Curtsies & Conspiracies is her second book in the young adult series. Once again, it's a wonderful foray into that alternate Victorian world where steam power is important, lighter-than-air dirigibles are common, and werewolves and vampires are part of Queen Victoria's government, although some people are not happy with that last fact.
Sophronia Temminnick never fit in her proper family, but for the last six months she's been a student at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. While Mademoiselle Geraldine thinks she's actually running a finishing school n the massive airship that looked like three dirigibles crammed together, it's actually a school where young ladies are trained in the art of espionage. Steam-powered mechanicals serve the staff and students. And, Sophronia finds ways to sneak around the academy, learning as many secrets as she can. Her favorite place is the boiler room area where sooties, including her friend, Soap, keep the steam engines running and the airship afloat.
The fourteen-year-old Sophronia isn't quite as comfortable associating with the upperclass young men from Bunson and Lacroix's Boys' Polytechnique, and she definitely isn't comfortable with Viscount Felix Mersey who zeroes in on her for flirtation. She's much more comfortable ferreting out a a kidnapping scheme and some mysterious activities surrounding a communication device. But, she'll use all her wiles, including flirtation, to find answers when mysterious people appear on the airship, and the floating academy sets a course toward London.
Gail Carriger's books are excellent introductions to the world of steampunk literature. In her Finishing School series, she creates her own world, with wonderful characters. Sophronia is a young girl on the verge of discovery, learning how to use her own skills and knowledge, learning the power of her own attractive appearance. At fourteen, she's still confused by her attraction to Soap and her interest in Felix Mersey. It's easier for her to use her knowledge of science and weapons than it is for her to be flirtatious.
Curtsies & Conspiracies is a coming-of-age novel for a young girl in Victorian England. There's humor as Sophronia gets caught, and caught up in, her adventures. There are just hints of romance in the novel. The supernatural and mechanical creatures are marvelous. It's a fast-paced adventure filled with suspense and secrets. And, best of all, Gail Carriger leaves hints of more espionage and adventure to come in the next book.
Gail Carriger's website is www.gailcarriger.com
Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger. Little, Brown & Company. 2013. ISBN 9780316190114 (hardcover), 310p.
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