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Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Friday, June 21, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage

(Finishing School #1)
by Gail Carriger

Genre: Historical, HumorSteampunk
Hardback: 307 Pages
Publication: February 5, 2013 by Little, Brown BFYR


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.

◆ A copy was provided by Little Brown for review ◆

Not all finishing schools release their graduates merely to ornate London society. Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality (wow, what a mouthful!) also teaches them how to gather intelligence and assinate someone should they choose. Enter Sopronia's covert recruitment into the academy, and she is drawn into a world of deceit and finery where she must learn how to conduct operations while practicing good etiquette at the same time, and so begin her misadventures.

The narrative style was rather youthful, younger than I expected given the cover and the age of the narrator. Given that Sophronia is fourteen years old and living in a historical world, I expected her to be more mature. In ways, she is. She uses large words and is very observant of the world. However, her way of talking and behavior reminds me of those of characters in middle-grade books that I've read. It was surprising, but I did grow to love Sophronia's youthful mannerisms as much as I love her as a person. Sophronia is a delight, and she's constantly getting into mishaps. She almost reminds of a young Anne of Green Gables, except that Sophronia often breaks the rules intentionally while Anne doesn't mean to do wrong.

I like how the world building is done so in such a matter of fact manner. Vampires, werewolves, and flywaymen are brought up like you would in passing conversation. They're just there, a part of life. And while some may not be fond of them, they aren't the persecuted minority either. They're treated like real people. In fact, the finishing school has a vampire and a werewolf teaching.

The humor also has to be mentioned. It's what pulls everything together. Combined with the youthful voice and matter of fact way of telling the story, it makes this book what it is. It also lets some of the characters get away with being the cliched, vapid people that they are. (Though there are the exceptions, like Soap and Vieve, two side characters that I really like and expect to see more of in book two.)

On the whole, this is a a quick, enjoyable read that I recommend to those looking for a humorous summer read with some action and adventure.

  1. Etiquette & Espionage
  2. Curtsies & Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats & Weaponry
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7 comments on "Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger"
  1. Great review! I have read good reviews about this book. It is funny they have werewolf and vampire teaching. ;)

  2. Thanks, Cali! It's fun to watch them teaching, lol. They don't have the same sensibilities as the female teachers, though they do have their own interestings quirks.

  3. Hmm, I started this book a while ago but couldn't really get into it. Her voice really was a little offputting but your review makes it sound like I should've trucked through it.

    I did like how they had a werewolf and vampire teaching, though. Hilarious!

    Maybe I'll give this another shot. Lovely review, Kris.

    1. I almost gave up, but I'm glad that I continued reading. I ended up really liking this novel. Maybe you will too :) Thanks for stopping by, Julie!

  4. I can't wait to read this book because I always tend to like books that have this same storyline going on. I also like that the story is a little younger because I have been wanting to read more middle grade stories lately and this seems to fit.

    Thanks for the great review, so glad you liked the story. :)

    1. Middle-grade reads are always fun. I think you'll enjoy this one. Thanks for stopping by, Alexa!

  5. I thought the writing style for this was a bit on the young side too to my surprise. Still a really fun read and I'm eager for the sequel!


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