November 18, 2013

Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC from BEA
First Reaction: The usual proper, steampunk-y cuteness but lacking the patented Gail Carriger punch I've come to crave.
Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to bestselling author Gail Carriger's YA debut Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


Sophronia is back and ready for action. Monique is still up to no good and the girls are all up to something, but more importantly there's a much larger conspiracy on the horizon. Of course, Sophronia finds herself smack dab in the middle of said conspiracy. And she has to deal with the usual shenanigans that go on when one goes to an espionage finishing school.

I Liked:
  • The Cuteness: The Finishing School series is a very, very cute one. That might seem like a weird way to put it, but it just strikes me as adorable. It's also very fun - in a slightly campy way. But that's my favorite kind of fun. I like when things are exaggerated and dramatized like that. It gives me something to hold onto. But yeah, in general, this is one of those books that makes you smile with it's sense of propriety mixed with the supernatural creatures roaming around. (Or makes me smile. Because I love campy things and I also love Steampunk things.)
  • The Protagonist: Sophronia is clever and fun to follow. I especially love when she admits to being confused about all of the things she's manipulating. Because it is a lot for one girl to do. I also love how frustrated she is over the romance aspect of the book. This series starts on the younger side, but you can tell that the content is going to age with Sophronia. The other thing that makes Sophronia so entertaining is that she's very proper but pushes the envelope a bit. Like, she is in finishing school and wants to be a lady, but she's also trying to change things, which I like. 
  • The Love Interest(s): I have a thing for Felix. Probably because his name is Felix. And because he antagonizes Sophronia so much. But, as much as I like Felix, I love Soap. It's a really interesting situation because Sophronia is a lady and Soap is a sootie. I'm really interested and excited to see how this relationship plays out. Because there's something there and I know Gail Carriger won't shy away from that. 
I Disliked:
  • The Supporting Cast: Okay, that's not true. I really love Dimity, Agatha, Sidheag and Pillover. I do. But I do feel like maybe they're a bit too obedient to Sophronia? I mean, they're in espionage finishing school/evil genius school, too. I'd like to see maybe a little more initiative? Or more collaboration? They all just look to Sophronia and I'm just like: "HOW CAN THIS TEENAGER HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS?" It's a little too perfect and annoys me just a touch.
  • Plot Problems: I think my big problem with this installment of The Finishing School series is I didn't understand why I should care about all of this. Yes, Dimity and Pillover were kidnapped but that didn't seem all that dire. I didn't understand what was going in with that valve and the Picklemen and the Vampires. And how do the werewolves fit in? I understood what went on with Vieve, but that's about it. Why does any of the rest of the stuff matter? And I don't quite understand this aether stuff. I just don't get the larger story arc here. What's all of this leading up to?
Neutral Comments:
  • Sidheag: I actually kinda wish this story was about Sidheag, since she's in the adult series. But maybe Sophronia is in the adult series (or influences the adult story in some way) but we just don't know it yet? But mostly I really like seeing Sidheag in the early days. So. more of that please? (Yeah, this is me just being a whiny-pants.)
The long and short of it?

Plot: Some of this book was filler. Or maybe too much character description where I could have used more plot explanation. But it was still a fun installment of a series I'm going to continue.
World Building: I get that there's something going on with this valve but I don't totally understand the major world building points.
Character Development: Sophronia and all of her friends remain fantastic. Totally growing into their own. (Even if growing into their own means being a bit too obedient.)
Prose: The usual proper romp through Steampunk Victorian England. Loved every word.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This series is an obvious must for Gail Carriger lovers (AKA why I picked it up myself!). I'd also recommend this one for Steampunk and Paranormal lovers. As for how to read Gail Carriger's books: if you're a bit older, start with The Parasol Protectorate series (Adult Paranormal Romance) and then get started on The Finishing School set. But if you're a bit younger (or buying a gift for someone a bit younger), definitely start with The Finishing School series. They all fit nicely together and the familar characters are fun, but The Parasol Protectorate is... kinda steamy. So. Exercise caution.

Does my recommendation make sense? Are you going to start with The Parasol Protectorate or The Finishing School series? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!