April 22, 2013

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: February 5th, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 307
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★ 
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.
Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger's legions of fans have come to adore.
[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Sophronia is your average, vaguely rebellious teen. She makes lots of trouble for her mother until she's sent off to a finishing school. But this isn't your average finishing school. It's a finishing school for future assassins. An unconventional Finishing School, if you will (you like that pun, don't you?). As the first book in a series, Etiquette & Espionage introduces Sophronia to a Steampunk world filled with exactly what the title suggests: etiquette and espionage.

Let's break this down:

Okay. This book was great because it totally provides some exciting additional STUFF to Gail Carriger's adult Parasol Protectorate series (of which I've read the first 3 books - all 3 of which I ADORED). But it's great for a whole bunch of other reasons as well.

First of all, HEY NOW BOARDING SCHOOL. I love boarding school stories. It gives the characters so much room to flourish away from their parents. Sure, there are teachers and holidays and whatever, but there's something about a quirky bunch of kids who are mostly left to their own devices that really makes for an awesome book. And since this book mostly takes place on a dirigible, I'd say the level of hijinks and such that students are able to get into are tripled. I mean, just Sophronia's discovery of the Sooties was enough to provide me immense joy.

Then there's Sophronia, who's a stubborn, exciting protagonist. And I think now is a good time to say that this book really does remind me of Harry Potter just a little bit. I mean, there's the school itself: an out of the ordinary boarding school with a building/location that can't QUITE be pinpointed - yeah, Hogwarts. But it's more than all that. Sophronia reminds me a lot of Harry himself because she really is brought into a world she had no idea existed. She wasn't one of the girls who was picked up because she was a legacy. She was brought in and introduced to this brand new world she had no idea existed. Furthermore, she's not like the other girls. She hangs out with Sooties, adopts an illegal mechanimal and is overly curious. She's super nice, doesn't have an agenda and REALLY wants to know what the heck is going on at this school.

But y'know what? I don't think we ever really find out what's going on at this school. That's where a lot of my issues with this book come from. At the end of it all we kind of find out how Sophronia got to the school, but I still don't really understand the structure of the institution. Also, how LONG is Sophronia in this school? Hogwarts is explained fairly quickly so the reader AND Harry can (sorta?) know what's going on, but Sophronia just runs around getting into trouble because... what? Why is she potentially endangering herself for a school that kind of kidnapped her?

This confusion didn't make me dislike the book, however. Maybe it's because I'm a lover of the adult series. I really, really enjoyed Vieve, Sidheag and Captain Niall's backstories. Like whoa, I was so happy every time their names appeared on the page. I also LOVE Gail Carriger's Steampunk world and this expansion of it made me SO VERY happy. I think I'm intrigued with this Finishing School idea. To be honest, I was definitely way more excited at the end of the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series, but I'm still interested in finding out where this goes.

The long and short of it?

Plot: The idea of a literal finishing school is PRETTY FREAKING COOL. Especially when it's made up of girls in Victorian style dresses who have to combat the supernatural element.
World Building: A little iffy. I'm not totally sure what's going on at this school but I'm interested in finding out.
Character Development: Sophronia really does seem to grow into a lady, but not a stuck up lady very much unlike the girl she was at the start of the book. She's just more of a refined lady who still sticks up for the little guy and does things HER OWN WAY. And then, of course, there are the characters from the Parasol Protectorate series that pop up and I LOVE learning more about them.
Prose: Prim and proper, just like the Victorian era, I suppose.
Would I Recommend This Book?: I can't tell if my interest and like for this series comes from my interest and LOVE of the Parasol Protectorate series or otherwise. I think I'd recommend the adult series and if you like that, go back and read the Finishing School series.

Do you like Steampunk? How about boarding schools? Gail Carriger? Werewolves? Vampires? Ghosts? OH MY INDEED. Let me know what you guys thought about this one in the comments below!


  1. Wait... the school is a dirigible? Holy crap that just made this book shoot up on my TBR list! I haven't heard of the Parasol Protectorate series, but now I'm interested in both!!!

  2. This one sounds so interesting! I keep thinking I may want to read it, but that I'd love to read the PP series first, because that sounds right up my alley. I think it's awesome that the MC in this one grows over the course of the book though. That's rad!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    1. DEFINITELY read PP and LET ME KNOW what you think!!!

  3. It's now on my TBR list simply because it's steampunk, and Victorian. Is the other series you mentioned, Parasol Protectorate, also steampunk-ish? It sounds like it from the goodreads description and if it's in the same universe as this one. Well, they are both on my TBR now :)

    1. YES! Also Steampunk. It's the same universe! I hope you get to all of it and love it!!

  4. I have heard about this book and her other series, and I'm curious about both! I don't normally read that kind of book, but I'll admit to being very, very curious indeed. Based on your review, I may have to pick it up because ANY reference/comparison to Harry Potter just makes me perk up immediately.

    1. RIGHT!? It's not as mysterious as Potter is. But the setting's really fun and I think, with time, the series will get better. But definitely read the adult series first!

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