Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1), by Gail Carriger is set in the same universe as Carriger's fabulous adult steampunk series, the Parasol Protectorate. However, this series is aimed at young adults, and is set twenty-five years earlier. This makes for very interesting reading for fans of the Parasol Protectorate series, because there are a few familiar names, and it is very interesting seeing their younger selves (namely Sidhaeg, Lord Conall Maccon's great-great-great (I forget how many greats) granddaughter, who features for the first time in Book 2 of the Parasol Protectorate.
Aside from having a vested interest in this new series due to my complete and obsessive love for Carriger's Parasol Protectorate, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy Etiquette and Espionage. Firstly, while it is very apparent from the tone and voice that this is the same author's work, Carriger has done a fantastic job of giving it the feel of a young adult novel, as opposed to simply making the characters young, like many traditionally adult fiction authors can make the mistake of doing. The series' protagonist, Sophronia, is obviously younger, and less self-assured than Alexia, but she has such a teenage attitude that it made me laugh out loud in quite a few places. Overall this book is a lot funnier. There are some great antics and Sophronia is so (usually unintentionally) mischievous, that she makes a very likable character. Another character who is quite spectacular is Vieve, (who is also a prominent character in the Parasol Protectorate series, but won't spoil it) so be sure to be on the look out for that one too!
The plot itself is quite fast paced, and not overly complex, but it is filled with an array of fantastic inventions, littered with a gorgeous steampunk setting that only Carriger can pull off, and is somewhat reminiscent of Dianne Wynne-Jones' Howls Moving Castle (not just because of the floating school, but because of the whole feel to it).
Overall, I loved it. It's fun, beautifully written and I can't wait for number two!
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 the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.
Will be published February 2013.
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