Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

This is the first book in Gail Carrigers new series named Finishing School. It is set in the same Victorian, steampunky (is that word?) universe as her Parasol Protectorate series but 25 years before the adventures of Alexia.

This time the main character is a 14-year old girl named Sophronia. Sophronia is inroled in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Her mother, Mrs Temminick, is desperate for her youngest daughter to become a proper Lady and not embarrass the family. Little does she, or Sophronia for that matter, know that Mademoiselle Geraldine´s is not your average finishing school. Along with teaching young ladies the art of dancing, dressing and etiquette they are also taught the fine arts of death, deceit, espionage, diversion and how to battle with knifes and other handy weapons.

The school itself is floating above the moor. It is described as “…three dirigibles mashed together to form on long chain of oblong, inflated balloons….At the back a colossal set of propellors churned slowly, and above them billowed a massive sail – probably more for guidance than propulsion.”  

I had to look up what a dirigible was and it´s just an old fashioned word for airship.

Skärmavbild 2013-01-21 kl. 23.55.19

The school, as well as the rest of this little universe, is filled with other steampunky (there´s that word again) things such as maid mechanicals (mechanical maids) and mechanimals (mechanical pets that blow steam out of their you know what). Pictures of what one of those can look like can be found here. Although there are vampires and werewolves they are not as present as in the Parasol Protectorate stories.

Ever since the telegraph has failed, stymied by the aether currents, scientists have been working on building a new way to communicate over long distance. The Royal Society in London has come up with a new prototype but it goes missing on the same journey that takes Sophronia from her home to the school. Even before Sophronia has even come to the school things are happening. Her transport is attacked by flywaymen (men who fly away?), the teacher who came to collect her turns out not to be a teacher at all but a conniving student (who is involved in some shady business involving the prototype). I never fully understood this student. What her motives were and why she hated Sophronia from the very start.

As I mentioned before this book is set in the same universe as Gails previous books. And if you´ve read them you will probably recognize the characters. Sophronia could be a younger version of Alexia, they had the same fire and spunk in them. And Sophronias friend Dimity could herself very well be a younger version of Alexias friend Ivy.

This book is being marketed as YA which made me wonder about the ongoing discussion about what ya-books are and what defines them. I´m assuming that in this case it´s a ya-book because the protagonist is a teenager. Plus, they are slightly more “innocent”. It´s almost like the author removed the shmexy times from the Parasol Protectorate series and what was left was this story. Despite that, and I may be contradicting mysef, this book doesn´t feel like a ya-book but as I´m writing this I can´t exactly put my finger on why.

As a fan of Gails previous work I can say that I did enjoy it. I like her style of writing, the ease and whit was very entertaining. I found myself smiling while reading and enjoying the characters very much. In other words, a good fun story which will undoubtedly satisfy old fans of the author and probably gain her some new ones.

The next book in the Finishing School series is being published in the fall of 2013 and is titled Curtsies & Conspiracies.

I read this book as an advance copy given through http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/ 

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