Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've never read a Steam Punk novel...I really liked it. The juxtaposition of an 1850s etiquette and finishing school with robots and technology surprisingly makes for a very good story. I liked the characters and the way they interacted with one another - Sophronia, the protagonist (of which I called Sophie throughout the entire book) is selected by a secret society for a covert operation...that her mother thinks is an upscale finishing school for young ladies. The plot was okay...I say okay because I'm not entirely sure what it was. It seems that the characters in the story were after a new "fangled" prototype that was going to make communication across the miles easier than the telegram. I assume the telephone, but it was never directly stated. But, with that said, it was intriguing enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. Well played Carriger.
There is just enough villains, vampires, and werewolves to keep a reader turning pages, and just enough romance to not be entirely cheeky. I didn't love the blatant "race" references in the book - I felt they were trite and could have been left out given the setting and time period. But then again, I may be at a place with all that's happening in the world that any and all references to race simply annoy the piss out of me - well, that wasn't very lady like...How would finishing school want me to phrase that? "I decline to comment or recognize inadequate references to pigments of one's skin..." - is that better?
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
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. Temminnick 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 the 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.
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