Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series Name: Finishing School
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Category: Young Adult, Steampunk
Author Website: http://www.gailcarriger.com
About this series:
If you are a fan of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series then you should enjoy her new Finishing School series as well. Set in the same steampunk world, Carriger leaves behind the grownups and takes on the challenge of not only writing a good mystery but also writing a good young adult series. I think you’ll find she is successful at both endeavors.
About this book:
Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in the new Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger. The heroine of this series is a precocious young girl, Sophronia Temminnick, who has according to her mother has an unnatural propensity for climbing. Much to Sophronia’s dismay the local busybody whispers in her mother’s ear over tea one day and before Sophronia can even voice a complaint she is whisked off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies. Not to be returned until she has been turned into said lady.
But before Sophronia even reaches the academy the adventure begins and we immediately see that Sophronia’s potential includes much more than climbing. She has a quick wit and is calm under stress. All things that will serve her well at the academy which turns out to be creating ladies with a propensity for espionage.
I have to admit that I was a little concerned in the first few chapters of this book. The description of the Finishing Academy with its unique “campus” and eclectic faculty reminded me just a little too much of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. There is one quick description of Sister Mathilde Herschel-Teape which immediately brought to mind Harry Potter’s Divination professior, Sybill Trelawney, whose room was described as something like the combination of an attic and an old-fashioned tea shop. Plus I think the sooties are only a half step away from the house-elves’ life of slavery. (I’m interested to see how Soap matures and his education increases as Sophronia’s does.)
That being said I think Carriger is able to break out of that Harry Potter roadmap with a highly energetic and creative story. While there are paranormal mentions of vampires and werewolves in this series, the book is much more focused on the steampunk mechanicals. I think mothers will be happy having their daughters read this series. The girls are still girls but they are also individuals. They learn respect for their differences instead of bullying we hear so much in the media today. Boys are of interest but still mostly more as friends then any romantic nuance so mothers don’t have to worry that this series is too mature for their young teenage daughters. But I think the adventure of the story is captivating enough that it certainly kept this adult woman engaged. I hope that this series is a creative way to encourage girls to learn more about math and science. I think steampunk in general is a great way to get our children thinking outside the box and inspire the next generation of inventors.
Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series:
Book #1: Soulless
Published: October 1, 2009
I discover a wonderful new author, Gail Carriger, who has a witty command of the English language, masterful control of sensual tension, and an imaginative mind for inventions and their names. In Victorian England where the supernatural has come out of hiding, Alexia Tarabotti, is still so unique that her existence is kept quiet from all but a few “in the know.” She is soulless; while touching a supernatural she steals their soul so they become human. Her kind is feared by most of the non-human kind except for Lord Maccon, a Scottish werewolf, who discovers that whenever Alexia is around his life becomes increasingly more difficult. Could it be any mystery that these two would be attracted to each other?
Book #2: Changeless
Published: April 1, 2010
This second book takes Alexia to Scotland and we learn a lot more about steampunk dirigibles and Victorian manners. We get into the particulars of how a soulless female and werewolf coexist and the complications that come with their life together.
Book #3: Blameless
Published: September 1, 2010
Having once survived an invasion of Japanese Ladybugs myself, I found this book particularly funny and insightful. I truly enjoy a book that does not plan on readers being stupid and includes a serious topics (like having a soul) but in a completely non-judgmental way. I honestly believe with the vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, a soulless person this series has to inspire some lively conversation at your next book club meeting.
Book #4: Heartless
Published: July 1, 2011
Each of these books is better than the last. All are filled with steampunk gadgetry, beautiful British language, and a wild adventure with the Werewolves, Vampires, and ghosts that make up Lady Macon’s world. Lady Macon is a combination of the logical Dr. Spock from “Star Trek” and a young, spirited sleuth Jessica Fletcher from “Murder, She Wrote.” While you would expect someone who is soulless to be heartless, Lady Macon somehow uses logic as an expression of love and friendship.
Book #5: Timeless
Published: March 1, 2012
It’s so hard to say good-bye to these books and these characters Carriger has introduced us to in this series. Alexia Tarabotti may be soulless but she has won my heart. I don’t want to give anything away. Just read the book and enjoy.
Other books of interest:
The Steampunk Gazette by Major Tinker
Published: September 1, 2013
This guide that chronicles the story of Steampunk, which started in the 1980s as a pop culture movement inspired by the early science fiction that came out of the Victorian era.