Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: YA Steampunk
Release Date: February 5th 2013
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.
I have heard a lot of buzz about the steampunk genre being a great and popular one but I haven’t read a book from this genre until now. I already love anything that has to do with the Victorian era and combining it with awesome steampunk technology doubled the awesomeness of this book!
Sophronia is regarded as a walking disaster in their house. Her mumsy always says that she brings nothing but trouble to their house. She’s been told more often than she could count that she’s not so lady-like. So her mother did what any mother in her situation would do, she sent Sophronia to a finishing school. But Madame Geraldine’s finishing school is unlike any other. Not only does it teach etiquette but also espionage.
Sophronia is my kind of girl, she’s fiesty and free-spirited. I always think that the ladies from the Victorian era are too shy, too mild-mannered for my liking. But here is Sophronia who’s not the least bit afraid to ride a horse astride. She is one intelligent young lady, too. She surely is great at espionage and climbing ladders. Definitely not the kind of characteristics you’d find in a typical young lady but Sphronia is not just any typical young lady.
“The bowl landed, in glorious perfection, atop the head of Mrs Barnaclegoose, who was not the kind of woman to appreciate the finer points of being crowned by trifle.”
The book is marketed as a young adult book but for me, the “atmosphere” of the book is rather like that of a middle grade book. I am not saying it’s a bad thing. It was just that when I read it I found Carriger’s writing to be aimed at a younger reader demographic. I have read YA books told in the perspective of fourteen-year-olds before and they didn’t seem too juvenile for me. It was only in Etiquette and Espionage that I felt like Sophronia was younger than fourteen.
In novels set in the Victorian era we see women treated unjustly, like they are only things that you can own, like a decoration in your arms but in Etiquette and Espionage they are portrayed as femme fatales armed with the most dangerous of weapons– parasols, perfumes, reticules, and handkercheif in their décolletage.
“It’s no good choosing your first husband from a school for evil geniuses. Much too difficult to kill.”
Despite initially thinking that this book is “too juvenile”, reading Etiquette and Espionage was very enjoyable for me. Sophronia is my kind of heroine, she’s a troublemaker but I like reading about her antics and excusions to the boiler rooms. She has an intelligent head between her shoulders, I am confident that girl will become a great spy. I cannot wait to read more on Sophronia’s adventures in the next book in the series.