I was granted an ARC of this book via NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.
This book is currently available at your local bookseller.
I am a noted enjoyer of books that Gail Carriger writes. I read all of her Parasol Protectorate books for CBR IV way back in 2012. While I felt the series eventually ran out of steam and books four and five should’ve been one book with extraneous story removed, it was a respectable series and a nice entry point for me for some Steampunky reading.
Fast forward and Ms. Carriger is continuing to write in the world of Parasol Protectorate, an alternate Steampunk and fantasy reality were werewolves and vampires are a thing and technology is more advanced. The Finishing School series serves as a prequel of sorts to the Parasol Protectorate books and the upcoming The Custard Protocol books which are set in the same universe a generation after the Parasol Protectorate books.
Etiquette & Espionage is the first in a series of four books surrounding Sophronia Temminick, and I don’t know if I’ll keep reading them, but I have a feeling I’ll pick them up whenever I feel like I need a bit of whimsy and an easily solvable mystery. Here’s the description from Goodreads:
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.
The main reason that this book received a three star rating instead of two and a half is that Ms. Carriger knows how to write a funny protagonist who does not rely on making fun of others to be amusing. This is a perfectly serviceable Steampunk infused mystery, and clearly aimed at a YA audience. Unfortunately it lacks the nuance of Carriger’s previous work, which in and of itself is irritating and I fear a result of her deciding to write for the YA crowd. There were things to be enjoyed as well – the best parts of this book were seeing characters you know from the Parasol Protectorate books (Genevieve LeFoux! Lady Sighead Maccon!) And the weakest parts are the unwieldy names (Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott) and distorted timelines (some of the technology available in these prequels does not match what I remember from the Parasol Protectorate books, but that could just be my faulty memory). The pacing was a bit off throughout; it took a long time, probably forty percent of the book, to really get to the heart of the plot. Correspondingly, the book wrapped up too quickly. We have the big moment where the various sides come together and its over in ten pages. Not my favorite Carriger, I would suggest Soulless or Blameless instead.