Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger is the first novel in the Finishing School steampunk series, and it is Carriger’s first novel for young adults. Summary Sophronia Temminnick often finds herself sneaking around dumbwaiters and eavesdropping on parlor conversations. When she is sent to finishing school, she’s convinced it’s punishment for her unladylike behaviors and mischievous ways. […]
Sophronia Temminnick often finds herself sneaking around dumbwaiters and eavesdropping on parlor conversations. When she is sent to finishing school, she’s convinced it’s punishment for her unladylike behaviors and mischievous ways. However, she quickly learns that there’s more than one type of “finishing” to be taught at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Between lessons on curtsies, table etiquette, and high fashion, these girls are taught deadly skills of administering poison and outwitting potential assassins. In Sophronia’s first semester aboard the school, she learns her strengths and weaknesses in finishing (those darn curtsies!) and puts them all to the test: a mysterious prototype has been hidden by one of the school’s older students, possibly putting the whole airship at risk.
An admission: Etiquette and Espionage was my first steampunk novel. I had an idea of what steampunk is (I am, after all, a savvy librarian), but I failed to realized WHY this genre is so magical. The combination of a historical time period with fantastical technological machines is endlessly fascinating. The imagery of mechanical maids, flying contraptions, and hand-held gadgets aided in world-building rivaling that of fantasy or dystopia.
Though the writing is jarring at first, I quickly got used to Carriger’s style and embraced it. It’s a little more sophisticated than a typical YA novel. Gail Carriger’s prose is filled with glorious wit and whimsy, the perfect tone for YA steampunk. However, the plot is just plain fun. Sophronia has espionage in her bones, so there is much Harry Potter-esque sneaking around and getting into trouble. A diverse group of secondary characters, such as the tomboyish Genevieve LeFoux and the uber-charming Soap, only add to the fun. Yes, the names sound kind of funny and kind of weird at first. The whole book is kind of funny and kind of weird at first. But if Soap doesn’t charm your socks off, you’ve probably got a cold pebble of a heart.
If that’s not enough, here are the three best things about Etiquette and Espionage:
- Sophronia. She’s sassy, brave, and curious.
- The world-building. Set in 1850’s England, this alternate-history story inherits its world from Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. Haven’t read that series? No fear! There’s enough detail and description to catch newbies up to speed.
- Oh, and there’s a little steam powered, mechanical dog that Sophronia keeps as a pet. He’s adorable. His name is Bumbersnoot, and he’s inspired some awesome fan art.
It should probably be clear by now that I highly recommend this book. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. Etiquette and Espionage is a perfect introduction to steampunk and a good pick for fans of Harry Potter. If you’ve read it, let us know what you think in the comments! Want to read it? Let us know that, too!