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Etiquette & Espionageby Gail Carriger
Publication: Brown and Company, Hachette Little on February 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult
Better World Books • 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.
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince first hearing about Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Proctorate, I’ve wanted to get to know this world she had created–a world that blended steampunk-y Victorian England with fantastical elements like vampires and werewolves. I mean, what’s not to love? Naturally, when I had the opportunity to read and review the first novel in her spin-off series for young adults, I jumped at the chance.
Sophronia is stubborn, unladylike, and doggedly determined to be her own person. I liked her right off. The other characters in the book are endearing and likable (or the ones that are supposed to be endearing and likable, anyway), and I loved the unabashedly ridiculous names.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much reading this reminded me of reading the early Harry Potter books. Not in the sense that they’re really comparable, but it was a familiar feeling–a group of young friends on a mission to keep an object of importance out of the wrong hands, getting into all kinds of trouble along the way? Yep. Definitely familiar.
Admittedly, this book did take me quite a while to work through, even though I really, really wanted to like it from the beginning. The world the author has created is fascinating, definitely, but it took me until past the halfway point to really get into this book. The plot (or lack thereof) slogged along, and in honesty, it felt like 85% world-building and 15% story.
All in all, I feel as though I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read The Parasol Proctorate books first. That’s not to say I’m done with the series, though; all I’m implying is that I’m reserving final judgment until I’ve finished at least the next two books (and, you know, maybe the adult novels).
The characters are charming and witty, and I’m intrigued by the world Carriger has created. I think it’s safe to say that in spite of the book’s shortcomings, I’m looking forward to hearing what Sophronia, Dimity, Soap, and the others are up to next.