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.
Etiquette and Espionage is the first installment of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Series. The young adult novel documents the adventures of fourteen year old Sophronia Temmerick during her first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. The story is set in Carriger’s Steampunk Victorian England, and the young heroine is charged with learning the finer art of societal formalities while honing her skills in espionage.
Sophronia’s attempts to transform from the unrestrained tom-boy into a deadly lady were entertaining, as were the unique friends she makes along the way. The aviatrix in me adored the scenes involving the flying school and other dirigibles, and I found myself wishing I could join Sophronia on her nightly excursions bellow decks. This book is fun and would be a great addition to any young girl’s bookshelf (Boys too I guess; I’m not discriminating but I figure most boys would be bored with all descriptions of ribbons and petticoats.) Sophronia is spunky and driven; I can not wait to read about her future years at the school and see how Sophronia fares after she finishes.
Etiquette and Espionage is a typical young adult novel in that the teenage characters are flighty and awkward, exactly like most teenagers. But, I was a little disappointed with the lady ‘instructors.’ They were just as flighty and awkward as the students and they lacked the depth necessary for their quirks to be enduring. The etiquette lessons do get a little repetitive and rather droll as the story progressed; I think this is why most reviewers cite Etiquette and Espionage for lacking plot. Just remember to focus on Sophronia’s back for trouble and the search for the missing prototype.
Definitely don’t let my comments deter you from reading Etiquette and Espionage because it was an enjoyable read. I love Carriger’s dry humor and Sophronia’s spunk and I picked up the second book in the series, Curtsies and Conspiracies, because of the unique world Carriger has created. And who doesn’t want their own mechanical dog? I’ll probably be reading her adult series, The Parasol Protectorate, to see if her plots are more developed. Let me know what you thought of Etiquette and Espionage!