Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publication: February 5th, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Paranormal
Read: August 2016
It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.
Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
I love this author because her books are always so entertaining and action packed. There is never a dull moment to be had while reading. This one in particular was much simpler and not as driven as books from hers that I’ve read before. It had a much more introductory plot. Yet it was still interesting, fun and full of great steampunk elements. There’s no romance in this first book and going back into this world feels like coming home now, I love it.
Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
I’ve fallen in love with Carriger’s writing. It’s historically accurate but it manages to have sarcastic and funny undertones which makes these books hilarious. The writing style is quirky, cute and simple and medium paced. It’s imaginative, detailed and descriptive. The only thing that bothered me was that this one felt a lot younger than I was expecting it to sound.
Characters – 4 out of 5 stars
These characters are a lot younger than what I’m used to from this author but they still had the same flare that I’ve come to love from her casts. Sophronia is pretty cool. She’s really funny and witty. She’s very curious which manages to get her into trouble but also helps her a lot in her new environment. She’s smart and intuitive and she sees things as much more peculiar and suspect than those around her and she’s usually right. I loved her determination and adventurous spirit though she tended to be extremely stubborn and hardheaded at times as well. The side characters are so complex and interesting. They are all unique and quirky in their own way. I loved getting to know the new side characters and trying to guess how they’ll affect the story and the series in the end. But my favorite part when it comes to the characters is getting to see some of my favorites in their younger years. A few of the characters from the Parasol Protectorate series show up in this one as well though much younger and it was so great! It explains a lot as well as makes this story much more endearing to my eyes. I loved seeing their development and involvement in this series, it made me love it more.
I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Soulless but I still enjoyed it a whole lot and I laughed my butt off the whole time.
The plot is entertaining. We follow Sophronia, a fourteen year old girl whose Mother can’t seem to deal with so she is sent to a very particular finishing school, which not only teaches you how to flutter your eyelashes but also how to deal with interrogation. To be quite honest, this book didn’t have much of a plot. Most of this book was about world building and setting up what the series is going to be about. We are introduced to a lot of things including the school, it’s system, what it teaches and all the main and side characters in the first few chapters. I already knew what this world was all about thanks to the Parasol Protectorate series, so reading this book felt both like coming home or slipping on a worn pair of shoes and kind of annoying. However, this books is set years earlier so the world building was necessary since a lot of things are quite different. We also have a lot to learn about the school since it’s residence is very peculiar as well as what they teach there which is basically espionage with a side of self-defense. I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever heard of and I kind of want to go there myself. This book featured a small adventure which was really entertaining and interesting and got the main characters working together. I also feel like it set up a lot of what will most likely happen in the rest of the series like who the potential villains are and what the driving force behind the series plot line is. There were a lot of lulls and slow sections in this book which bothered me a little bit since I am used to Carriger’s books being full of non-stop action and suspense. But considering that her other series is adult and this one is YA, I can see why she would’ve wanted to scale down the action a bit in this first book and to make sure that the world was easily understood for first time readers. Yet I hope the next books have more developed individual plots.
Sophronia is freaking awesome. She’s the kind of protagonist that Carriger always has. She’s spunky, opinionated and witty. She’s naturally curious and she always manages to get herself in peculiar situations. She’s rambunctious to the horror of her teachers but she’s also incredibly smart and she picks up on a lot of things that other people don’t. But she’s also really young so sometimes her narration felt immature and childish, specially the things she chooses to complain about. Yet it makes a lot of sense to me considering she’s 14 and in a totally new situation and place for the first time in her life. I have high hopes for her though. She’s definitely going to be a contender for favorite character I think.
I love the side characters in this series! Both the new ones that are introduced as well as the ones from the previous series which we get to see in their younger years. Vivie is one of those old faces but it was so much fun to see her so young! I didn’t expect her to be the way she was but I’m super glad to know that the author kept her quirks and interests exactly the same as they are when she is older. It makes her actions in that series a lot more clear specially looking back at how she grew up and how she spent her time. There was also Sidheag who is just as fierce and independent as she is as her adult self. I loved getting to see more of her upbringing and how she became the person that she is. Dimity is so sweet! She’s so kind but also a bit superficial. I love the matter of fact way that she talks and her relationship with her brother is hilarious. I hope to see her develop more in later books. And last but not least, hands down, my favorite new character is Soap. His appearance was an unexpected one but I loved his personality and the way he carries himself. He’s hilarious and he balances out Sophronia’s character really well.
Overall, I had a great time reading this book. It’s fun and entertaining with some actions. It took me back to one of my favorite Steampunk worlds and introduced me to a lot more of it than I knew there was. I loved the main character though she was a little younger than I expected. The new side characters were really interesting and complex, each with their own unique personality but I loved getting to see some of my favorites as their younger selves more than anything. I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.
So that’s it for this review! I’m sorry if it’s not up to par with the level I usually review at. I’ve been working on this all week and I really wanted to share it earlier today, but I’ve spent all day working on it (more liking getting distracted from working on it) so it’s not my best work. But look at for better and more comprehensive reviews of the rest of the series this month! Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!