Day 70: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Summary From Goodreads:
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. Temminick 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 they 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.
There are many words that can be used to describe Etiquette & Espionage. Fabulous. Odd. Hilarious. I don’t know that any combination will adequately describe the book, but I’ll give it a go since reviews are apparently my thing now.
The main reason Etiquette & Espionage is so hard to accurately describe is because it encompasses so many genres. There is the fantastic elements such as werewolves and vampires, both of which are readily accepted by a large portion of society, go figure. Then there are the steampunk elements which go from mechanimals (exactly what they sound like) to floating schools seemingly made out of three dirigibles melded together, to descriptions of machines themselves. There is the urban setting, it is a school after all, even a floating one counts. Oh and the matter of it being in the 1800’s and thus having grand balls, horse-drawn carriages and of course the way of speaking that seems to fit the time. Add that all together and you can see why it is a bit hard to summarize all that Etiquette & Espionage holds in simple terms.
What’s so amazing, or at least in part, about the book is that it combines all of the aforementioned genres seamlessly. The vampires and werewolves? They fit right in with the school setting. The descriptions of different mechanical workings? Doesn’t clash with lessons on a proper curtsy or what size of handkerchief is possible to hide in a given…well, bosom. Even the manner of speech manages to fit in seamlessly with all of the fantastical goings on.
My personal favorite incorporation was the humor. Carriger not only uses standard forms of humor, but with the etiquette involved some specific situations that most books would be unable to take advantage of are used masterfully. Also names, just hilarious and no doubt for the author’s benefit as much as it was for the reader. My favorites were Lord Dingleproops, Mrs. Barnaclegoose and Bumbersnoot. I’m sorry but if you didn’t at least emit a giggle reading those you need to work on your sense of humor!
The characters were excellent too. The main character, Sophronia, is brilliant, funny, and though the school does make her more feminine as it is designed to do, she retains much of her tomboyish qualities as well as her adventurous & reckless tendencies which is always nice to see with a female MC every now and then. She’s pretty but it doesn’t make her act superior, loyal to those she cares about (unless faced with an incoming werewolf) and I can’t wait to see how her character develops. The supporting cast of friends, teachers and even enemies are all done very well. I honestly can’t think of a character I thought was poorly done which is pretty amazing.
Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in a four part series, and I’m definitely looking forward to book two, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which is expected to be released in November of this year. There wasn’t a cliffhanger ending (thank you Gail!) but that hasn’t made my longing any less. There is plenty more “education” left to be had, rules to be broken and hilarity to ensue. I’d recommend this book to anyone, especially since there seems to be a bit about it to appease a fan of any genre type. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 71!