Book Club Pick: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

10874177Summary (from goodreads.com):

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.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.

The Feathery Revenge

Review: I completely fell in love with this book. Espionage & Etiquette is a fantastic selection for new readers and for fans of the Soulless series. With no prior reading necessary, first-time readers are easily welcomed to a blossoming steampunk Britain peppered with supernatural creatures. For Soulless fans, inventions and characters like the Lefouxes, Sidheag Maccon, and Monique de Pelouse are delightfully featured.

Sophronia is spirited, smart, and insatiably curious. The book’s supporting cast charm too. Dimity is Sophronia’s chatty, socially-graced best-friend. Smart, thoughtful, well-liked, steamhand Soap serves the dual roles of new friend and potential love-interest. Frankly, I was ecstatic to encounter a YA where the romance is set up to develop over time and not be all about the insta-love and angst.

Just when I thought I knew enough about Carriger’s universe, I was delightfully surprised. Immersive and original locations like Madame Geraldine’s, the Sootie decks, and Bunson’s boy’s school for evil geniuses provide stellar on- and off-ship adventure and suggest plenty of new and brilliant places awaiting depiction and discovery.

The story moves at a fairly brisk pace and once Sophronia leaves for finishing, the book becomes extremely difficult to put down. A marvelous balance is struck between establishing and exploring character relationships and action-plot advancement. Mentions of nobleman mobsters called Picklemen and the Westminster vampire hive excellently sets up conspiracies for future books.

A series total of 4 books makes this an approachable series for those weary of committing to an exhaustive set of installments. Espionage also works well as a standalone without any huge cliffhangers or loose ends.

I’d definitely recommend this book for fans of steampunk adventure, intrigue, and Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. If the next books are as exciting as this one, the rest of the series cannot arrive fast enough. Besides, I desperately need to know what the red lace handkerchief and lemon are for.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Quiet Like a Ninja

Review:  This one starts of with a bang.  Sophronia’s natural curiosity and tom-boyishness serve her well in this finishing school for spies.  School girl rivalries and friendships are entertaining.  Some of the supporting cast members will be recognizable to fans of the Parasol Protectorate series, but knowledge of those books isn’t necessary.  Overall, the book is cute.  The premise is promising and the idea of a spy school for girls that may or may not be evil is appealing.  There are plenty of unanswered questions for subsequent books to explore.  And I guess that’s where my problems with the book begin.  I enjoyed the book while it was setting up the world, but when it stops doing that cracks begin to show in the pacing.  I wanted to know more about her classes and what she was studying that just watch her sneak out at night.  The ending is wrapped up quickly without answering many questions.  the plot points just sort of get tied together and the last few pages feel rushed.  Like they were tacked on because there needs to be some sort of pause point between books, but there’s a sense that nothing has really been solved.  To me it felt more like the end of a chapter rather than a book.  The plot is fairly predictable and you can see where Carriger is laying the groundwork for future books.  I just wish there had been a little less groundwork laid and a little more attention paid to the main plot of this book.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book when I was reading it.  But the ending killed it for me and I went from Ooo exciting! to meh.  I liked it enough to read the next in the series, but I won’t be breaking down my local bookstore’s doors to get it.

Rating: 2/5

The Royal We

Review: I’m deeply, deeply fond of the Parasol Protectorate series, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about Etiquette & Espionage. There were lots of things to like: Bumbersnoot the mechanical dachshund, the name “Lord Dingleproops,” the precocious Sophronia, tiny Genevieve, phenomenal worldbuilding (don’t tell me you don’t want to go to secret assassin Victorian finishing school on an airship), the promise of finally getting the details on the Kingair pack’s attempted assassination of Queen Victoria. But the wonderful details and funny set pieces never really added up to anything. There wasn’t much of a plot, so the book kinda meandered up to an ending-like place and then stopped. Hopefully, the next book in the series will have a more defined plot and move us more towards the assassination. It will definitely be funny, though, and I will definitely be reading it.

Rating: 2.5/5

Combined Rating: 3.17/5

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