Book Review

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

etiquette & espionage

In light of Gail Carriger’s release of Curtsies & Conspiracies yesterday, I re-read Etiquette & Espionage and wrote a nice little review to go with this blog. 

Number of pages: 307

Format: hardcover and paperback

Rating: for younger adults ages 14 and up

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Genre: young adult steampunk

Notes: Etiquette & Espionage is book one of the Finishing School series and serves as a predecessor to the Parasol Protectorate series

About the author: This is Gail Carriger’s first teen fiction series based on the steampunk genre


Welcome to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, where girls learn to finish everything.

Poor Sophronia is a bother to her mother, as she can no longer tolerate with her daughter’s troublesome manners. Mrs. Temininick has no choice but to enroll her daughter to Finishing School (much to Sophronia’s dismay) hoping that a proper education will help her become a lady. But as the 14-year-old girl arrives to the academy, she quickly realizes that Finishing School isn’t what she anticipated, an institution teaching young ladies to be spies (won’t momsy be surprised?) Sophronia adapts to her new surroundings and her education that includes poison, espionage, and deception (with politeness of course). But Sophronia is in for an interesting surprise in their first-year of education.

My thoughts:

After a horrifying incident involving a startled maid and an upside down trifle, Soprhonia is terrified at the idea of attending Finishing School as she will become a lady in training, learning how to eat tea sandwiches with pinkies in the air, dab with handkerchiefs, and hopefully (for her mother’s sake) improve on that appalling curtsy of hers. And so, after a short meeting of introductions with tea and cake, Sophronia is sent away to Mademoiselle’s Finishing Academy, escorted by Mademoiselle herself. But as she reaches her new school, Sophronia realizes that Mademoiselle’s academy isn’t what she thought it would be.

To the eyes of a grown-up, Sophronia is seen as an intolerable child with ill manners who enjoys climbing trees and breaking things apart. But to young girls at the Finishing Academy she proves to be an intelligencer of sorts, especially when it comes to using mechanics to her own advantage and sneaking late hours climbing over railings wearing petticoats. It is her uncanny ability of using her physical strength and astute observation that she quickly becomes one of the younger girls, while learning feminine qualities and the fundamentals of etiquette. Because nothing is more important to teach young girls then learning how to properly curtsy and throw a dagger at the same time.

A Finishing School that teaches girls etiquette and espionage, from pouring tea to mixing poisons, and dance to principles of deceit, and to Sophronia’s shock, learning rudimentary seduction. All this taught by different ladies and a vampire professor inside a floating dirigible of all places. Of course, there’s more to this trip, as Sophronia will learn as she encounters strange flywayman, hidden weaponry, and dangerous secrets. Much to her surprise is the amount of friends she makes on board the school including the ladylike Dimity, the boyish Sidheag (who is also raised by werewolves), and the shy Agatha. Although all four girls lack certain qualities, they each have their personal strength and skill that will later help them succeed in finishing. And much to her shock, Sophronia also begins to enjoy her lessons taught by un-teacher-like teachers (although there is the question of properly adjusting to London hours).

A story of mechanics, vampires, werewolves, conspiracies, assassins, parasols, bonnets, petticoats, salacious undergarments, and an unfortunate incident involving a cheese pie. All in all, Etiquette & Espionage was a pleasant read and I do encourage you to pick up the book if you haven’t already, as you will just be as flabbergasted as I was when Sophronia unravels hidden secrets and compartments (while remaining lady-like). If you’ve read the Parasol Protectorate series, you’ll notice old characters that make an appearance in book the first of the Finishing School series. Written by steampunk fan Gail Carriger, the story is full of pure wit intertwined with mystery and fun (and the beginning of a romantic overture).

My rating for this book: 5 polite hoots out of 5.

Next stop: book the second: Curtsies & Conspiracies! Stay tuned…

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