Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)

Release Date: February 5, 2013
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Length: 307 pages

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.


Protagonist: Sophronia is not you typical Victorian young lady, she likes to climb things and eavesdrop on people, which young ladies of that time just don't do. Because of this, her mother does whatever she can to get her into Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, a very secretive finishing school with a renowned reputation. One of the things I loved about this book was that it was fairly easy to see Sephronia's character develop due to the fact that she was aware of it herself. It made the book seem a bit more realistic, though it did at times make me feel as though I was being spoon fed certain details.

Romance: There was little to no romance in this book. Luckily there was enough that I can still write a section on it. When I first this cover, I prematurely judged it as a very chick-lit type of book, so naturally I assumed there would be a surplus of romance, and for a little bit there I thought there might be. I was extremely wrong however. While there are not-so-subtle hints at a developing romance between Sophronia a boy she meets at her finishing school, it never actually develops far enough for admission of feelings on either side.

World-Building: Going in I knew this book took place in the Victorian era, so at the very most I had thought that maybe it would be slightly steampunk. Not only is it steampunk,  but I was shocked to discover that it had paranormal aspects as well. Sophronia has two supernatural teachers, a werewolf and a vampire, two species that are both commonplace in this world. I have to say it was a wonderful surprise. There were also aspects of the plot that were hard to swallow it didn't have so much to do with the world-building as much as the progression of the of the plot and a few plot points that seemed more convenient than realistic.

Predictability: This book was very hard to predict, this is due to the fact that the foreshadowing is extremely subtle and it's hard to predict the larger things before everything is already in motion. I found that while sometimes enjoyable, this also made the book less compelling at times. I would have loved to be able to guess some larger twists before they happened, but unfortunately it was rather hard to pick up on any of the clues.

Ending: This book didn't have a particularly strong ending and it ended sooner than I had thought it would. I wish that there would have been another chapter or so, not necessarily to wrap things up more, but mainly because I felt like it ended too soon. I can't for the life of me remember why, all I remember is being surprised that it ended so soon. I think that that added chapter would have alleviated my confusion.


While this book was all sorts of amazing, it did have a few elements that would have made it so much better. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good spy novel, steampunk, or books with a low emphasis on the supernatural aspects.

Question: Which book, if any, has given you a genre surprise? i.e. such as how I was shocked to find out that this book had paranormal elements in it.

P.S. Be sure to check out my Massive June 2013 Book Haul which I've linked below. Warning: it's very long, as in almost an hour, so be sure to plan accordingly.


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