Sophronia Temminnick is a tomboy living in Victorian England in the 1850s, a time when young ladies are expected to dress appropriately, learn to be a proper hostess, always be fashionable, have excellent manners, and associate with the correct people in order to land themselves a fine husband. Long story short, Sophronia does not exactly fit in, and when she is recruited to a finishing school for girls, her mother is all too happy to ship her out with no questions asked, in the hopes that someone will finally be able to tame her spirit and make her presentable in society.
Little do they realize that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not exactly what it seems. The setting is an alternate England all together anyway, where vampires and werewolves lead normal lives alongside everyone else, so the idea that this school is held in a giant airship (or blimp, if you can imagine that better) and that the main focus of the instruction is about teaching the young ladies how to be spies, makes complete sense. Also of note are the household mechanicals, or robot servants, so suspend your reality and wish that someday you might have a mechanimal pet dog, too! This book is an introduction into the world of steampunk, where the old-fashioned and the futuristic overlap, leaving the possibilities endless as to what kinds of technologies are available (and have yet to be invented!)
So, in this story, Sophronia goes off to school and immediately becomes entangled in some intrigue when her carriage is robbed by some “flywaymen” who attack from the air, and who are looking to steal a prototype of….something. We don’t know what yet, but Sophronia makes it her mission to find out. She meets the other girls at school, makes friends and enemies, takes classes from both a werewolf and a vampire, learns to dance and how to faint on cue as a distraction method, and befriends the crew of young lads who work under the airship as “sooties”, shoveling coal into the boilers to keep the whole school aloft. Naturally she gets into some fair amount of trouble along the way.
Etiquette and Espionage is the first book in the Finishing School series, so it has a lot of set-up and a fairly simple plot to get things moving along. I picked up book two, Curtsies and Conspiracies, at ComicCon this year and I’m hoping to read that one before winter break is through. I love getting lost in this world that Gail Carriger has created, a mashup of everything I love– fantasy, mystery, adventure, a strong and smart heroine, a smidge of science fiction, and the writing is so witty, especially the dialogue. So clever, I wish I’d thought of it myself! Here is the website if you’d like to learn more:
Etiquette and Espionage has an AR level of 5.5 and is worth 11 points.