Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School, Book the First
by Gail Carriger
307 pages
High School+

Sophronia is a youngest daughter, completely uncultured, and hopelessly interested in how the dumbwaiter works.  Her mother despairs of her ever becoming a sophisticated woman.  Imagine the surprise of both of them when she is invited to attend a prestigious finishing school, Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

On the way to the school, Sophronia eyes are opened.  Her carriage mates inform her that this is definitely not your typical school.  Not only is the headmistress NOT the actual headmistress, but flywaymen (similar to highwaymen, but using balloons) try to steal something from them.   The pretend headmistress faints, the coachman is knocked out, so Sophronia must take control of the situation.  Rescuing herself, plus the others, they manage to elude the flywaymen and make their way to the school, minus only their luggage.

Thus begins Sophronia's unique and highly interesting education.  Instead of merely learning etiquette, manners, and how to curtsy, she is also learning stealth, poisoning, information gathering and tumbling (most unusual!). Sophronia actually enjoys her time there and finds the classes very interesting.  But what exactly were the flywaymen after?  And what will they do if they don't get it soon?

Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard in lots of places on this book!  Carriger's humor comes through, and is wonderful.  I had a hard time putting it down!  One of my favorite lines, fairly early in the books is: "Pillover is terribly bad at being bad, if you take my meaning.  Our daddy is a founding member of the Death Weasel Confederacy, and Mummy is a kitchen chemist with questionable intent, but poor Pillover can't even bring himself to murder ants with his Depraved Lens of Crispy Magnification."  This sentence had me laughing so hard people were looking at me weird.

I really enjoyed this book (if you couldn't tell!).  The characters stay true to themselves, the plot was interesting, but not overwhelming, plus it was fun to find the connections to Carriger's other books.  This one is set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate series, but has its own characters and plot lines.

Overall, I will definitely recommend this book.  Unlike Carriger's other books, this is definitely appropriate for teens of almost any age. I put high school as my recommended level for two reasons: interest (I have a hard time seeing middle school or elementary school students interested in this) and also because it might lead the teens to Carriger's other books, which I said were more late high school or college age.  The book is funny,  interesting, and is definitely building a foundation for more adventures.  I can't wait for the next one!

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