Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Finishing School, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult, SciFi, Steampunk, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Sophronia grinned again. “No, but -”
Dimity said, “I know that look. That’s the look she gets right before she goes off exploring.”
“But?” prompted Sidheag.
“But we could break into the school records to find out.”
“Sophronoa, that’s a terrible idea!” protested Dimity.
“You’re mad,” added Sidheag.
Agatha only looked wide-eyes.
“Ah, but I have the rump card.”
“Oh, yes. I’m going to borrow an obstructor and some soap.” (Ch. 15)
I must admit, the steampunk movement wasn’t really my thing when it was in its heyday. Recently I’ve been trying to read more in this genre, to mixed results. Thankfully, Etiquette & Espionage has been exactly what I was looking for in this genre. A beautiful mix of historical societal views, supernatural races, and futuristic technology, Etiquette & Espionage quickly drew me into its world. Here, I find, I’m more than happy to stay.
Growing up, I was endlessly fascinated with the concept of finishing schools and the art of etiquette. I remember playing a game when I was a kid – Pajama Sam 3, I believe – and there’s a small scene in the game that involved etiquette classes. After this, I bugged my parents for months to let me take etiquette classes. Like Sophronia’s mother, mine wrote me off as a lost cause. Unlike Sophronia, this didn’t end with me getting sent away to finishing school – or even taking etiquette lessons. In high school I had a friend that took etiquette classes and hated them, which made me want to go even more. Sure she wasn’t having fun, but now I knew someone my age who’d been and once again the desire to be a proper lady fueled me to bother my parents. Once again, they laughed it off. To this day I have not taken etiquette classes and think of them wistfully – even if I would have done atrociously and might not have enjoyed myself. At least I know I can walk and talk with a book on my head (yes, I know I’m strange).
Another thing that I’ve always liked reading is a good spy book – though here they call spies “intelligencers”. Carriger did an amazing job at creating a spy school that I can’t wait to read more about. The school itself intrigues me, as well as the classes and the people inside its walls. Both the people you’re meant to like and the people you’re meant to hate are extremely dynamic and I can’t wait to see how these relationships continue to grow and change as the story progresses.
If you’re looking for a fun spy book and are interested in the Steampunk genre, I’d highly recommend giving this book a try. As well, if you’re a fan of Steampunk reads and haven’t yet picked this book up, I’d recommend you do so. This world is intriguing and the people captivating. By far one of the best spy – and Steampunk – novels I’ve yet to read.
Dimity looked at her, still recovering. “Really, Sophronia, it makes me most uncomfortable how you manage to sort everything out every time I faint.” (Ch. 8)
Right off the bat I felt a connection to Sophronia. Being the youngest daughter (though I only have 1 older sister) and constantly getting into trouble for climbing and not acting ladylike, I felt for her when she got caught trying to listen to her mother in a meeting. While I’ve never personally climbed into a dumbwaiter in order to spy on someone, I can certainly understand the appeal. Beside, though she wasn’t originally interested in attending Finishing School, Sophronia found the school quite to her liking. I was also quite taken by Sophronia’s dry wit and her quick thinking ways. I wouldn’t say that I like to scheme like Sophronia does, but I will say that I enjoyed watching the way that Sophronia’s brain worked as she was scheming away.
Of course, her mum comes off as quite the prick. Whether looking at the way she talks about Sophronia being helpless and a pain or her reaction to Sophronia making it home in time for her sister’s coming out ball, her mother is downright rude. For someone who complains that her daughter doesn’t act ladylike enough, she certainly doesn’t act like a lady herself at times.
I couldn’t help but appreciate Sophronia’s use of her mum’s opinion of her towards the end of the novel. What better way to get your way around your parents than to act in the way you expect you to so that they won’t be suspicious of your actual intentions? There’s no way that Sophronia would’ve gotten away with everything she did at the ball if her mum had actually thought that Sophronia was able to do half of those things. She went to finishing school to become a lady, after all, and not to learn how to prevent an evil fraction of spies from stealing a prototype her school needed.
Monique certainly was an easy girl to hate, straight from the get go. While she pretended to be Mademoiselle Geraldine in order to recruit Sophronia, she was nothing but awful to Sophronia from the get go. When the flywaymen waylaid them the first time all Monique did was get in the way and then claim Sophronia’s heroics as her own. Then, after being demoted because she failed in her mission, she hounded Sophronia for every little thing. Though I did love the insight towards the end of the book where the reader gets to find out one of the reasons Monique dislikes Sophronia so much was because of the killer smile she’d yet to learn to use to her advantage.
As awful as Monique was right from the get go, I knew that she couldn’t possibly have been the one to rat out Sophronia for her late night climbing explorations. Of course, I thought that it was Dimity being jealous that Sophronia went out without her. Finding out that it was actually Sidheag trying to convince the school she didn’t belong there was a much better plot twist. While I’m glad that Sidheag managed to make friends at the school and not sulk off on her own all the time, I hope that whatever’s happening with her pack ends up going her way. I’d hate for her to be torn between her home life and the friends she made at school. I also hope that she knows she can rely on the friends she’s made at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to help her out should she need it.
It was sweet that Sophronia continued to collect the school’s misfits into her friends. Of course there’s Soap, the Sootie that doesn’t belong Uptop but I love with Sophronia. Then we have Vieve, the young girl who never wants to be a lady and would much prefer to be mistaken as a boy and an inventor. Dimity ended up being one of the best friends that Sophronia could ask for, even if she’s going to have a hard time as an intelligencer if she faints at the sight of blood. Sidheag caught my heart right away, being the biggest tomboy of them all even if she did outrank all of the girls there. And, of course, we have Agatha who is much too shy to be left alone in a school where Monique is content terrorizing everyone to make herself feel better. I can only hope that the entire squad makes it through to finishing.
Speaking of misfits, I absolutely adored Bumbersnoot and his mechanimal ways. As a lover of animals (especially dogs), I must admit I had a soft spot for him the whole way through. The fact that Monique kicked him and put a dent in him made the fact that he helped rescue the prototype from her evil clutches that much sweeter. Even before that Bumbersnoot was the very best Good Boy. He listened to Sophronia quite well.
Looking at the very end of the novel, I love the fact that it was Mrs. Barnaclegoose that got Sophronia into Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. The very lady that always got annoyed at Sophronia’s antics was actually the one that gave her an outlet to use her unladylike tendencies to their fullest. I also enjoyed the fact that Monique ended up making a fool of herself at the ball and threw cheese pie at Sophronia, giving her the perfect excuse to take the prototype away from Monique and deliver it to the rightful owners. Okay, I was mostly happy that Monique acted like her true self (decidedly not a lady) and made a fool of herself.
I look forward to reading more in this world as I certainly haven’t gotten my fill of Sophronia’s antics. Here’s hoping she gets to show even more Pickmen what she’s made of.