Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Me on Ettiquette & Espionage

Title: Ettiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. She's more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea, and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsey. Desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, her mother enrolls her in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But little does Sophronia know that this is a school where young ladies learn a different kind of finishing. The school trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and modern weapons. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

Etiquette & Espionage is a rousing adventure of a young girl tossed into a school she never expected would be interesting or exciting, a school that floats around, traveling from place to place. The reader is very much held captive as a witness with this book, being tossed straight into watching the unfolding of what will be a very complicated and exciting life for Sophronia.

This book feels like a proper steampunk adventure novel. The dirigible-like boarding school, the clockwork mechanisms and objects and weapons, the steam and the coal dust of the lower levels, the mystery and intrigue that pops up every so often, gaining Sophronia's attention.

When being trained in espionage, the only truths you can trust are the ones you witness with your own two eyes. Secrets, lies, evasion, subterfuge. How is one expected to know who to trust or what to trust if they don't know their true character, if they don't witness their true action with their own eyes? This is what Sophronia faces, and what she must learn in order to keep her wits about her and stay alive.

The book is an interesting exploration of the class structure of England in the 1800's. The upper class, the landed gentry, the lower class and the labourers. There is a world underneath the school that keeps it moving, a world not often associated with young ladies of proper breeding, but sometimes those people are cleverer than one expects. Sometimes they can become great assets. Sometimes birth and social standing doesn't matter when you're trying to save lives.

There is a certain language and prose style present that's unique to this book and to the author herself, proper for the time period, rather fast-paced, and some terms and names that border on the ridiculous. As this is connected to the author's previous adult steampunk series, some names and places will be familiar to existing readers. It will be curious to see how new readers will react, if they will go back and read the Parasol Protectorate series. As this book was rather entertaining, and as Sophronia was intriguing as a heroine, I'm curious as to see where she will go next and what trouble she will find herself immersed in.

(I borrowed an advance copy from another review blogger and later acquired an advance copy at ALA Midwinter.)


  1. I'm a big steampunk fan and although I've seen some mixed reviews of this book I'm really excited to read it. It sounds like she captures the genre perfectly!