Review Blog

Apr 03 2013

Etiquette and espionage by Gail Carriger

cover image

Atom, 2013. ISBN 1907411588.
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. 14-year-old tomboy Sophronia is sent off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality in the hope that she can learn how to behave in society. She is very unhappy about this until she discovers that there is more to the curriculum than learning how to curtsy. Espionage, death and diversion are also taught.
As a fan of Gail Carriger's adult series, Parasol Protectorate, I welcomed this book for younger people. All her signature features are contained in Etiquette and espionage: her females are strong and independent, humour abounds and the theme of prejudice is lightly but deftly touched upon.
Sophronia is a spirited heroine who is not afraid to be different. Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality fails to change that independence; rather it gives her a focus for her reckless nature. While she may resist learning how to be a lady she revels in the spy work that is taught along side that using the needlework, scissors, perfume and handkerchiefs to great benefit. Of course she is unable to resist unravelling the mystery of the missing prototype and drags along her friends on an exciting adventure.
The steampunk world that Sophronia inhabits is full of weird and wonderful gadgets that keep the imagination soaring like the dirigible that the school is perched on. Peopled with equally weird and wonderful teachers who are werewolves and vampires, Picklemen and flywaymen, the story makes for great entertainment and many laugh aloud moments. The dialogue is crisp and fun to read as Sophronia comments wryly and glibly on what is happening around her. Supporting characters are well rounded and equally as interesting as Sophronia, who does emerge as a great leader.
This would be a great introduction to steampunk stories for people aged from 11-14 and a very enjoyable read for anyone who likes their adventure set in a fascinating alternative Victorian world.
Pat Pledger

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