Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Finishing School series, bk 2. Atom, 2013. ISBN:
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. The second in the series following Etiquette and espionage, sees Sophronia continuing to learn how to fit into society, while at the same time learning about poisoning with foxgloves and training to become a spy at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. She has an exciting time sneaking around the dirigible that hosts the school, learning secrets about the teachers and visiting Soap and his mates in the boiler room. She has to take exams and foil a plot to control the prototype that could change how both people and the supernatural travel. Danger looms as vampires, werewolves and humans all chase the prototype through society in London.
Slightly darker than the first book, Curtsies & Conspiracies sees Sophronia learning that her actions can have consequences that she didn't consider. She discovers that tarnishing a reputation is much more serious than she could have dreamt about and learns what it is like to feel guilty. In the process she grows up and matures and leaves the reader wondering where her schooling will lead her. However there is plenty of humour to leaven the action, with Sophronia making witty comments, even when she has been ostracized by her friends.
A new character, Felix, a rake-in-training, is introduced and strongly contrasts to the uneducated by highly intelligent Soap, a leader in the boiler room. This raises questions about the power of class, education and wealth and slightly suggests a love triangle may be in the making. Other characters familiar from the first book, appear again, with young Genevieve Lafoux playing an important role. Readers familiar with Carriger's adult series, The Parasol Protectorate series, will recognise Lord Akeldama playing a brief but important role in Sophronia's adventures.
This is a feel good, laugh out loud occasionally series that will have fans of steampunk waiting for the next instalment.