Thursday, February 20, 2014

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Summary (from Goodreads):
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of humorous books lately. It’s been a relief of sorts to not be reading any stories about the aftermath of the stupidity and or violence of humankind. I forgot how much I loved this author’s writing style. I have read the first book in the author’s adult series, and I adored it and always regretted never reading more. This book makes me regret it even more. The pure, absolute ridiculousness of the situations that occur in this story sometimes had me laughing for minutes straight, unable to stop.
I knew right away that I would love Sophronia. The book begins with her taking apart a dumbwaiter, to use the special rubber for her shoes. And because of this, there is a dumbwaiter accident of sorts that results in food flying and Sophronia being sent away immediately to finishing school.  I know I’m not adequately explaining the hilarious nature of that beginning scene. I do not have Carriger’s voice or ability to write jokes. Just know the scene was hilarious.
And the world Sophronia lives in is so crazy. It’s a Steam Punk world with flying espionage schools that pose as finishing schools young ladies and other schools for boys who are working on becoming evil geniuses. There’s werewolf weapons teachers, classes on poisons, and also classic etiquette courses that teach girls how to dance, and curtsy, and flutter eyelashes appropriately.
There’s never a dull nor non-humorous moment. There’s secret prototypes, persistent flywaymen, hot air balloons, mechanical animals, girls dressing as boys, fancy balls, ruined petticoats, plenty of spying, and lots of mystery. I loved Sophronia’s relationship with the Sooties (boys who worked in the boiler room). And I guess I loved all of the friends. They were definitely individualized and brought in their own interesting stories to the mix.
There was a little more mean girl drama than I would normally enjoy. At least this mean girl was very bright, and was going though a mission of her own. And a lot of the mean girl moments did turn into some of the most outrageously humorous moments too. There’s one scene with an angry mechanical, a cheese pie, and a flaming gazebo that literally had me laughing for 10 minutes.
The main characters of this book did read a little bit younger than most YA out there. Sophronia is 14. There’s isn’t really much in the way of romance (yet), though there’s plenty of possibilities open. And at first, I didn’t like this because I kept waiting for the romance to happen and I spent too much time waiting. But, eventually I grew to love that this one focused more on machines and friendship than first kisses and soul mates. I think this actually made the book stand out for me even more.
The writing style is over-the-top humorous. There’s enough supernatural elements and characters to keep any paranormal reader happy. The steam punk pieces were done in a way I’m not used to seeing. And the characters each stood out individually enough to make me want to hear more about them. The best friend that faints at blood, but always wants to be included in dangerous spying missions is one awesome best friend. And Soap, the Sootie (who might become a love interest) was just so cool and rebellious. Another favorite character of mine is the friend who was raised by werewolves and doesn’t see the need for being finished. The book just has it all. And I give it a 10/10. I need to go find the sequel now.

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