Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School Book the First by Gail CarrigerEtiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Series: Finishing School
Published by Brown Books for Young Readers on February 5, 2013
Pages: 307
Format: Hardcover
Source: Amazon
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It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger's legions of fans have come to adore.

* Review to be read to one’s self in a proper British accent*

I have had Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series on my TBR list for a while, but decided to start with her Finishing School series since it is written for the YA genre. The corsetted cover model holding a stylish pair of sewing scissors on the dust jacket was enough to make me want to read this book in my finest pair of finger-less gloves. I was so relieved to find that the story betwixt the pages was as stylish as the cover. We are introduced to several memorable and quirky characters in this first book, but our leading lady is more than enough to keep this story entertaining.

Meet Sophronia. She’s 14 years old, wily and willful, curious and clumsy. A certain air of elegance and poise is expected of her coming from a proper family, but Sophronia is more interested in gadgetry and curious adventures, than pristine tea dresses and high-fashion corsettes. After Sophronia’s latest kerfuffle, her mother decides to send her off to a finishing school. Unbeknownst to Sophronia and her mother, this is not  your typical school for polishing young ladies. Gail Carriger writes us into a wonderful world full of whimsy and dreamy settings. The steam punk elements that Gail is known for are enchanting in this book. I can’t say that I have read anything quite like it before. I was easily able to grasp the descriptions of the not so normal circumstances and everyday oddities of her vividly imagined steam punk world. Sophronia’s delightfully clever and naive character discovers that her finishing school is more right for her than her mother could ever guess. She’s being trained to utilize all of her strengths, and become a fashionable tool of the state. A spy who is resourceful and elegant at the same time. Etiquette and Espionage follows Sophronia’s first year at Finishing School, and we see her begin to blossom into her womanhood and acquire the skills of masterful eye-lash batting,  covert missions, and coy speech.

There is much to be charmed by in this world of floating schools, mechanimals, werewolves, and vampires. If I had to be specific, I would say this book would be largely appealing to young adults in the 13-16 age bracket. If you’re looking for romance and steamy carriage rides, you’re reading the wrong book. It’s good clean fun, and an adventurous story of sleuthing and self-discovery. Think Harry Potter meets Nancy Drew. I think this book would make an excellent gift for any tween girl in your life, but it is also very enjoyable for the adult who doesn’t need steam (of the non-train type) and romantic escapades to keep them interested. Etiquette and Espionage had me feeling 14 again, and reading to myself with a British accent that I couldn’t shake. I think I will be enjoying the next book in this series with a cup of Earl Grey and an English Muffin.

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