Book Review: Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage

Posted April 8, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Young Adult readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage


Gail Carriger

steampunk that was published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on February 5, 2013 and has 307 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Heartless, Timeless, Curtsies & Conspiracies, Waistcoats & Weaponry, Manners & Mutiny, Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Prudence

First in the Finishing School steampunk series for young adults set in 1851 England. The story revolves around the unconventional Sophronia, who simply does not fit as her mother would prefer.

In 2014, Etiquette & Espionage won the Prix for Meilleur roman fantasy traduit Jeunesse.

My Take

It had a wobbly start, but it got going once Sophronia started her lessons. I do adore Carriger’s twist on attacking a vampire, LOL. Then there’s the abstemious breakfast…sigh…what a dream. And there are all the other twists on what we expect of a finishing school and proper young ladies. Too funny.

Oh, man, I love it — the salacious purple flannel nightgown! I wonder, is it the purple that makes it so naughty??

Interesting use of “slur”.

Sophronia [and we] learn very quickly to dissemble and snoop as well as learning such lifesaving techniques as the “fan and sprinkle” maneuver, useful fainting techniques, manipulating with clothing…

I love it! It’s only one semester in and already Sophronia is quite pleased with their assortment of weapons when the young ladies are threatened yet again while traveling. After all, there is so much one can do with handkerchiefs, fans, hats, and gloves, etc.

It’s an interesting cast with the usual schoolgirl cliques and infighting as well as the inappropriate friendships — which we’ll probably discover is a requirement of graduation! However, Carriger’s twists and turns make this too fascinating, and I can’t wait until Curtsies & Conspiracies comes out in the fall!

I’m suspecting this series predates the Parasol Protectorate, and I’ll be curious if the end of this series slides right into it.

The Story

It’s on the way to finishing school that Sophronia’s new life as a covert recruit quickly imposes with an attack by flywaymen.

Nor is it the last attack, for skullduggery is afoot aboard the finishing school, and Sophronia is eager to investigate.

The Characters

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick is the very nosy, resourceful daughter being sent off to finishing school. Bumbersnoot is the mechanimal shot aboard the school by the threatening flywaymen. He certainly is a little sweetie! Petunia is her older, sixteen-year-old sister. Roger is the stable lad who has has taught Sophronia some very naughty things; Eliza is the long-suffering maid; and, Frowbitcher is the family butler.

The instructors at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality include:
Mademoiselle Geraldine is the headmistress, who hasn’t a clue, but does teach dance and dress. Captain Niall is the gorgeous werewolf who teaches self-defense. Professor Beatrice Lefoux teaches modern languages, modern weaponry, and technological advancements as well as being an honorary member of the Order of the Brass Octopus. Lady Linette de Limmone teaches music and the finer creative arts, you know, like intelligence gathering, principles of deceit, fundamental espionage, and rudimentary seduction. Sister Mattie Herschel-Teape teaches household management including medicinal cures and poisoning. Professor Braithwope is a vampire who teaches history, deportment, manners, etiquette, and genteel dress as well as vampire lore and defense.

Fellow students include:
Dimity Ann Plumbleigh-Teignmott is also a new student — she faints at the sight of blood. Miss Monique de Pelouse is a bad egg. Sidheag Maccon, Lady Kingair of a werewolf clan, hates being here. Preshea Buss is mean and smart, but her father dabbles in trade. Agatha Woosmoss is the shy daughter of a railroad baron.

Genevieve is Professor Lefoux’s niece.

Sooties include:
Pips; Phineas B. Crow, a.k.a., Soap; and, Greaser are some of the boys who shovel coal into the boiler. Old Smalls is the Junior Sixth Assistant Engineer.

Vieve has the run of the entire dirigible school and is quite clever with the mechanics of things.

Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnique, the boys’ school
Pillover Plumbleigh-Teignmott is Dimity’s little brother with a tremendous handicap. The Pistons are a group of students who think they’re all that — there’s a rumor that some of ’em are sons of Picklemen! Young Lord Dingleproops is one of them.

Mrs. Barnaclegoose is a friend of Sophronia’s mother.

The Cover and Title

I do love Sophronia’s pose in profile on the cover! Against a fuchsia brocade background, casting a shadow, a black-gowned Sophronia holds fast with ornate scissors in her net-gloved hand, just waiting to strike!

The title introduces us to a most unusual finishing school which emphasizes Etiquette and Espionage.