Cecelia's Reviews > Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
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Jul 17, 2012

really liked it

There’s something about steampunk that hooks me time after time. It’s fantasy set in an alternate Victorian Era, so you have the feeling and trappings of historical fiction. It’s also speculative (sci-fi or fantasy or a mix of the two), with a sense of hope about what technology would/could do to make society different. In the hands of young adult authors, steampunk is also often fun and adventurous. I was certain that I’d like Gail Carriger’s first YA steampunk novel (she wrote the adult Parasol Protectorate series, which started with Soulless), and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sophronia is a tomboy-ish younger sister who throws her mother into fits. She simply doesn’t care that she’s not supposed to be interested in running and jumping and listening at doors. After all, it’s natural to her, and she can’t see a good reason to start being boring like her elder sister. However, her mother doesn’t agree, and sends her off to a finishing school to reform her temperament and behavior. And that’s when things start to get very interesting.

Sophronia has a personality, if you know what I mean, and she’s the life of the book. Sophronia makes Etiquette & Espionage worth reading because her inquisitiveness, cunning and dismissal of scruples lead to one scrape after another. Sophronia isn’t attending an ordinary school (although there are the requisite moments of school chum bonding and teaming up to outwit teachers), after all – she’s also learning the fine arts of espionage and murder. At first she’s bemused and mystified, and later she embraces her lessons with verve. Her energy and penchant for disregarding the social niceties (while everyone around her is obsessed with them) makes for entertaining reading and hijinks galore.

While this book won’t best please those YA readers who have come to expect romance as a major element of their reading, it will satisfy those with an eye for a unique setting, a soft spot for clever characters, and anyone who has secretly wanted to become a spy at some point in their lives. The girls at Madmoiselle Geraldine’s learn about poison, machinery, making enemies and friends, and learn to curtsy at the same time. It’s a bit of a comedy of manners, but a dashing one, and seeds are planted for continuing story arcs. The formula = mystery + adventure.

Recommended for: fans of YA steampunk (think Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan or Kady Cross’ The Girl in the Steel Corset), and anyone waiting for their entrance letter to a school of magic or espionage.
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Reading Progress

05/13/2013 marked as: read

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