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Finishing School #1

Etiquette & Espionage

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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. Temminnick 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.

307 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2013

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About the author

Gail Carriger

53 books14.8k followers
Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance (and the sexy San Andreas Shifter series as G L Carriger). Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and the Finishing School series. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea. Join the Chirrup for sneak peaks of upcoming giggles: http://gailcarriger.com/chirrup

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5 stars
13,342 (28%)
4 stars
17,673 (37%)
3 stars
11,571 (24%)
2 stars
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1 star
1,334 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,703 reviews
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,868 followers
February 23, 2013
2.5 stars, rounded up because I'm feeling particularly generous today.

Before any of you start plotting my painful and untimely death, I should point out that I’m a big fan of Ms. Carriger’s previous work. The Parasol Protectorate series is a favorite of mine, despite losing some steam in the later installments. However, I don’t think Etiquette and Espionage was up to her usual standards, and it makes me very sad that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped I would. It took me a while to put my thoughts in order and figure out exactly what went wrong, at least for me, and even now I can only explain a part of it. In Parasol Protectorate, Carriger’s trademark sense of humor was what made the series stand out, but there was also some substance underneath, and the plots kept me engaged and interested. Etiquette and Espionage had neither, I’m afraid.

“But I have advanced eyelash fluttering to practice, and a mathematics problem concerning how to order strychnine and a lamb dinner on a limited budget, and three chapters on court etiquette to read, and my handkerchief to starch, and the quadrille to memorize!”
“No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear.”


And it wasn’t easy, my dears. Not for our main character, Miss Sophronia Angelina Temminnick, and certainly not for me. What started out as entertaining, promising read, ended up almost suffocating me with repetitiveness and lack of an actual plot. A good sense of humor is not a band aid you can just slap over a pile of problems and hope your readers forget they’re there. It has been tried before, and as far as I’m concerned, it never, ever worked.


As a fan, I loved revisiting Alexia’s universe, but at the same time, seeing it reused left me with the impression that Gail Carriger took the lazy way out. This is the part I’m most conflicted about, but it’s also one I would have been glad to overlook had the rest been interesting enough. But in the end, the most interesting parts were those links to the Parasol Protectorate series.

It wasn’t just the world that was the same, some of the characters showed up too, albeit as much younger versions of themselves. Of all the crossover characters, I enjoyed meeting a nine-year-old Genevieve Lefoux the most and was delighted to learn that she preferred boys’ clothes even as a little girl.

There is no romance in Etiquette & Espionage, just hints of one that could develop uite beautifully in the future. While I adored the no-romance part itself, in combination with a very weak plot, it gave a pretty empty book.

It’s obvious by now that I’m the odd one out in this case, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt and make sure to read at least a few more reviews before making a decision. It’s all a matter of personal taste, after all. I’m prepared to give this series another chance because I adore Carriger’s sense of humor. Hopefully the next book will have a more exciting plot.


Profile Image for Crowinator.
805 reviews353 followers
October 6, 2012
Well. Well well well. I think I'll have to go back and give the adult series set in this alternate steampunk Victorian world a try.

Despite my stumbling over the affected narrative style at the outset, I ended up being entirely swayed by its charm and cleverness, and I enjoyed the book so much that I was disappointed when it was over. I wanted it to continue, perhaps indefinitely. It reminds me very much of Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series in its lighthearted silliness and droll humor, though without the subtle gravitas that I associate with his YA work (especially his later Aching books). The plot Sophronia involves herself in (involving the hidden location of a mysterious prototype) is a bit wispy, but the finishing school stuff is really the big draw here, and it's grand. The things these girls can do with sewing scissors, hair ribbons, perfume, and handkerchiefs! Too bad I'll have to wait a loooong time for the second in this series, given this one's pub date of Feb. 2013.

Longer review to come, probably closer to the pub date.
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,935 followers
March 28, 2014
Super cute. Super sassy. Super witty.

Strike that. It looks like I'm trying to sell glitzy fashion to tweens.

3.25 stars. But it is super cute and fun and all that stuff. Werewolves are wearing top hats! Just the names alone are awesome, and I really hate off-the-wall names 99% of time, but how can you not love the idea of mechanical butler named Frowbritcher? I'm pretty sure that Carriger is one of the only people who can pull off all of the strange names with finesse.

And I don't even know what this means, but I want to start saying it -
"So I can be a puffed-up poodle-faker like you?"

Parasol Protectorate fans are probably going to flinch when I mention that I think I liked E&E a slight bit better than Soulless for book 1 of a series. I get that Soulless had more snark and overt humor than E&E did, but I took to Sophronia's fresh and spunky attitude more than I did Alexia's musings about her large nose. I laughed out loud when Sophronia considered a purple flannel night garment to be salacious (to quote her : imagine that!).

Gail Carriger's writing style is sort of a weird thing to explain. She has all of the parts present which make for an excellent book - unique characters, harrowing situations, charming imagery, witty banter, etc. - but there's something about the sum of the parts which doesn't quite register in my brain as a complete success.

Every time I would pick up the book, I'd read a few chapters and be entertained, but I could never go much further in one sitting. I felt like I was on this constant loop of intricacy, and I couldn't make my brain stop moving enough to take it all in large doses. Imagine going to the same tea party every day. The tea is good. The company is good. The conversation is interesting. But you feel like you need to get off the tea party for a minute and have pizza and beer. That's what I feel like when I read Carriger.



In small doses, the words are charming and fun and stimulating. In large doses, I want to wander off and read something else. And that's why it took me a couple of weeks to read the book, even though I liked it.

But sometimes, it's okay to slowly savor the things that are good. I'm looking forward to savoring book 2 of this series.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,366 reviews1,413 followers
June 1, 2017
A cute, young adult book with a steampunk theme that takes place at a "finishing" school which isn't about etiquette at all.

I made the mistake of reading this without realizing that it was based in a world from another series of books. I'm guessing that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the other set first.

Etiquette and Espionage had plenty of fun moments in it. One of my favorites is when Sophronia inexplicably claims that werewolves enjoy the theater. From one of the other books? I'm assuming so. But it sounds legit.

I also loved when one of the students bemoans the fact that she doesn't believe she'll ever be able to kill anyone and the teacher comforts her with the fact that she may never have to. What a relief.

But funny moments do not a story make. The plot centers around Sophronia's introduction to a world filled with spies that she didn't know existed, the concealment of a highly desirable piece of equipment that has something to do with wireless technology, and, of course, fashion.

It is funny, frivolous and frothy. I found that I wanted more substance. Recommended for a light summer read around the pool and, perhaps, you may want to read The Parasol Protectorate series first, starting with Soulless.
Profile Image for Liz.
250 reviews1,988 followers
July 30, 2015
Fun! Feminism! Girliness! I would definitely recommend the audiobook as the narration is wonderful.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,114 reviews1,977 followers
June 27, 2018
A bit silly but a lot of fun! I have already enjoyed several books in this author's Parasol Protectorate series and found this one to be nearly but not quite so good. However I see that the next three books in this Finishing School series all score over 4 for their Goodreads average rating. That cannot be bad so I guess I have good things to look forward to.

I like steampunk and I usually like Young Adult books so Etiquette & Espionage worked for me. The main character, Sophronia, is fourteen but acts much older and for most of the book I forgot that the characters were children. Special praise goes to Bumbersnoot, the mechanimal. Everyone should have one. Especially with a name like that.

Altogether an entertaining book which did not take long to read but which passed the time in a very enjoyable way.
Profile Image for Zoe Stewart (Zoe's All Booked).
295 reviews1,476 followers
July 23, 2021
Vampires, werewolves, boarding schools, perfect etiquette flouted in favour of rule breaking, and the fine art of finishing others? Everything about this book is absolute perfection, tbh. The audiobook is amazing as well!

I read this for the first time in 2015, I think it was, and I fall in love with it more and more every time I reread it.
Profile Image for Madison Warner Fairbanks.
2,120 reviews275 followers
August 13, 2020
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

1st book in the Finishing School series. 1st in the timeline of all series per author list online. YA historical steampunk.

Fourteen-year old Sophronia is sent to finishing school to be a lady. She’s learning proper diversion, deceit, espionage and the poisons to use in different circumstances. And how to curtsy of course

Sophronia is a curious girl and is soon climbing through hatches on the floating ship, and getting into mischief on ever deck.

Fun and imaginative. Lots of intriguing mechanicals including a pet dog that feeds on coal.
I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.
589 reviews1,030 followers
June 16, 2013
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

2.5 stars
'"Practice your eyelash-fluttering, ladies. Six rounds of one hundred each before bed."-'

I took the big mistake when I read Marie Lu being quoted on my copy of Etiquette & Espionage. "I wish I could attend a school as fun as this finishing academy. It is the perfect steam punk version of Harry Potter." After observing this, I assumed that the book was just as good as Harry Potter. RIIIGHT?! It literally has my name written all over it.

LITERALLY.


NO. I was wrong. The prequel the Gail Carriger's adult series (which I haven't read), is based upon a finishing school that teaches more than just etiquette, but also some espionage that of course, must be executed in a lady like manner.

When 14 year old Sophronia is washed off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she finds that it wasn't exactly what her mother has been hoping for. Yes, the finishing school does teach some proper manners, but there are secrets hidden that even the headmistress may not be aware of.

Our main character, Sophronia is a very queer one to analyse. In fact, she reminds me a little of Sara Crewe from A Little Princess. She was reserved, kind and held a slight tinge of humour to her that made Sophronia less 'Victorian' like. After all, she at the beginning does get Indian rubber of her shoes from playing in the dumbwaiter. Yet also, Sophronia seemed a little unstable; her character was shaky, sometimes, it was difficult to pin point exactly whether I liked her or not. Nonetheless, she was predominately likeable.

The problem of Etiquette & Espionage was, and why it made everything horrible, was the lack of activity and motion. With the addition of unique/olden writing style that took sometime to adjust then love, I felt distant and reluctant to continue on each page. There was no plot. As much as I wanted to admire Gail's story, the synopsis at the back of the book did not match with the novel itself. Moreover, even at the tiny excepts of engagement, it was uneven. Rather bumpy to be exact. Smoothing down the writing would have been of great benefit for Etiquette & Espionage.

Like I mentioned before, the bumpiness of the attention span ruined the other aspects that I would've usually appreciated. I predict some sort of love interest brewing in the second instalment but, like two of my Goodreads friends mentioned, it made this book completely dead. To be honest, I classily this book as MG. the character is in her middle grade levels and the romance was minimal. And occasionally, I appreciate that. But with no action or suspense flowing through, I yearned for some romance to pop up. Sadly, none did making me want to dose off more and more. *sighs*

For my first book by Gail Carriger, I am utmost disappointed. Though I hear her adult series is much better so I will consider reading that instead. A mix of steampunk, history and paranormal fiction, Gail failed to impress with her cover and entrapping blurb. While I won't recommend this, I will stick around for book two!
340 reviews114 followers
July 7, 2013
Now I need a book about possessed unicorns, poisonous bunnies and violet bananas, because I have to read something that can get me out of this state of utter boredom.

The main fault of this book is the inexplicable absence of a plot: I kept on wishing something would happen, but nothing really did (at least not until 38% of the book, when I finally had enough). It was just a never-ending list of mechanical parts, dirigibles, bonnets and petticoats.

I had great expectations of epic escapes on dirigibles, teenager girls engaged in undercover operations, funny scenes when said girls find themselves in impossible situations. None of that in this book.
Well, to be honest, I got the dirigible.
What I got were your ordinary brat-girl, some scenes meant to be funny (but I never had even a close-lipped smile) and your standard school-themed menu items, flavored with some cogs and gears.

Sorry to see another beautiful cover go to waste.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,782 followers
August 12, 2015
Hummm..... well I sort of hesitated on the rating for this one. I mean I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series, at least not right away, but I did enjoy the book....mostly.

What we have here is a young woman in an alternate England of lords and ladies with very proper etiquette, not to mention stiff collars and lots of frills. Sadly 14 year old Sophronia does not fit in. She put me in mind of the song from The Sound of Music:

http://www.rnh.com/videos.html?video=...

She is a great trial to her mother, especially since her sister is a very, very proper young woman. Happily for mom she finds a Finishing School that seems willing to take Sophronia in spite of...short comings.

As you may have intuited this is not your "run of the mill" Finishing School.

The book tells a good story, that said it's long on characters and very short on plot. We spend a LOT of time getting to know the school and the world. The plot is sort of fitted in between Sophronia's revelations and education. It's introduced early on during the trip to the School but then like a sort of literary prairie dog it ducks back below ground popping up at various times throughout the book, finally making a slightly climactic appearance as the book ties up and opens the way for the next volume.

There's nothing really new in that or in the story. It is however fun with interesting characters and lots of humor (or at least attempts at humor).

Could I...I'd go with the ever popular 3.5 but lacking that I'll go 4. It will probably appeal to a female and teen audiance somewhat more that others as that seems to be the "target audience" but it's a fun book and I can recommend it as a light read.
Profile Image for Constantine.
783 reviews119 followers
August 17, 2021
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Fantasy + Young Adult

Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in the Finishing School series. The story is set in 1851 and is about this fourteen-year-old brat, Sophronia. This teenage girl is giving trouble to her mother with her mischievous acts. Her mother wants her to become and behave like a proper lady. The mother enrolls her brat daughter in the Finishing School of a French lady called Mademoiselle Geraldine in order to be the lady she wants her to be. It turns out that this school has some other purposes besides teaching the students the arts of dancing, dressing, and etiquette. Sophronia will make some friends there and finds out that after all, it is not too bad to learn the other unexpected skills that this school specializes in.

I have no idea who recommended this series to me. Although this is a young adult book, it felt more like a middle grade. I have some mixed feelings about it. I feel the pace of the story was not steady. Sometimes it was fun to read and other times it was just boring and snoozefest. Maybe the presence of the occults will make the next book better. That’s only a maybe. One aspect I liked about it is the machineanimals. These are mechanical pets that are present in the plot and have some major presence. The book is a mixture of fantasy, steampunk, and historical fiction so it is supposed to have more rich content. But being a young adult that tends to be more a middle-grade story made even the characters lack the depth that I was hoping for. I didn’t feel connected to any one of them.

If I didn’t own all the four books in the series, I might’ve stopped here. But since I have the books I will still read the whole thing because I promised myself not to unhaul books unless I read them. At least this will be a kind of punishment for me not to buy a whole series without reading the first book! 😫. I am still hoping that the other books will be better. We’ll see.
Profile Image for Krista Regester.
547 reviews220 followers
October 15, 2018
Honestly, I'm just so impressed with myself that I read and liked a steampunk book.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 27 books5,589 followers
February 22, 2013
Lovely YA adventure in Carriger's SOULLESS world. It was fun to see some characters from her adult books as kids, and the series is off to a rollicking start. The underlying mystery of this book was a bit light, mostly so that she could introduce the finishing school and the cast of characters, and that was fine by me, because they were delightful. I'd really like to see her go a bit longer with the next one, this felt too short!

Also, I really, REALLY need a mechanical wiener dog named Bumbersnoot because . . . IT'S A MECHANICAL WIENER DOG NAMED BUMBERSNOOT!
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 64 books16.8k followers
June 3, 2013
Loved this book! It's a younger version of Gail's Parasol Protectorate series - a fun and entertaining read...er...listen. Once again I bought the audio book. Gail's books are great when read with a British accent.
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,229 followers
February 5, 2013
"[Is] that wise? Having a mess of seedling evil geniuses falling in love with you willy-nilly? What if they feel spurned?"
"Ah, but in the interim, think of the lovely gifts they can make you. Monique bragged that one of her boys made her silver and wood hair sticks as anti-supernatural weapons. With amethyst inlay. And another made her an exploding wicker chicken."
"Goodness, what's that for?"
Dimity pursed her lips. "Who doesn't want an exploding wicker chicken?"

I have to say, I was equal parts excited and trepidatious* when my fave awesome person at Little, Brown asked me if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for this. I loved Carriger's Parasol Protectorate  series, but was concerned about how she would make the transition to YA, especially after my friend Elizabeth's reaction... That gave me pause. FORTUNATELY, I have to (politely, maybe) disagree with E. on this one. Yes, it was a little heavy handed at first, and was missing some of the magic that came with Alexia's narration and her fabulous personality - but it worked, and in the end I quite liked it.

I'm a pretty firm believer that you don't have to change your style/writing much (if at all) when you change age levels - there's no need to "write down" to kids (especially in this case, as the Parasol Protectorate series was a highly popular cross-over - Pretty much remove the steamy Victorian sexytimes and you're good to go).  But the beginning of the book seemed like Carriger was going to write down to her audience and point things out in a really obtrusive way (as if they couldn't possibly put things together all on their own...), and that has got to be my number one I-will-throw-you-against-the-wall-you-just-see-if-I-don't pet peeve. Even as a kid, I found it highly insulting; you've got to have faith in your audience, and faith in yourself as a storyteller that you're doing fine - you don't have to handhold, and if you do feel the need to, you're not telling it right.   But either the handholding was just a brief blip, or I got used to it, because the rest of the book slipped into the quirky, upper-crusty, hilariously Missish storytelling I'd grown to love in the Parasol Protectorate.

Etiquette & Espionage - much like the PP series, or Sorcery & Cecelia , and others of its kind - thrusts readers into a strange** world, very like ours and yet decidedly not, and then relies on an irrepressible but pragmatic narrator to guide the ship*** and draw readers along on a whisper of curiosity and charm. After Elizabeth's unfavorable reaction, I did something I generally don't do, which is look into reviews of a book right before I'm set to read it. (I don't want to be biased, so I typically avoid them - but I had to know if it was going to be a dud! I needed to brace myself if that was the case...) One of the complaints I saw most about this book was about the characters, actually - a lack of connection to them, a dislike for them, etc. And though I can see a tendency toward stockness about them, I didn't ever find myself disliking them - especially Sophronia and some of her more unlikely companions.  I loved her fearlessness-bordering-on-recklessness quite a bit, and her intelligence and composure, and I think she'd keep me entertained over the course of a series by dint of that alone. But beyond that, I found that the characters manage to be both well-suited to their AU Victorian England and to a modern audience looking for characters a little less demure and a little more spirited, and that's really all I could ask of them. I was curious, and I was charmed.

Etiquette & Espionage turned out to be a very fun, very YA-appropriate expansion of Carriger's world. Set earlier than PP, there are all sorts of little easter eggs for readers already familiar with the world (traditions, characters at a younger age, or before big events, etc.), which made it fun on a level that works without being obtrusive - readers who aren't familiar with the world won't feel confused or like they're missing anything, but will have bits of handy background should they choose to move on to the other series.  The world of Carriger's steampunky England is expanded in some ways by this spin-off, though I think for the most part, as it largely takes place in such a very insular location (a boarding school on a dirigible, for realsies), some readers may feel the lack of variation and be disappointed. Personally, I liked being able to explore a more confined world in depth, and on the few instances when they went offship, plenty of hijinks ensued to balance it out. Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality was a good starting point, not overwhelming the reader with the alternate universe, but providing a good foundation for it. And while I'm not panting for the next books, as I was with the first few of the Protectorate, I look forward to seeing where the world expands from Mlle. Geraldine's over the course of the series.


* Spellcheck needs to stop telling me "trepidatious" isn't a word. If the OED says it is, then it is.
**Both from a historical and a contemporary point of view
***I'mma just go ahead and mix all the metaphors I can, mmmkay?
[Please note: the opening quote is from the ARC of Etiquette & Espionage, and as such may be different in the finished version - or not there at all. Though I hope that isn't the case, as it tickled me immensely.]
Profile Image for Choko.
1,166 reviews2,568 followers
November 14, 2020
So much fun! Yes, it is about a finishing school for young ladies, and yes it is about really young teens, but Ms. Carriger doesn't play down to her readers and the book would be a delight for readers of all ages. Highly recommend it 😀👍!
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,198 followers
April 7, 2018
Fantastic fun! Packed with Wodehousian humor!

Whip-smart author Gail Carriger kicks off a diabolically clever girl's school espionage series in style!

Whereas Austen prodded the society she was associated with, Etiquette & Espionage pokes fun at the Regency, early Victorian and Industrial Age manners and dress in a way that brands it with a slap on the ass!...a loving one though. It's clear that Carriger has an affinity for the period.

Set in a steampunk world, the book is all gussied up in the sort of lavish detail that evokes a magical world. The addition of supernatural creatures and the fantastical school makes one leap to make Harry Potter parallels, but actually the overall tone of this is more like Jonathan Stroud's wonderful Bartimaeus triology.

Clever, funny, and flat out fun!

Profile Image for Hayat.
570 reviews169 followers
April 18, 2015

“He...boasted an unassuming mustache, which was perched atop his upper lip cautiously, as though it were slightly embarrassed to be there and would like to slide away and become a sideburn or something more fashionable.”

After reading that amusing quote, I just had to read this book and I didn't regret it one bit.



Fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick is intelligent, curious, spirited and something of a tomboy. After getting into one too many trouble, Mrs. Temminnick decides its time to send Sophronia to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality where she'll learn better Etiquettes and blossom into a proper young lady they can be proud of.

“It'll all end in tears and oil.”

But it turns out, Mademoiselle Geraldine's school teaches young ladies the fine art of espionage with style, grace and deportment. The young ladies will learn how to create diversions, spy and gather intelligence, and even learn how to kill if needed, with the politest of smiles, endearing giggle and perfect curtsey.



“If there is gossip to be garnered, garner it. If there are new dress styles to be imitated, imitate them. If there are hearts to be broken, break them.
That's my girls.”


Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is the perfect place for Sophronia to hone her skills for creating unintended mischief. This school turns out to be a great place not only to learn etiquette and espionage, but a place of self discovery and emotional development. It is also a place to learn what makes the people around her tick, which in turn leads Sophronia to learn more about her own inner workings and a bit of wisdom.

“How have I never noticed she only required praise to find me acceptable? wondered Sophronia, not quite realizing that this, too, was a mark of her new education. Many was the lady whose belief in another's sound judgment was based solely upon that other judging her favorably.”




Mademoiselle Geraldine's is also an excellent place to make friends and enemies, it is a place that has its own danger, politics and factions under all the politeness and that's what drives the plot. I especially liked Sophronia interactions with Soap, the teachers and the double meaning in their dialogue.

“Quietly Sophronia added, "And the soot on my dress, sir?"
"I didn't see anything." Professor Braithwope smiled down at her, showing a small hint of fang.
Sophronia grinned back. "I'm glad we understand each other, sir."
The vampire looked out into the night. "This is the right finishing school for you, isn't it, whot?"
"Yes sir, I think it might very well be."
"A piece of advice, Miss Temminnick?"
"Sir?"
"It is a great skill to have friends in low places. They, too, have things to teach you."
"Now, sir, I thought you didn't see any soot.”




Sophronia and the rest of the characters have a lot to learn about themselves and Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has a lot more to teach them about the art of espionage.

“She had to give her teachers credit: they were right to insist all pupils carry scissors, handkerchiefs, perfume and hair ribbons at all times. At some point she'd learn why they also required a red lace doily and a lemon.”

I loved listening to this amazing, light-hearted fun read. This is the start of a great Ya Steampunk series with intelligent quirky plot, brilliant characters with devious minds and enough spirit to get in and out of all sorts of trouble. Such a lovely fun book coupled with an amazing narrator made for a delightful listening time for me. I can't wait to see what happens next in Sophronia's world.
Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
January 30, 2014
See more reviews at my blog.

This book is pure, whimsical fun. I admit, I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy this the first time I picked it up. It’s got a very lighthearted approach to worldbuilding, and I it wasn’t until my second attempt that I actually appreciated that. But once I was in the mood for a carefree adventure, this was just the perfect fix for it.

Etiquette & Espionage had a very early-Harry-Potter feel to it, and I know it’s irritating to hear everything called the next Harry Potter, but let me explain. Remember the first couple books, where the entire wizarding world ran on puns and whatever concept happened to be the most magic-y and zaney? Remember when Hogwarts wasn’t supposed to be a school that many any lick of sense, but was instead just built on pure whimsy? But it was okay, because the books and fans fully embraced that fact and hadn’t yet started writing essays on why it made sense, no really, you just have to assume a bunch of convoluted stuff? That sort of atmosphere is the heart and soul of Etiquette & Espionage. True, it’s steampunk instead of magic and spy stuff instead of wizard stuff. But it’s got the same kind of wide-eyed charm that lets you rush along and not care about the practicality of a whole school for evil geniuses. This book never quite asked me to take this stuff seriously, so I was able to roll along with it and just enjoy every joke.

The setting really is the high point in the book. While I liked the plot and the characters, both were…let’s say on the high end of average. Good, thoroughly without fault, but perhaps nothing to write home about. They were a collection of one-note personalities, but much like the whole idea of flying-spy-school, it was done with such flair that I found I didn’t care. I liked their one notes, and I enjoyed reading about them, and there was enough variety in the cast to keep me entertained regardless.

But most of all I think I enjoyed the sense of careless adventure in this book. Things tend to happen simply because Sophronia wants to be outlandish, and you know what? Yeah! Bring it on! She’s a 14 year-old outlandish girl who likes adventure; having her do stuff for the sake of enjoying it is perfectly in line with her character, and I, for one, am more than happy to get some action-sans-angst.

It’s definitely a book that you have to be in the right mood for. It won’t satisfy any itch for drama or romance or deep brooding. But it doesn’t try to. I feel like every note this book intended to hit, it succeeded at, which is why it gets five stars. Because it may not be for everyone, but it’s perfect at being itself.
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,634 reviews448 followers
September 3, 2019
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I thought that this book was just okay. This is really a pretty generous 3 stars but I am going to go with it. I have wanted to read Gail Carriger's work for a very long time and I remember being excited when I got my hands on a review copy of this book years ago. Somehow it got lost in my tbr pile but I decided that it was time to give it a go. It really wasn't all that I had hoped it would be but I am glad that I gave it a read and did find many parts of the book quite enjoyable.

This book felt younger than I expected it to feel. I do read quite a bit of YA but I thought that this story had more of a Middle Grade feel. That is not a bad thing - just an observation. My main issue with this story is the fact that I was often rather bored. For some reason, I never felt any connection to the story or the characters and often found my mind wandering.

The story revolves around Sophronia, who is sent off to Finishing School. This isn't like any other Finishing School. While she is taught important things such as how to curtsey properly, she is also trained in the art of espionage. I thought the school was pretty interesting and enjoyed seeing all of the various steampunk elements that present. There were a few more intense scenes that I thought were really well done as well.

I thought that Moira Quirk did a good job with this book. She was able to represent all of the different characters very well with her voice. I thought that the dialogue in the story flowed quite nicely. I found that she read the book at a nice pace and had no issues listening to her narration for long periods of time.

I think that this is a book that other reader might like a bit more than I did. I thought that the book did many things quite well but I was often bored and eager to finish the book so that I could move on to something else. I do hope to read more from Gail Carriger soon but I will probably choose a book from a different series.

I received a digital review copy of this book from Little Brown Books for Young Readers via NetGalley and purchased a copy of the audiobook.

Initial Thoughts
Maybe 2.5 stars but I am rounding up for now. There were parts of this story that I really did enjoy and other parts that felt rather dull. I just had a hard time really staying interested in this book but I did like the characters. I listened to the audio and thought that Moira Quirk did a great job with the story.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews520 followers
December 4, 2013
Alt 1854, young girl is shipped off to "finishing school," where she learns important lessons in deportment, manners, and the intricacies of assassination, among other relevant topics. All in pursuit of goals never explained for political purposes never elucidated because guys, that is so not the point.

I feel like this book is almost deep. Like this twisted portrait of nineteenth-century education – the juxtaposition of fashion with poison, the way lessons in eyelash fluttering serve both social and spy agendas – is almost a slyly brilliant commentary on women's constructed gender roles. I mean, there comes a point in this book where the girls are learning some fine point of social manipulation, and you really can't tell if it's in service of catching a husband, or in service of lining someone up to stick a knife in them. It's almost genius.

Except it's Carriger, so it skips merrily past genius and settles for paper thin froth instead.

Also, someone really needs to have a talk with her about the ways she is handling racism in this alternate historical context, because it is violently not working for me right now. She keeps lightheartedly lining up white characters to say horrifically racist things to the single black character. It's supposed to be funny? I think? Like, hahaha, historical racism, how hilarious? Tee hee, making jokes out of racism totally means you aren't perpetuating it, right? …Oh wait.
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
2,976 reviews363 followers
October 14, 2014
I have wanted to read this series but a while now and when I received the third book for review, I figured now was as good as a time as ever to start it. Instead of reading it I decided to give audiobooks one more try, after all, why not? I could get so much more read if only I could listen to books throughout the day while also doing other things so I decided this was the place to start and hoped like heck I wouldn't regret it.

Can I just tell you that I am so glad I listened to this on audio? It was so much fun and I really enjoyed the narrator. Moira Quirk has a lovely accent and made this read so much more fun than I think it would have been had I read it on my own not to mention I think the accent added a little something extra to the story that made it feel more authentic.

This was such a fun combination of humor, historic, and of course the slight paranormal all blended together with a very steampunk goth feel. And truly, this book has some of the best, most strange names, saying and titles I have ever read (or rather listened to) in a story.

I am really looking forward to book two.
Profile Image for Alaina.
5,921 reviews216 followers
December 29, 2017
I have one question and one question only: DOES THIS SCHOOL EXIST?!?

Because if it does, sign me up. If it doesn't then.. it needs to be built asap!

Sophronia learns the finer points of deceit, espionage, and assassination while attending Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Now, I'm not all about taking more classes now that I've graduated from college - but I could totally take these kind of classes.

I really enjoyed this book. Especially when no one was annoying me. The names were pretty interesting, but then again I did read a book with a character named Kricket. If the weird names freak you out in books.. just google weird names that people have had in the past or have now. You'll get over it pretty quickly.

Other than that I didn't really know what steampunk would mean in a book but I didn't hate it. I have no idea when I'm going to read the next book in this series but that is only due to the already growing amount of books I want to read next year.

I promise I'll continue this series - I just don't know when.
Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews800 followers
December 16, 2015
5 Words: School, friendship, class, spying, betrayal.

No dumbing down for a Young Adult audience in this wonderful start to the Finishing School series. Instead, the author keeps things mature - as she should.

The voices of the characters are perfect for their age - and there are some familiar faces for those who have read the Parasol Protectorate novels. Different fashions to imagine, different technologies to wrap your head around - and new questions blossoming in your head!

As a separate series this is working well so far, but is still fascinating for those who have already been introduced to this wonderful world.

I can't wait for the next one. Oh, and can I have a mechanimal?
Profile Image for Jessica.
562 reviews775 followers
April 17, 2017
I picked this book up at my local Dollar Tree store. I had heard of this series before so when I saw it I just had to get it.

I have never read the Parasol Protectorate series so I was a bit unfamiliar with the world. Regardless, this book was still lot of fun. My only issue was that the ending felt rushed.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 6 books2,015 followers
September 30, 2016
A YA steampunk Victorian era thriller with a vampire & a werewolf - not exactly my normal read, but I chuckled most of the way through it. Good old sloppy English leads to punny situations & this is one where a daring young lady with unfashionable tom-boy tendencies gets sent off to one of the finest finishing schools that not only teaches manners, but espionage & murder. It's pretty well summed up when a teacher asks what ladies do in crisis.
"Assess any damage to one’s attire. A lady is never disreputable in public, unless intended for manipulation of sympathies.”
“Good. Anything more?”
“Ascertain the nature of the emergency. See if it can be turned to your advantage or used as an opportunity to gather information,” said another voice.

Of course, being taught knife fighting by a werewolf is a bit more to the point, if indelicate.

Great descriptions of people.
He was very pale and boasted an unassuming mustache, which was perched atop his upper lip cautiously, as though it were slightly embarrassed to be there and would like to slide away and become a sideburn or something more fashionable.

An older female approached. She had rinsed red hair, friendly dark eyes, and a generous mouth. However, one was not prone to noticing any of the aforementioned features first. Oh, no, what was initially striking about the woman was the fact that she was endowed in a manner that suggested operatic tendencies. Sophronia could think of no more delicate way of putting it—her corset was distinctly under stress.

The plot was just plain fun with wonderfully inept bad guys that the children could outsmart. While this certainly leaves the door open for a series, it is quite well contained & I'm sure the books need to be read in order. I notice that one of my friends read another series by her first that seems to be set in the same world. I did not have any issues falling right into this one, though.

I doubt I'll read any more of these books, at least any time soon, but certainly enjoyed this foray.
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 154 books37.5k followers
July 9, 2013
Well, that was fun. My Kindle continues to provide a comfortable if not elegant reading experience, and, of course, tremendous convenience for odd-hours shopping.

It was amusing to recognize younger versions of some of the characters met in the (written earlier, set later, adult-marketed) Parasol Protectorate series. I imagine that would also work in reverse fairly well. The downshift to the YA length and somewhat underwritten style did not affect the general goofiness of the setup, though it did give me a sense of too much action, not enough of everything else. I would be curious to know what the age-target audience made of it all. This one would probably also make the transition to manga easily.

It will be interesting to see how it all develops when the greater length of the apparently planned series gives room for it.

Ta, L.
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