Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Title: Curtsies and Conspiracies
Series: Finishing School #2
Author: Gail Carriger
Published: 2013 by Little Brown
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests? 

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

**** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion of the book****

Curtsies and Conspiracies once again reminded me that I should wait to judge a series until the second book. While I did like the first book in Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, Etiquette & Espionage, I wasn't really blown away. And while I wasn't blown away by this book either, I found it greatly improved. Curtsies and Conspiracies took the compelling world and interesting characters from the first book and stepped up the plot to make the book much more mysterious and engaging.

In Etiquette & Espionage my favorite thing about the book was the world. I seriously have been really digging the steampunk settings lately. I love that it combines the historic setting with it's ideas and views of society and adds machinery and technology that actually seems and kind of is historically accurate. It's something new and inventive but rooted in history. This series is no exception. In this book we get to spend more time at the floating school, Miss Geraldine's, and learn not only how to be a lady but how to be a spy. It's such a fun and interesting concept, and one that I really enjoyed. And just like most sequels it expanded the world further. Here we got to explore what steampunk London is like, if only briefly. And that exploration of London also included and exploration of the larger society of the time. I'm not sure I would really say that it got more political but we did get to experience the liberal and conservative forces at play in this world, with our fair heroes right in the middle. It created an interesting dimension to the story and I'm sure these two varying forces will come into play as the series develops.

And the world in this book also veered more towards the supernatural. I haven't read the Parasol Protectorate, Carriger's adult series set in this world, so this may be repeat information for those who have read that series, but I really enjoyed learning more about the supernatural side of things. In this book we got to learn a lot more about the vampires who inhabit this steampunk London. What I loved about this is that we got to see and experience vampire society. It wasn't just about how the lore, how vampires are created and who they are, it was about their hierarchy. It was about their strengths but also their weaknesses. It was detailed and interesting, and I loved being able to learn all about them in Curtsies & Conspiracies.

But the real charm of this series is in the characters. The quirky and fun characters. Our main character Sophronia is back and up to her old tricks. She's your typical strong female protagonist, intelligent and brave but rash and rebellious so that it gets her into trouble. She's also too smart for her own good sometimes. But all of this leads to some fun and exciting situations. There are also some great secondary characters and in this book, with the expansion of the world we got a lot more new and interesting characters that I am hoping will come back in later books in the series. And while I still found the oddities of the characters names annoying, in this book it became more laughable and less frustrating. Sure, I'm supposed to be an adult but I can't help it but laugh at names like Professor Shrimpdittle and Lord Dingleproops. I'm sure a teenager while be giggling away at them just like I do.

The best development in this book, however, was with the plot. In the first book I found myself waiting for things to get interesting but here it was interesting almost immediately, and I think that was because of the emphasis on the mystery within the book. Things got much more intricate when it came to the plot development. There was more to figure out, more clues to search for, and more little things becoming big as the book developed. It felt like things were slowly developing to an exciting conclusion and there was still plenty of exciting moments to keep me reading. That being said, I still did have some issues with the pacing. Even though it developed well, it didn't really seem to flow any better. Some moments we got to extremely quickly while others took quite awhile to reach. It felt much more like a series of moments rather than a cohesively developed story.

This book was a fun and interesting second book in a series full of an inventive world and quirky characters and a much more developed plot full of mystery and action.

I give Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger an 8 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you're a fan of steampunk YA or looking for something fun and different within the fantasy genre than pick this series up the next time you're at the library.

Have you read Curtsies & Conspiracies? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I love this series and am so glad your enjoying it! You should give her Parasol Protectorate series a go as well. Perhaps you'll see a few familiar faces. :-)

    1. Haha, I have heard there are some familiar faces in that one. I'm mostly interested to see if Sophronia is in there at all, like even vaguely mentioned. And I am enjoying it. It's not blowing me away but it's a good series.

  2. OOOh nice review! I STILL need to read this one! I read the first one as an ARC and then never got around to picking this one up right away! It's in the TBR Mountain of Doom, near the 3rd book now! LOL

    Great review! Glad to hear this one got better! I recall feeling a little lax with the pacing as well, but seems like it picks up a bit here or at least other qualities that enhance the reading experience!

    1. Yes, the pacing is problematic in this series. It's getting better with each book but it's just something that keeps me from really enjoying them compared to some other similar series.