Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Ettiquette & Espinoge by Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette and Espionage
Series: Finishing School #1
Author: Gail Carriger
Published: 2012 by Little Brown Books
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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 the 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's legions of fans have come to adore.

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

Gail Carriger has been on my list of authors to read for awhile now. I had first heard about her years ago when her adult series The Parasol Protectorate was first out. At that time I had no idea what steampunk was but it sounded really interesting, however something held me back from picking it up. But lately I have been really enjoying YA steampunk novels and these sort of alternate histories so when I saw copies of this series, which combined a topic I've been loving and an author I've been wanting to try, available on NetGalley I requested right away. And while I enjoyed the book, I didn't fall head over heels like I expected to.

But one thing I did love about this book was the world. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've really been enjoying steampunk worlds these days. Gail Carriger definitely created an interesting and unique one in this series. She took a well-know trope, the Victorian boarding school, and adding a creative and interesting spin on it. Not only is this not your average finishing school in terms of its curriculum but even its appearance it out of the ordinary. She created a world and a school of steam engines, blimps, and inventions unlike anything I had previously read about. And this unique setting was explained in a way that I could not only imagine the world but I was easily immersed into it.

Then Carriger took this world and inhabited it with quirky and unique characters. The book was full interesting characters that were likable and complex. There were strong female characters, people with secrets I wanted to learn about, and a sprinkling of supernatural creatures. I was pretty fond of the main character Sophronia. She's plucky, intelligent, and tough which makes her perfectly fit in with this setting and the books plot. But there were also some great secondary characters. My only real problem with the characters was their names. I was trying really hard not to be bothered by how weird and confusing they were but it didn't work very well. I mean one of the only character whose name wasn't unpronounceable is Soap! I spent more time trying to learn or pronounce their names than I did trying to get a feel for their personalities. It really did take me out of the story at times, especially in the beginning when the world was being built.

My major criticism of this book, however, was the pacing and plot development. I expect a lot of exposition in the first book in a series. I expect it but that doesn't mean I like it. But this took that concept to a whole new level. It was seriously all about establishing the world and what I would call a "training montage" for almost the whole book. And for a book that is only 300 pages that is kind of problematic. It wasn't until two-thirds of the way through the book that it developed into anything that even resembled real plot development. But when it did pick up, the book was action-packed and engaging. That's when things became less like a Fantasy set in a boarding school and more like a spy thriller or mystery. Those last 100 pages are what will keep me reading this series.

I did also really like Gail Carriger's writing style. Her world-building was on point and the book was full of humor. There were so many moments that made me laugh out loud and so many silly little puns that had me giggling at the subtlety of the humor. The reason why they call it "finishing" school still makes me laugh. But it was a fast and fun read. It's probably more on the lower age-range of the YA spectrum. I would encourage some of the middle grade crowd to check it out if they are trying YA for the first time before moving on to something a little bit more aged up. Fans of more complex and "older" YA may want to try something different though.

I give Ettiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger 7.5 out of 10 

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. A fun and fast read with a unique and interesting world and complex and likable characters that would be a great library score but I may not suggest buying it until you try it.

Have you read Etiquette & Espionage? What did you think? What are some of your favorite steampunk books that I should check out. Leave me a comment with your thoughts and of course, HAPPY READING!


  1. I'm about to start reading this one. I'm glad you liked it. So far the only thing I've read from her is Soulless. Looking forward to her YA/MG voice :)

    1. I did like it! I can't really compare it to Soulless but I can say that I did like the YA/MG style. It was fun and lighthearted.