Author: Gail Carriger
Etiquette & Espionage is set in the same world as Gail Carriger’s earlier adult series, The Parasol Protectorate, of which I have only read, and loved, two. The world is the same but I can’t be too sure about the timing, it’s definitely later than Soulless but I can’t say just how much.
It took me quite a while to immerse myself back into the high society steampunk world Carriger created with its long winded language and names that border on the ridiculous, but once I was in it was quite a lot of fun.
Sophronia is the youngest girl in a family of both brothers and sisters, and she is forever getting herself in trouble for not being ladylike or fit to be seen in company. Now, her character traits would be admired but in her era young ladies were not to be playing around with mechanicals, climbing or otherwise getting themselves into mischief. Sophronia did all of these things, with alarming regularity until her mother was at her wits end and when the opportunity arose for Sophronia to go off to finishing school her mother was more than happy to give it a shot. Sophronia is not so thrilled at the opportunity but she is also going in to this situation completely blind as she quickly discovers from her newest friend Dimity, who in stark contrast to Sophronia wants nothing more than to be a lady and marry well.
Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is much more than people ever get to know – including Mademoiselle Geraldine. There are lessons on Etiquette, deportment, the latest fashions and all of the things that young ladies need to know but there is so much more. There is another complete side to the school as the pupils are tutored in the ways of intelligencers, and assassins. Lessons much more suited to the character traits evidenced by Sophronia, the first covert recruit in six years. All of the other students know exactly what they are signing up for long before they get to the Academy, unlike Sophronia who fast proves her worth.
The Academy is quite select in its number of pupils, which I guess is necessary when the school is a train of connected dirigibles floating above the moor. The only characters we spend quality time with are the first year students, and Monique who has been demoted to their level. They are a small group and all very different, some of them markedly less thrilled to be there than others.
Of course we need to get to know more than just students and their teachers so that we can see the contrast in the classes, so Sophronia finds herself getting to know the boys working in the boiler room.
There is a lot of etiquette, and proper dress which does tend to drag a little if you aren’t the most ladylike but this was definitely overshadowed by late night jaunts, spying and the gathering of intelligence on all manner of secret business that no first year should be aware of.
I found Etiquette & Espionage to be entertaining and amusing with enough action to keep me interested. I still find it amazing to picture the steampunk era with all of this mechanical steam powered inventions in a historical setting.
The chapter titles, the names, the machines; all fabulously over the top and sure to amuse. For quite a light-hearted read where the characters are still in the learning stages of using their wiles to control a situation, or in the case of the boys school learning to become evil geniuses. This is a great way to spend an afternoon or three, and through it all is the teenage behaviour and coming of age issues that you would expect in any book involving this age group. Such a lot of fun and I look forward to the next book.