Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Published February 5th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
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. (Goodreads)
To say I was excited about this story is an understatement. I almost flipped when I received this during my BookCase Club box for review. I have read a few steampunk novels and have quite enjoyed them. But that wasn’t what had me dying to read this one. Marie Lu, author of the Legend trilogy blurbed it saying, “Absolutely charming, comical, and full of whimsy…It is the perfect steampunk version of Harry Potter.” So… steampunk Harry Potter?! Right? Wrong! This in no way replicates the characters or the world of Harry Potter. Not even a little bit. It had me thinking what people, readers, and authors actually mean when they refer to Harry Potter. Do they mean a band of characters who solves crimes or mysteries? If that’s what they took out of Harry Potter I feel sad for them. Harry Potter is so much more. If you’re looking for a band of characters that solves mysteries look no further than the Saturday morning cartoon, Scooby-Doo!
So what did this story have? Minor steampunk elements, lots of tricky vocabulary, a mysterious finishing school, a vampire, a werewolf, and yes, a mystery. I am sad I didn’t love it more because the covers are absolutely stunning. The writing isn’t terrible but it’s clunky unless you read a lot of steampunk. I had to keep looking up the pronunciation of the main protagonist and I finally settled with writing out the pronunciation on a post it and sticking it inside the front cover. Also, since I had to look up a ton of vocabulary I took to annotating (in pencil!!) throughout the story. I skipped some words because I was too lazy. I think this story would be great fun for elementary readers, but I think some of the vocabulary would need to be adjusted.
I enjoyed Sophronia as a character a lot. She was witty and brave. I just wish the story surrounding her was up to par. This is the first book in a series so I am curious how the series continues. If it’s just a new mystery each book or what. However for the time being at least, I have plenty of other books to read rather than finding out. I rated Etiquette & Espionage 2 stars.