“Silly, lightweight steampunk mystery set in a boarding school/finishing school for girls. Setting is the same as Ms. Carriger's Souless series. Fun - read it in an afternoon - and girly. Not much of a mystery.”humbledaisy wrote this review 2 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I loved this, it is the prequel to Souless and has the same wit with a boarding school twist that makes everything so cute.”smog wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Read my full review on my blog: http://thereadinghedgehog.blogspot.com/
Character: Sophronia is an immensely wonderful protagonist. She's well aware of society's propriety standards and shows proper shock when they are not adhered to, so she fits in well with the story's era. However, Sophronia is also intensely practical and will often ignore propriety when circumstances dictate quick thinking and immediate action. She will not expose her petticoats if she can help it, but if she needs to make a quick getaway, petticoats are the least of her worries. But what I loved most about her was her inquisitive mind. Sophronia loves seeing how things work, and she doesn't like being left in the dark on certain matters. In her quest to find answers, she often becomes absentminded about what society deems correct for young ladies, and I can hardly fault her for that. She also has a great sense of humor, which I always appreciate in a protagonist. I adored Dimity - the daughter of an evil genius family who can't stand the sight of blood and is really only interested in becoming a proper lady - and Vieve; an eight-year-old girl who appreciates fashion, but much prefers to traipse around in boy's clothes. Monique was so wonderfully easy to despise, with her constantly turned up nose and tendency to cause trouble for everyone else. Though I do get the sense that there just might be a possible reconciliation with her in the future, sadly. But I could be wrong. And I cannot believe I'm saying this, but I actually really liked the vampire - mostly because he was a classic vampire, and not this newfangled type. And let us not forget Bumbersnoot, the mechanimal dachshund, who logically shouldn't have been as cute as he was.
The Romance: There isn't any! Not even with the girls have big crushes on Captain Niall, the werewolf. I suspect Sophronia and Soap may grow to really like each other as the series progresses, but for now it didn't bother me, and I don't think it will in later books, either. I like both Soap and Sophronia; Soap was amusing and useful and an all-around nice guy. And Sophronia is too practical to ever become silly.
Plot: Sophronia Temminnick lives in an age where young ladies are supposed to conduct themselves with propriety, with gentleness, and grace. Their lives are to revolve around social visits, finding a husband, and looking their best. Unfortunately, Sophronia most decidedly does not fit into this mold of the ideal Victorian woman. She likes to take machines apart to see how they work - and horror of horrors, she has a horrible tendency to climb trees. She is not quiet, she is not demure, and there is not an ounce of grace about her, as is evident in her atrocious curtsy. There is only one thing that a mother can do with such a troublesome daughter: send her off to finishing school. Sophronia, of course, rebels at the very idea, and she is quite certain that she shall hate Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But when Sophronia discovers that the academy is, in fact, a giant airship, and that there is a werewolf and a vampire on staff, she begins to suspect that etiquette is not the only thing this academy teaches. And indeed it is not. While students certainly learn how to serve tea properly, curtsy, which spoon to use when, and how to dance, they also learn much more covert skills. Things like poisons, passing secret messages in a crowded a environment, the best way to assassinate noblemen, and sabotage. And all in the most proper and ladylike manner possible. But when Sophronia joins the ranks of rich young ladies, the school is experiencing some trouble with flywaymen (sky pirates). It seems that they are after a special prototype - what it is a prototype of, no one will tell Sophronia. But one of the school's operatives was charged with safely delivering it to the school, and now the operative has turned rogue and hidden the prototype from both the school and the flywaymen. It isn't any of Sophronia's business; she ought to be practicing her curtsy. But Sophronia has never backed down from an adventure, and she's not about to change that practice now. This is probably the story's weakest point, because while there is a spy and espionage plot going on among all of the daily academy comings and goings, not much of the story focuses on it. The difficulty with the prototype is mentioned just often enough to keep it at the forefront of the Reader's mind, but nothing concerning it ever really happens until the end. It is, because of this, a rather tenuous plot. However, I was so swept away by the world building that I honestly didn't notice this flaw until well into the book. I have not read the Author's Parasol Protectorates series (yet!), so this is the first time I have been introduced to this steampunk world of hers. And I loved it. Airships, clockwork machines, and classic literature supernatural elements (i.e. classic werewolves and vampires) is a combination that I absolutely love (at least, I do now), and added onto it was pure quirkiness. I just couldn't help but fall in love with this world. Ideally, I would have preferred a stronger plot, but I have confidence that we will get more of that in later installments. The Author wanted to set up the school in this first book, and I can appreciate that.
Believability: Not applicable. Though I must note with great glee that the Author has clearly done research into proper Victorian customs and proper social conduct. Research that many Authors feel like they can neglect in steampunk stories (because they're making everything up, right?), but I think is imperative to make a more colorful and somewhat believable world.
Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Aside from the world building, the writing is the second element that caught my enthusiasm so thoroughly. Quirky, witty, whimsical, and Dickensian, I couldn't help but love the Author's style. It was everything I love in a Victorian/steampunk novel.
Conclusion: Time is running out for Sophronia and her friends to find the prototype before the flywaymen and the dastardly (and mysterious) Pickleman they work for do. Sophronia believes she knows where it's hidden, and unfortunately retrieving it is going to involve possibly upsetting her older sister's coming out ball. An act which Mumsy may never forgive her for. With such a quirky book, an equally quirky and somewhat convoluted climax fits better than it would in other stories. But it could have been a little less odd, with just a tad fewer moments of chaos. This may just be personal preference, though, since I have never been a great fan of chaotic moments. Whether or not Readers tend to agree with me in this instance, there's no denying that the end does make up for some of the drag earlier in the story. I didn't really know what I was expecting when I picked up Etiquette & Espionage. I had been told that it was a little odd, and my past experiences with female assassin stories has not been all that great. I was not expecting such hilarious writing, or such wonderful characters - and I certainly wasn't expecting to like a vampire. As a matter of principle, I don't like vampires beyond Count Dracula. But I found myself laughing all the way through this quirky little book, and I can't wait to see what happens to Sophronia next.
Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fourteen-and-up, great for fans of steampunk, quirky stories, and books like Kat, Incorrigible and Patricia C. Wrede's books.”
“Didn't finish it. Decided I'm not a huge fan of steampunk. I really liked Leviathan by Westerfield, but I think it was because of the strong ties to actual historical events that I have some knowledge of and am interested in. It was clear what historical and scientific elements he was playing with, this is more... ooh, this would be neat... and I just wasn't interested enough to finish.”Turtle Lady wrote this review Tuesday, October 1, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I absolutely loved the authors voice and the playful tone of this book. Soon, however, it became a little overdone and bordering on ridiculous. I liked it, but I had expected to love it.”Jen wrote this review Thursday, September 26, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I adore Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series and this series is something of a prequel/companion to it. Etiquette & Espionage is a fun, fast read that's spunky enough to appeal to both boys and girls. I'd recommend it to folks who enjoyed Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series, and anyone who loves a good spunky heroine.”Jill T wrote this review Tuesday, September 10, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I really liked the story but had a hard time with the slower pace.”Cori Corrente wrote this review Friday, September 6, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Interesting to see characters from the other series when they were younger.”kbotsfor wrote this review Wednesday, September 4, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Very entertaining steampunk read. Set in the 1850's in a parallel England, vampires and werewolves are campaign platforms for the "progressives", servants come in the form of robots, and Sophronia's boarding school floats above the moors.
On her way to finishing school, Sophronia's carriage is waylaid by flywaymen (think old-fashioned highwaymen), who use hot air balloons to track & attach their prey. A "prototype" is stolen, and S. is determined to find out not only what it is, but where it has been hidden. ”
“This was a pretty fun read. I mean how can you go wrong with a steampunk story that has Victorian girls attending a finishing school to learn how to be a spy for Her Majesty's Government in a world where vampires and werewolves are expected society(?). This is actually a teen series that is spun off from a fully realized (and popular) adult series that I have always wanted to try. This was a great introduction to her world.
Our main character is Sophronia, and she is 14 years old. Unfortunately, she tends to get in quite a bit of trouble around the house because she is really more tomboy than young lady. Fortunately for her, she gets an opportunity for a scholarship to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. The hope is that she will learn to be a proper lady and be ready to debut in a little time.
Sophronia quickly learns that the school is very much more than it seems when she is being escorted by one of the teachers from her family home to the school. Not only does the teacher seem to be quite young, but they are also beset an the equivalent of highway robbers, but they attack from the air! Their young teacher, who proves to be an older student who has failed her final project, crumbles leaving Sophronia to rise up and save the day for her whole group, which also includes a pair of siblings, a brother and a sister.
Things get even more interesting when they escape the attack and arrive at the school, which is really a giant floating dirigible. They are greeted by a werewolf and get a chance to meet the faculty, which includes a vampire. What is really intriguing is that Mademoiselle Geraldine only knows the school as a traditional finishing school, allowing the other teachers to play inter her ignorance by having student assignments that include doing spy-related tasks without Mademoiselle Geraldine knowing about them.
Besides the fun of the student and instructor interaction that is somewhat reminiscent of the "Harry Potter" books, this also has the flair of an adventures as the students are drawn into a mystery. The same airway robbers are after the school to get some secret equipment the school needs. The problem is the equipment has gone missing, and the school is under threat by the airway robbers. It is up to Sophronia and her friends, which include not only other finishing school students but young sooties (those working on keeping the school technology going), to save the day.
The book is quite a bit of fun, and it does a nice job of introducing Carriger's world to a new, younger audience. I liked this book enough that I regretted the fact that the sequel (one of three upcoming, planned sequels) has not yet been published. I will definitely get my hands on "Curtsies & Conspiracies" when it becomes available. I will probably also try to get my hands on the related adult series.”