Thursday, February 28, 2013

Good Manners and Murder

Ettitquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

“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.”

Sophronia Temminnick is a troublemaker. Clock-dismantler, tree-climber, pudding-flinger, and the bane of her sister’s existence.  So her mother ships her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, hoping to smooth out Sophronia’s rough edges.

The school is not what it seems.  First off, it’s an air ship floating above the English Moor.  The students learn everything from dance to death. Math lessons center around budgeting enough money to poison only half your dinner guests and get the expensive antidote.  Sophronia makes friends and takes lots of lessons from a wide variety of teachers, including a vampire. 

The main mystery of the book is discovering what happened to a prototype that the recruiter who picked up Sophronia was transporting.  Air Pirates attack the school, trying to obtain the prototype for nefarious purposes. And the werewolf teacher gets out one moonlit night. And there’s a ball. And a couple of explosions.

I loved it and can’t wait for the next one.  It is full of droll humor and tea. While the book does have characters who are vampires or werewolves, the supernatural side of the story is not a major feature.  It is just a fact about the character like brown hair or a purple dress. Yet it is entirely believable, just as all the steampunk elements (airship school, flyaway men, etc.) sound true.  Carriger does a great job of making the characters interesting and likeable, even though they have prickly quirks that puts them at odds with the other characters.

A few of the character names bothered me for a while before I realized that these characters appeared in Carringer’s Parasol Protectorate series.  Beatrice, one of the teachers in the Finishing School series appears as a ghost in the Parasol Protecorate. A young inventor will sound familiar as will a couple of werewolves.  Yet Ettiquette and Espionage is not a prequel to the Parasol Protectorate.  It is a brand new story set in the same universe with some common characters. 

If you are intrigued by the book, you can find it here. Or, try some of these other great titles: Soulless by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lillith Saintcrow.

~Amy W.

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