Etiquette & Espionage, Book One in the brand new Finishing School series by Gail Carriger is out now.
We were inundated with requests from our Atomics reader review programme (aged 12-18 and love books? Sign up here!) and these are the results.
Looks like they loved it as much as we do!
This is one truly magical novel, and a very unique one at that. I haven't read too many steampunk novels but this one has been catching my eye for a long while. I love the Victorian time period as well so that was a bonus. I was incredibly lucky to be one of the few atomics who received this book to read and review, and I cannot thank the people at Atom enough for giving me the opportunity to read this spectacular novel.
Just look at the cover for the novel? Isn't it beautiful? I love the steampunk feel you get from it as there are cogs in the wallpaper. Gosh I loved this book, the whole premise sounded awesome. A finishing school that secretly teaches their pupils to be spies and assassins. How freaking awesome does that sound? It really doesn't disappoint. What I also loved about this novel is that it's aimed at the younger teen audience and it gives them one hell of a kick ass heroine who uses her intelligence to solve a mystery. I think there needs to be more female protagonists like this in novels aimed at the younger audience, after all us girls love action and adventure too!
The action starts from the very first page when Sophronia tries to listen to her Mothers conversation while manoeuvring a dumbwaiter, but it slips and drops to the ground floor and chucks her out, ripping her underskirts in the process. Her mother is once again disgraced at her youngest daughters actions and it's the final straw. The unknown guest her mother is talking to just happens to be the headmistress of the Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality. After a quick interview with the women Sophronia is sent off to pack and without a backwards glance her mother sends her off with the stranger.
Things aren't exactly what they seem. Awaiting in the carriage are other pupils and on the journey they are attacked by flywaymen. The headmistress who is actually a student trying to finish, panics and doesn't do anything to save them. It's left to Sophronia's intelligence and years of being a rebel to save them before they are captured. They narrowly escape and finally make their way to the school. Sophronia is shocked to find it's a huge airship and to get on board they have to sit atop a werewolf which leaps upon a hanging platform that will then be cranked up into the ship. Sophie soon begins to realise that this is no ordinary finishing school.
Sophronia is a rebellious young lady who acts less ladylike than her mother wishes. The youngest of all the sisters she's used to being teased and taunted but she has learnt how to use this to her advantage. While her sisters were preparing themselves for upcoming seasons, she was expanding her knowledge and just generally wrecking the house sneaking around. There's no doubt that she is a perfect candidate for this particular finishing school. Sophronia wasn't afraid to get dirty while exploring, she had a very adventurous streak that meant at times you would find her climbing the outer walls of the airship to the decks below, where she would then socialise with those of a lower class. If her mother found out she would be appalled. Sophronia is the only student who didn't know about the darker side of the school before she arrived, she was shocked to see that young ladies were being taught these things. Yes, she has to learn all about her posture and etiquette amongst other normal things but when you learn how to poison your future husband and how to perform all sorts of manoeuvres in a dress, things aren't so bad. She finds that she really enjoys this finishing school and it isn't as bad as it sounds.
The world that the novel is set in is awesome! You have many steampunk elements like mechanimals, airships and even flywaymen, which were all superb by the way. You have paranormal elements with the werewolf Captain and the vampire teacher. You also have the Victorian traditions that are very important in historical novels. The airship that is the school is so vividly described with the many decks, mechanical maid tracks and my favourite, the complex record room. I love reading novels about boarding schools and this one is no different, but this was so much better as there is no others like it. I want to go to this school in all it's steampunk glory. Carriger seems to be a master at writing unique historical fiction and I can't wait to see what she comes up with in the next book.
Etiquette and Espionage is a spectacular novel set in a unique world with some really fun characters. There's plenty of action and adventure that will keep you hooked from the very first page. Just be prepared when you finished this novel, not only will you be craving the next book but you will be on the lookout for airships ready to take you to that particular finishing school.
I thought that the book was brilliant, I couldn't put it down. The start was a bit confusing but the ending was absolutely brilliant
The characters were entertaining and I really hope that the book has a sequel (Editor's note: There most definitely is Bridget!)