Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminick drives her proper Victorian mother crazy. What with a household full of children and Sophronia falling out of dumbwaiters into the guests’ trifle, Mumsy packs her off to finishing school. But Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not quite what one would expect of such an establishment. There are classes on deceit and deception, instructions on how to use hair accessories as lethal weapons against supernaturals, and demonstrations of how to use one’s décolletage to conceal secret documents. Math classes include word problems on how to divide poison so that only the guests that one wishes to poison receive it in their dishes. When someone reports Sophronia’s wandering in restricted areas, she is punished because she: 1) got caught, and 2) admitted her guilt.

The location of the school is also interesting. It is a dirigible constructed of three balloons fastened together, rendering the appearance of a caterpillar in the sky. Sophronia acquires a forbidden mechanimal, a metal, automated dog who runs on coal, just like the engines of the ship. She makes friends with the “sooties,” the boys who shovel coal in the engine room, when she sneaks in to gather bits of coal for Bumbersnoot. She also makes friends with several of the girls, and all of her acquaintances come in handy when she tries to foil a plot. One of the girls (or perhaps even a professor!) is trying to smuggle a new communication device to the flywaymen—or even worse, to the Picklemen! Sophronia and her friends are determined to thwart these enemies in the most fashionable and refined manner possible. If that doesn’t work, they’ll shoot them.

Fans of Gail Carriger’s adult series, “The Parasol Protectorate,” will enjoy this teen-oriented steampunk adventure. They will also recognize younger versions of some of the same characters and get acquainted with the ancestors of others. Carriger continues to casually introduce werewolves and vampires to the story and still displays her absurd, arch sense of humor. Although Sophronia appears to be completely human, she is as much a fearless and lovable heroine as Alexia Tarabotti. Teens and adults will have fun with this one.
If you would like to read Gail Carriger’s adult series, the first title in the series is SoullessEtiquette and Espionage is also available as a downloadable audiobook.  This review was previously posted on www.eatreadsleep.com.

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