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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“Etiquette & Espionage” by Gail Carriger (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “Etiquette & EspionageHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

Etiquette and Espionage—published February 5, 2013 via Little, Brown Books for Young Readers—is the first of Gail Carriger's new YA Finishing School series, set in the same world as The Parasol Protectorate, but 25 years earlier. If you've read The Parasol Protectorate, you'll recognize a couple of characters; if you haven't, don't worry.

Our protagonist Sophronia is essentially drafted into a finishing school that is nothing like what a proper finishing school should be—where the girls are being trained to “finish…everything…and everyone…as needed.” That is to say, they don't just learn proper curtsies and quadrille technique; they are also taught poisons and covert operations. Sophronia, not being the passive sort, adapts to her new circumstances, assembles cohorts, and sets about unraveling a mystery.

Of course, there are mechanimals, flywaymen, evil genius societies, werewolves, and vampires, to name but a few complications. Unlike in The Parasol Protectorate, the main characters are not endowed with any kind of magical abilities, and so Sophronia's perceptiveness, quick-thinking, and daring are the most powerful tools in her arsenal, and she applies them with aplomb.

Etiquette and Espionage has the same lighthearted whimsy, fascination with etiquette and steampunk technology, and stroppy lady protagonist that I loved from Soulless. Although the tone is light, Carriger nevertheless sneaks in commentary on and subversion of first impressions, racial generalizations, gender roles, and social hierarchies. It's a fun, fast-paced read, and it looks like there will be three more books in the series, the next of which, Curtsies and Conspiracies, we can expect this November.

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