Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Published February 5th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 307 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Spy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Mystery
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.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.
Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.
It took me a little bit of time to wander my way through Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. I heard great things about her Parasol Protectorate series and this was my first steampunk novel, so I was excited to read it. My excitement waned after a while and I finished Etiquette & Espionage in fits and spurts. It pained me that I didn’t love this book more. It had all the makings of an awesome novel with an original world (I haven’t read the Parasol Protectorate yet. So this was my first experience in this world.), a healthy dose of paranormal (Vampires! Werewolves! Oh my!), and some really interesting characters. But while it had all the pieces of a great book, is lacked any actual plot to focus on.
There are two things that keep Etiquette & Espionage from being a complete flop; great characters and the humor. All the girls at the finishing school are quirky and interesting. Sophronia, the main character, is spunky but could have had a bit more depth to her. Frankly, I was more interested in the characters she interacted with, like the other girls, teachers, and the sooties, than I was in Sophronia herself. There are great one-liners and fantastic humor. But all the cheeky jokes and turn of phrase wit in the world won’t hide the thin plot and slow moving action in Etiquette & Espionage. The setting gets the most attention, giving us a rich world with the finishing school, but leaving other aspects of the book languishing.
I feel as if I’ve read someone’s first draft and that I’m missing half of the book; the half where something actually happens. At the end there is some action involving the mysterious prototype and what could be some suitable villains but then the book ends before anything really exciting can evolve from it. We’re left with some funny characters and a fantastic world in which nothing much happens. I’m pleased with my first real foray into steampunk. That aspect of Etiquette & Espionage was fantastic but just didn’t have the support of a good plot to make the book really great.
I am intrigued enough that I’ll check out Parasol Protectorate. I loved Carriger’s world building and want to see more. Etiquette & Espionage read more like a middle grade book than a young adult book. The age of the characters and innocent and almost not there nature of the romance lends itself better to younger readers. (Not that that stops any 30 year old women from reading it.) But humor and quirky characters cannot disguise the slow and boring pace or the underdeveloped plot in this book. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger was great for a steampunk novel but ultimately fell a little flat.