Great Illustrated Books

Etiquette & Espionage

By Gail Carriger

LBYR, 2013
Pages : 320
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up
ISBN: 9780316190084

“No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear.” So Sophronia Angelina Temminnick learns when she is covertly recruited for Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality in this madcap steampunk-mystery-paranormal mash-up set in Victorian England

Neither Sophronia nor her mother knew that a finishing school for an entirely different kind of finishing existed. That is, a training ground - more accurately, a bobbing dirigible - for would-be assassins and spies most often attended by legacy students who fraternize with paranormals and know all about dastardly deeds, mayhem, and plots. While Mrs. Temminnick remains in the dark, Sophronia’s enlightenment begins the moment she steps into the carriage with Mademoiselle Geraldine and finds two more school-bound students willing to explain. However, they are rudely interrupted by flywaymen (sky highwaymen) who demand an important prototype from them. Sophronia has no idea what it is, but ever the take-charge girl (one reason for her recruitment), she outwits the flywaymen and enacts a daring escape. Then and there she resolves to solve two mysteries: she will determine what and where the prototype is; and she will identify the person who, clearly admiring her penchant for climbing and taking apart machinery, recommended her.

With the groundwork gracefully laid, the intrigue begins. Readers will champion dare-devil Sophronia as she scales railings and decks all over the dirigible in her quest. She ruins dresses and loses petticoats, a shame since she is beginning to realize that clothes are a weapon, as are a handkerchief and scissors. She also finds fainting and eyelash-fluttering useful. Lessons with Professor Braithewope, a vampire, and Captain Niall, a werewolf, are informative, too, but mostly leave Sophronia and her fellow students excited and giggling. While the tone is saucy and irreverent, author Gail Carriger clearly loves the time-period and stays true to social mores. Sophronia, indeed all the young ladies, use the tools most readily available to them to great effect! And Sophronia, with her newly-acquired skills, her natural wit, and help from assorted school chums and ships’ sooties, is well on her way to becoming a star pupil.

If children could apply to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s school with Sophronia, the competition would be fierce. But all will have the opportunity to enjoy another escapade with Sophronia as the series continues.

Extras: Listen to a podcast interview with the author here.

Reviewed by : JMcD


If you love this book, then try:

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys. Scholastic Press, 2012.

Bray, Libba. The Diviners. LBYR, 2012.

Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.

Garcia, Kami and Margaret Stohl.Beautiful Creatures. LBYR, 2008.

Critics have said

Carriger's YA debut brings her mix of Victorian paranormal steampunk and winning heroines to a whole new audience...with cleverly Victorian methods of espionage, witty banter, lighthearted silliness, and a ship full of intriguingly quirky people.

Blending intrigue and elements of the school story, Carriger introduces teen readers to a supernatural-meets-steampunk world full of action and wit.
Horn Book