Friday, August 16, 2013

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

I have to admit that I checked this out, kept it forever, returned it, checked it out again, and finally cracked it open. It was delightful. Not quite enough magic to be truly in my polite society fantasy collection, but close enough. It has all the delightful insanity of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate with none of the politics and angst that made me lose interest in the later books (none of the sexytimes either, but oh well it is a teen book).

Sophronia is a typical tomboy; she doesn't fit into polite society, prefers climbing to etiquette, and can't imagine why her sisters like all those "girly" things like dresses. That is, until she finds herself packed off to a very unique finishing school. Before she's even arrived, she's made a new friend, a new enemy, and discovered she has some surprising skills. But the story doesn't end there; mechanimals, eyelash-fluttering practice, sooties, vampires, werewolves, and more will all come her way before she even begins to be finished.

I love how Carriger brings out stereotypes and just when you're rolling your eyes and thinking "I've read that before" she suddenly flips them on their head. Sophronia is a tomboy and her mother is exasperated, but she agrees to pack her off more because she simply doesn't know what to do with her than because she's worried about conventions. Sophronia's friends aren't perfect paragons, they can be whiny, traitorous, sulky, and make mistakes, in other words, typical pre-teens. Sophronia herself is neither fighting for her independence nor completely lacking self-esteem. She quickly comes to see the value of "girly" things and discovers she has more skills than she knew, but she always has a core of inner stubbornness and self-identity that shine through, keeping her the main protagonist.

Verdict: As you can tell, I loved this story. Would I buy it for the library? Well...probably not. Steampunk and polite society fantasies seem to be much more popular with adults than kids or teens, at least at my library. It's actually kind of an odd book. It has a very clean, delightful adventure feeling (except for the parts where they talk about assassinations) that makes it feel more middle grade, but the way it's marketed and the reading level make it feel more young adult (not to mention the potential assassinations). If you have a lot of fans of Gail Carriger's books, definitely buy this one, otherwise I'd recommend it for your personal collections and enjoyment.

ISBN: 9780316190084; Published 2013 by Little, Brown; Donated to the library

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