This review has mild spoilers from The Parasol Protectorate, so if you haven’t read those books, proceed with caution!
Gail Carriger fans, be prepared to get excited! Etiquette & Espionage, her newest book (the first in her Finishing School series) is fantastic, and totally can hold its own against her previous books. The new characters are entertaining, the story is witty and suspenseful, and Gail’s writing is full of it’s usual charm.
Here’s a summary of the book:
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. Temminnick 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 the 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’s legions of fans have come to adore.
I went into reading this not knowing anything other than what the blurb on the back told me. I heard somewhere that possibly the main character would be Prudence, Alexia and Maccon’s daughter from The Parasol Protectorate, but as a teen up to her own mischief. I was surprised to learn that this story takes place prior to the other one, but I actually came to love this fact. There are a few familiar characters, and to see where they came from was fascinating and entertaining. This also really helped fill out the wonderful world of an alternate London, giving it more rich backstory.
One of the reasons that Gail has become a favorite of mine is the hilarious wit she gives her characters. I feel like so many times authors try too hard to get that voice and don’t succeed. Gail is one of the few who manages to weave that humor into her stories in a seemingly effortless fashion. I wondered if this vibe was particular to The Parasol Protectorate, or if this was something Gail would choose to carry into E&E. Lucky for us, it is there, and the story is both amusing and suspenseful. The characters are well-developed, and I enjoyed seeing where the plot went and how things would work out.
Only word of advice I would have is to read at least Soulless (but the whole Parasol Protectorate series would be even better!) before tackling Etiquette & Espionage. There is so much of the world that is explained in Soulless, and I think it would do a new reader a world of good to have this knowledge going into E&E. I think Gail does a nice job introing the world in this newest book, but the story starts in Soulless and I think it would deliver a richer reading experience overall if that book was under the reader’s belt.
Gail’s books are wonderful, I can’t say enough good things about them. This newest addition to the roster holds up to the other ones, and you should definitely pick it up.
Etiquette & Espionage came out on Tuesday February 5th, 2013.