Review: Etiquette & Espionage

Written by Gail Carriger

From Gail Carriger’s website

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.

Read this if you love:

  • curious heroines whose parents don’t die but just don’t know what to do with her
  • the supernatural society of early 1800s England.
  • steampunk YA, complete with a mechanical dachshund

My Review

What I loved.

Sophronia is a character who is dreadfully curious about the world, but suffers from the societal restrictions of being a girl. She’d much rather be out an about investigating things, or seeing how things work, which means climbing, and jumping and otherwise acting like a boy. But in that English society, it just won’t do. The nice thing, is that unlike many typical YA stories, Sophronia’s parents aren’t dead, but they are absent in a way that just makes them understandable. There’s too much going on for them to keep track of a girl who isn’t… proper.

I love the school here, that it’s constantly on the move and has a feel of a moving fortress. Seriously, there’s a section of the flying school, and it’s amazing!

I love the friendships that develop in this book. Miss Carriger has a tendency to put best friends together in an opposites attract kind of way, then round out the cast of characters with characters who are admirable and pitiable in their own way.

Much as we all are as teenagers.

Finally, I love the chapter headings. Miss Carriger has a love of really funny titles in all her books, and this one is no exception.

What I didn’t love.

The book takes a little bit of time to get into, at least it did for me, but as she’s setting up a 4 book series, it’s not all that surprising. I came to her YA series after reading her adult series The Parasol Protectorate, so that may have skewed my view too.

I don’t love the segregation of people in the story. Sophronia, curious by nature, ends up meeting the Sooties who work on the mechanical side of the school. It is a racial divide in these books, realistic towards the time of English monarchy in terms of segregation, but in a made up Victorian world, I don’t know if it needed this. That being said, it is more about the class system than anything else, and the reader grows to love many of the characters as much as Sophronia does.

My Analysis


3rd close past, Sophronia.


External: Action – Adventure
Global Values: Damnation / Life
Core Need: Survival
Core Emotion: Excitement

Internal: Worldview – Maturation
Global Values: Failure or Success
Core Emotion: Admiration or Pity
Controlling idea:  Sometimes you need friends to help you save the day.


Violence: low, but there is fighting.
Gore: low, fainting at blood loss.
Romance/Sex: excessive flirting, with handkerchiefs.
Series: Finishing School Series, Book the First.
Reality Clover: Sci-fi / Fantasy – Past

Reference Info: