Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
*This book is scheduled for publication in February 2013.
Some of you may know Gail Carriger through her bestselling Parasol Protectorate series, a delightful romp through a thoroughly steampunkified Victorian England, complete with foppish vampires and virile werewolves. Let me be the first to assure you that Etiquette and Espionage, Carriger's first foray into young adult literature, is firmly entrenched in the same wonderful world and does not disappoint.
Set a few decades prior to the first Parasol Protectorate book (Soulless), Etiquette and Espionage features the precocious Sophronia, a fourteen-year-old much more interested in experimentation and exploration than in acting like a proper lady. Packed off to the prestigious Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, Sophronia expects to despise the school. Her experience, on the other hand, proves quite the opposite. Yes, she'll learn how to curtsy and faint properly--but she'll also be instructed on the finer points of knife-work and poisoning. Mademoiselle Geraldine's, you see, is a school for etiquette and espionage.
I found very little of this book to criticize. Mostly I was enjoying the ride. Gail Carriger has a distinctive voice I still can't quite describe other than to say that she has a talent for describing the most ridiculous things with a sly helping of droll humor. The werewolves wear top hats, and the vampires lisp endearingly when caught with their fangs out. And who could possibly argue with a mechanical dog named Bumbersnoot? Fans of the Parasol Protectorate keeping a sharp eye out will recognize more than few returning characters in this series, and fall in love with many new ones.
I will say that Etiquette and Espionage is a fairly young young adult book. While there are all sorts of madcap adventures (and much talk of seducing beaus for information), there is very little romance. To tell the truth, I didn't much miss it. Bumbersnoot, a flying finishing school, and Sophronia's entertaining habit of getting herself into scrapes were more than enough for me. That being said, Gail Carriger did drop more than a few well-placed hints about who might in the future be up to the well-worth-it challenge that is Sophronia, and I expect that subsequent books will have a satisfying number of swoon-worthy moments as Sophronia and her schoolmates grow up.
To sum up: Gail Carriger presents a worthy YA debut. Fans of vampires, werewolves, tea, and mechanical dogs will find themselves quite at home.
*I received an ARC of this title for review.
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