Gail Carriger – Curtsies & Conspiracies
Read my review of book:
1. Etiquette & Espionage
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Historical/Steampunk Fantasy
Started: 30 November 2013
Finished: 01 December 2013
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Gail Carriger’s books are a reliable good time.
Training to be a
spy is trickier when you’re
wearing a corset.
Summary: Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is a school not quite like any other. For one thing, it’s housed aboard a series of giant dirigibles, it’s got a vampire on staff and a werewolf on retainer, and it features classes not only in etiquette, deportment, and fashion, but also on intelligence gathering, poisons, and combat (ladylike combat, of course). Sophronia Temminick never thought she’d be good at being a spy, but she has received top marks on her first year evaluation. Unfortunately, it’s causing the other girls, even those she thought were her friends, to shun her. The school is abuzz with a planned trip to London – a trip that includes the accompaniment of a selection of eligible young men from Bunson’s and Lacroix’s Boy’s Polytechnique (the training school for evil geniuses). They are going to observe a new technology, but Sophronia suspects there’s more to it than that – something that could have profound effects for both the natural and supernatural worlds – but how can she figure out what’s really going on without the help of her friends?
Review: These books are so very much fun. The world Carriger creates is silly and ridiculous and over the top – I don’t think anyone’s going to deny that. But that’s a very large part of what makes them so much fun to read – they don’t take themselves seriously, but just go about their business with tea parties and balls and kidnappings and classes on the proper deployment of a ladylike fainting fit and skulking around the school by night and vampire politics and sky pirates and steampunky whizzbang aetheric doodad McGuffins. The story is almost secondary – the plot is there, don’t get me wrong, and it hangs together nicely, with plenty of twists and turns – but a lot of my enjoyment of these books comes more from the fast-moving adventures and the worldbuilding, then from the plot per se.
I also really enjoy the characters. A number of the secondary characters are a little two-dimensional, but again, that suits the style of the book and doesn’t really bother me. (There’s also a cameo from some more familiar characters from the Parasol Protectorate series, which was a hoot to see them in different circumstances.) Sophronia herself is a great heroine – intelligent and capable but not always quite as on top of things as she’d like to think. I also really like the way Carriger is handling the romantic angle in these books. It’s there, and it’s more pronounced in this book compared to Etiquette and Espionage – Sophronia not only has her ongoing friendship/flirtation with Soap, the sootie, but now has a more determined gentleman suitor from the Bunson’s boys – but it’s never the main focus of the story, since Sophronia has more important things to be worrying about than boys… like saving the world without ruining her new dress in the process. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Not a standalone – read Etiquette and Espionage first. But the whole series is great, lighthearted fun, perfect for people who like steampunk, boarding schools, and tweaking the nose of Victorian conventions.
Other Reviews: Book Sp(l)ot Reviews, So Many Books So Little Time, Waking Brain Cells and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: ‘Miss Temminnick. Miss Plumleigh-Teignmott. With me, please, ladies.’
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- Location 124: “Nevertheless, she avoided the leg of mutton in glistening currant jelly sauce and the Bakewell pudding and ate only the plain boiled potatoes and broccoli.” – an open tart having a pastry base and a layer of jam and filled with almond-flavoured sponge cake.
- Location 1012: “Sophronia wondered how such a nobby little man could manage to fade to the background so often.” – Fashionable; stylish.
- Location 1571: “THere was a picnic of broiled beef, roast duck, braised pork pie, cold pached chicken in cream sauce, pickles and relishes, crusty French bread, and stewed fruit, accompanied by punch, which was followed by tea with pear turnovers, cabinet pudding, and apricot macaroons” – a steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit
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