Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger.
Published February 5, 2013.
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Source: Borrowed from Ciara @ Lost At Midnight Reviews.
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.
Sophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners -- and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they 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.
Reading that blurb, this sounds like such a fun novel. While it was fun and I definitely enjoyed it, it wasn't everything that I had hoped it would be. I am a big fan of the teens-as-spies stories. They are so often exciting and fast-paced, and maybe I just always dreamed of training as a spy myself (not that I would ever make it). Since I love the idea so much (plus, combined with some steampunk-y aspects, hello), going into this I thought "where could it possibly go wrong?"
I think it went wrong in a couple areas. First off, I am only 18, so I'm still a teen and a "young adult" but even so, I often felt too old for this novel. Yes, the main character Sophronia is only 14, but in many YA novels it isn't hard to just mentally "age up" the characters a few years if you're outside the "intended audience." With this one though, I often felt like the characters and the scenarios felt very young. Too young for me to be able to age anyone up. Now, for some people this may not be a problem whatsoever. To me though, it just felt immature. Unfortunately, this also made the language seem off at times. I really enjoyed the language used, because it was elevated and smart, but with immature characters it felt out of place.
Unfortunately, I also found the plot fairly slow. There was heightened energy at times, and there were exciting things that happened from the beginning which did keep me entertained; however, I was constantly waiting for the climax of the novel. I was tapping my fingers waiting for the big, exciting pivotal moment which only came at the very end. I understand that yes, there is another book coming, so it's okay to not have resolution and closing at the end of the first book, but I missed it. I felt like I waited so long for the big moment and it finally happened and then the book just ends. Kind of disappointing.
That being said, I did still enjoy the novel. Sophronia was an interesting character. Very full of life, and a little sassy. She is bold and forward and not at all ashamed of herself. She knows she's not the perfect daughter, hence the finishing school, but she is proud of being curious and a little mischievous. I also enjoyed the language used in the novel. As I mentioned before, it was smart, and it was also very good at enhancing the setting. Finally, I really enjoyed the mystery as well. It was fun trying to solve the little pieces along with Sophronia, but I do wish there had been more information at the end to help wrap it up. Maybe we'll know more come the sequel?
Overall, a fun novel with an enjoyable main character and an interesting mystery, but fell flat in a few areas for me. I'll still read the sequel because something like pacing and exciting events is very easily changed in a follow up. I definitely want to know more concerning the mystery and I'd like to see more of the finishing school training as well in the next one.