Set in Victorian England, the story follows Sophronia Temminnick, an unruly girl who cannot abide by her mother’s rules. When her explorations and untamed personality get her into too much trouble, her family sends her away to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, not knowing it is a school that trains students to be spies. Sophronia unexpectedly fits in well with the group of girls in her grade, all expect for Monique. When their school is threatened about a mysterious device, Sophronia knows Monique is involved. Sophronia and her friends must use all their new skills to spy on Monique and figure out what is going on before it is too late.
Even though it is a unique setting for a middle grade book, it does not take itself seriously. A quirky setting makes for a quirky characters and even more quirky dialogue. Readers who enjoy steampunk stories or science fiction, and are familiar in dealing with made up language in a story may enjoy this feature. However, some readers might be confused by this language and not wish to continue.
Upon picking up this book, I had expected a similar story to Ally Carter’s I’d Tell I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You Series but with the steampunk addition. The two series are similar but where Carter makes you feel for and understand the characters, Carriger’s silliness can make readers ignore the interesting characters and not want to finish the story. As the first book in the Finishing School series, readers will hopefully give Sophronia’s follow up adventures a chance.
Given Gail Carriger’s unique style, Etiquette and Espionage will either be a book readers love or love to hate.
Does it have a Young Adult label?: No
Recommended if you like stories with: Boarding schools, crazy teachers, friendship, enemies, spies, quirky characters, steampunk settings, mysterious gadgets
Favorite Quote: “Mummy and Daddy want him to be an evil genius, but he has his heart set on Latin verse. Don’t you, Pill?” The boy gave his sister a nasty stare. “Pillover is terribly bad at being bad, if you take my meaning. Our daddy is a founding member of the Death Weasel Confederacy, and Mummy is a kitchen chemist with questionable intent, but poor Pillover can’t even bring himself to murder ants with his Depraved Lens of Crispy Magnification. Can you, Pill?”
Rating: 3 of 5 stars