From School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Sophronia is far from the proper Victorian young lady she is expected to be. She would rather climb, take apart machinery, and cause a general ruckus than sit for tea and crumpets, making her a blight on her mother's reputation. She is enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to learn proper decorum. But she soon discovers that its students are learning more than a proper curtsy. The school is a floating airship charged with teaching the skills of espionage. Sophronia is an early savant of sorts and quickly learns to use her skills to help thwart a fellow student in an attempt to steal a prototype essential to communications. The author touches on themes of gender identity and racial and social equality, though they are not developed thoroughly enough to either add to or distract from the story. Carriger's leading lady is a strong, independent role model for female readers. There is still more to be learned about the relationships of other characters who are integral to the story, perhaps in a sequel. Ladies and gentlemen of propriety are combined with dirigibles, robots, werewolves, and vampires, making this story a steampunk mystery and an adventure mash-up that is sure to intrigue readers who can get past the language of the time period.-Betsy Davidson, Cortland Free Library, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Set 25 years before her Parasol Protectorate series, Carriger’s YA debut brings her mix of Victorian paranormal steampunk and winning heroines to a whole new audience. After an incident involving a plummeting dumbwaiter and an airborne trifle, Sophronia is sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy to learn how to be a proper lady. Their carriage is immediately waylaid by flywaymen looking for a mysterious prototype—the first of many clues that this academy will not be the dreadful bore Sophronia expected. Once established at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s (set on a chain of dirigibles!), Sophronia learns that she is a covert recruit into a school that trains girls to be part assassins, part spies, and also always fashionable ladies of quality. It’s this last bit she has trouble with; in her self-assigned search for the prototype, she acquires an illegal mechanimal pet, befriends the boiler room sooties, and avoids both teachers and mechanicals to explore restricted areas, yet she can’t master curtsying or eyelash fluttering. While the prototype plot isn’t fully developed, Carriger’s series starter more than makes up for it with cleverly Victorian methods of espionage, witty banter, lighthearted silliness, and a ship full of intriguingly quirky people. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Carriger has made major waves as a best-selling steampunker, and the promotion and outreach planned for this YA offshoot should continue that streak. Grades 9-12. --Krista Hutley