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Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School) Hardcover – February 5, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 539 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Finishing School Series

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

*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
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Series: Finishing School (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031619008X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316190084
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (539 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review written for and originally published at steamingenious.blogspot.com

I have been eagerly anticipating this first book in a new series by Gail Carriger, author of the fantastic The Parasol Protectorate series.

The book follows the exploits of 14 year old Sophronia Temminnick, a troublemaking youngest daughter of a middle class Victorian family. Not knowing what to do with a daughter interested in technology and books, her mother is only too happy to send her off to an exclusive finishing school. Except this finishing school teaches more than just deportment. It also teaches the arts of espionage and assassination.

This book has all the fun of the first Harry Potter novel; it shows an unsuspecting protagonist encountering a weird and wonderful boarding school, and, in fact, almost an entire new society of which she was previously unaware. So this book takes some pretty familiar "starting a new school" tropes and puts a nice spin on them. Sophonia is an extremely likeable character and her new school provides lots of opportunities for her to show off her daring.

This series takes place in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate series, but it's set several decades earlier, in the 1860s, I believe. So fans of that series will enjoy seeing some familiar characters pop up here and there. As for the steampunk elements, while I tend to think of the Parasol Protectorate as a predominantly supernatural series set in a steampunk world, this series seems to be a steampunk series set in a supernatural world. Meaning that this series seems to involve a lot more technology in more important roles than the previous series. There are also vampires and werewolves, but the supernatural elements don't drive the main plot and are pretty much incidental.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've enjoyed the "Parasol Protectorate" novels a lot, but this one was even more fun.

It's set in the same world, I think somewhat before the PP series, and focuses more on intrigue and steampunk, and less on the vamps and weres.

Plus- as an American who went to local public schools, I have always ADORED boarding-school fiction! And a boarding school on an airship??? with the companion school for boys devoted to developing Evil Geniuses??? What's not to love?

OK, the kids don't Save The World. What kids really can expect to? but they do rise to their challenges, outwit the adults, and have a grand time doing it.

A good ending, but with enough threads left that #2 can pick up nicely.

I think a lot of Harry Potter fans could love this, if they're OK with the focus being on GIRLS (the horror!).

Highly recommended. And for YA's, too!
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Format: Hardcover
I have to say, I was equal parts excited and trepidatious* when my fave awesome person at Little, Brown asked me if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for this. I loved Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, but was concerned about how she would make the transition to YA, especially after my friend Elizabeth's reaction... That gave me pause. FORTUNATELY, I have to (politely, maybe) disagree with E. on this one. Yes, it was a little heavy handed at first, and was missing some of the magic that came with Alexia's narration and her fabulous personality - but it worked, and in the end I quite liked it.

I'm a pretty firm believer that you don't have to change your style/writing much (if at all) when you change age levels - there's no need to "write down" to kids (especially in this case, as the Parasol Protectorate series was a highly popular cross-over - Pretty much remove the steamy Victorian sexytimes and you're good to go). But the beginning of the book seemed like Carriger was going to write down to her audience and point things out in a really obtrusive way (as if they couldn't possibly put things together all on their own...), and that has got to be my number one I-will-throw-you-against-the-wall-you-just-see-if-I-don't pet peeve. Even as a kid, I found it highly insulting; you've got to have faith in your audience, and faith in yourself as a storyteller that you're doing fine - you don't have to handhold, and if you do feel the need to, you're not telling it right. But either the handholding was just a brief blip, or I got used to it, because the rest of the book slipped into the quirky, upper-crusty, hilariously Missish storytelling I'd grown to love in the Parasol Protectorate.
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Format: Hardcover
Etiquette & Espionage was my first foray into steampunk. It cemented my love of the genre and of Gail Carriger's writing! There were just so many cool things to discover! Airships, werewolves, mechanicals, and vampires, oh my! I still can't believe that I'd never dabbled in steampunk before.

Sophronia is my kind of girl! She was fearless when it came to asking questions and getting answers. I admired that in her so much. In the midst of her life being turned upside down, she stayed true to herself. She makes Etiquette & Espionage such a fun read with her refreshing characteristics. All of the secondary characters were wonderful, too! I was blown away with the way that Gail Carriger wrote all of them. They were all unique individuals and I loved every single one of them. (Except Monique. She's up to no good. Guarantee it.)

Gosh, can I just gush about how fun Etiquette & Espionage was? It was just a really good book. It was so easy to get lost in the world of Mademoiselle Geraldine's. It reminded me a lot of how it felt to get lost in the world of Harry Potter way back when. It required me to be present while reading, but it was just so fun. I know I need a new word, but that's really what this book was for me. It was an adventure!

With just one book, Gail Carriger has converted me. I'm already crossing my fingers that Santa fills my stocking with the rest of her books. The world of Sophronia and Mademoiselle Geraldine's is a world that I loved visiting and I can't wait to visit again!

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review with no compensation.
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