Review No.145 – Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage – Gail Carringer (Finishing School No.1)

Atom, 2013

At the age of fourteen, Sophronia Temminnick shows no sign whatsoever of becoming a respectable young lady. Following a disastrous incident with a dumbwaiter, she is sent away to finishing school, where her mother expects her to learn deportment and dancing and the correct way to curtsey. This particular school, however, teaches rather more than that. A true lady makes an art of misdirection and deception, chooses the correct poison for any occasion, can fight off a werewolf with smelling salts and bring down a vampire with a hairpin. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Sophronia will learn how to finish everything.

I’m not sure quite what to make of Etiquette & Espionage. It is steampunk of the overblown variety, loaded with exaggerated Victorian hyperbole and ridiculous names that would fit better in a children’s book, but the underlying idea is very clever, and there is some delightfully sly wit. If the story had been taken just a bit more seriously, it could have been wonderful. The series continues with Curtsies & Conspiracies.

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