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February 05, 2013

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
Title: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: HBG Canada (Little Brown Books For Young Readers)
Publication date: February 5, 2013
Genre(s): Young Adult (Steampunk/Paranormal)
Source: Publisher
Format: Physical ARC
Pages: 320
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.
I believe that Etiquette & Espionage has one of the prettiest covers of 2013 (so far). Also, a finishing school that actually equips you to become not only a "lady" (don't get me started on how anti-feminist that is) but also an assassin or informant? Sign me up please! (the assassin part). Also, the steampunk world of Etiquette & Espionage is set in the 19th century, on a floating school. yes floating school, that has werewolf and vampire teachers, and a brother school named "The School of Evil Geniuses".... I will give you a minute to process all of this before diving into the plot and characters. 
Ok, you guys ready to move on? 
The main protagonist, Sophronia (that is a mouthful!) is the youngest daughter of many sisters and brothers.. she is deemed as the troublesome child in the family and one that is too interested in technology (how horrifying) and forgets that she is a lady. Her mother and sisters got fed up with Sophronia's troublemaking streak and problematic antics she gets into that they jump at the chance when the headmistress of The Finishing Academy For Young Ladies Of Quality proposes she starts attending her school. In less than half an hour they pack Sophronia's necessities and ship her off with the headmistress. Little did they know that her education will be a bit more than classes on posture, tea drinking etiquette, and the right level of curtsy. 
I really really loved the premise of Etiquette & Espionage but I felt that I would have connected so much more with the main protagonist if she was older than 14. I felt this book was more middle grade thank young adult, especially with the innocent aura I got from all the characters. I mean a school that teaches you to become assassins should have been exciting and action packed but we get almost no attendance into any of the kick butt classes I was hoping to witness. I was thinking more along the lines of Tris's situations in Divergent but we mostly get to read about Sophronia's lack of a proper curtsy and a vampire that always annoyingly ends his sentences with the word "Whot!". 
I liked the plot, I really did, even with all the complicated steampunk terminology, I was still able to follow the plot, something that usually doesn't happen when I read steampunks. I have to say I loved the idea of mechanimals (yes! an animal that is constructed using metals) and how Sophronia cared for one as an actual pet. However, I struggled with all the names of the characters in this story, some were impossible to pronounce. The antagonist was interesting but I honestly saw no character development in this novel. Maybe it was neglected because the focus was mainly put on the school as well as searching for the prototype that the antagonist hid. 
To try and end this review at a reasonable length, where I could write for ages about this book because so much happens in it, I did enjoy Etiquette & Espionage and would have enjoyed it way more if I was maybe 5 to 7 years younger. It has a bit of a Gallagher Girl vibe but with steampunk and a younger protagonist. I recommend it to middle grade book readers as well as fans of steampunk who don't mind a protagonist that is younger than your average YA character. 


  1. Aw, it's a shame that you couldn't connect with the mc and that this wasn't as action packed as you would have liked. Although I love the cover I don't think I'll be picking this up. Thanks for the honest review!

  2. Mechanimals? AWESOME! A school filled with vampire/werewolf teachers? Awesome! The plot sounds great and I like the setting. Teampunk is a genre I'm trying to explore more, because I liked the books I've read so far. Such a shame that you couldn't connect with the MC,. I always struggle to connect with them if they are much younger then me.. But I'll still give this one a shot! And it's a great cover indeed. Nice review :)


  3. I really enjoyed this one, but I agree with you that I wish she had been older than 14. I like a little romance in my YA, and I particularly liked the werewolf, but obviously given their ages not can happen there. Still, it was a fun little story I thought, glad you enjoyed it for the most part!

  4. Too bad you couldn't connect with the MC but it's good to know that it would be an appropriate read for younger teens. I'm always looking for those MG/YA crossovers! Thanks for the review!

    Literary Exploration

  5. LOL I love when the characters have long and impossible to pronounce name, cause I always pronounce them my way :D I so want to read this book just because of steampunk world! :) I'm glad you like it but also sad to hear that there wasn't any character development. Great review :)

  6. You're so right with this cover, it truly is one of the prettiest ones I've seen for this year. I am really into Historical-Steampunk-ish kind of reads right now, and the fact that it is more MG than YA, I think I will really enjoy it.
    This was a great review; I know now to definitely bump it up on my must-have list - thanks!

  7. I adore this cover! I agree, E&E would definitely be a good MG/YA bridge book. I think I had more patience for Sophronia than you, but you're so right, there was a lot of innocence to the characters and so much quirky dialogue that it made the book skew younger. It would have SO been awesome if the finishing training had a touch of Dauntless to it. Great review :-)

  8. I think this definitely looks like it's aimed at for younger readers. Since I do enjoy the occasionally MG book, and sometimes younger YA, I think I would definitely like this one, at the minimum. I'm kind of sad that there isn't much kick-butting done though, that's pretty disappointing, since that was the main appeal for me. However, the whole steampunk aspect sounds pretty cool, even if the terms were confusing.

    Fabulous review, Juhina! <3

  9. This sounds like a really fun read. Thank you for pointing out the few things that made you feel you couldn't connect with the main character. Hopefully the characters would grow up in the next installment or two. Lovely review, Juhina!

  10. Awe, this is in my list to pick up this week. Thanks for pointing out somethings out about it. I might have to think about this one. Wonderful review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  11. Yes, there were some really gorgeous covers already this year (Paper Valentine, Unravel Me), but I think this one outshines them all. As for the book, I tend to agree with you, it's a bit too middle grade-ish for my taste. I do like the characters and the basic worldbuilding is the same as in her Parasol Protectorate series, but I'm having a hard time connecting with a 14-y-o.
    Amazing review, Juhina!

  12. This is the first review that has made me doubt buying this book. Still sounds like an awesome premise and well written book but also that it holds itself back from living up to its full potential due to the characters age. :(

  13. Thanks for the great review. I had higher hopes for this one. I may just wait to see some reviews further along in the series.

  14. Hmmm. Interesting. I know that the characters in the Heist Society (and maybe the Gallagher girls too) are also young-ish (15). I'm guessing this is a way to capture both older MG/tween and YA readers?
    I'm trying to get more into steampunk so definitely will read this one!

  15. Awesome review. I've been seriously trying to get a copy of this one so good for you.

  16. I'm glad to hear that the characters are a little younger because this might be a good choice for my goddaughter. It's hard to find books that bridge the tween to teen years.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  17. I normally tend to struggle connecting with protagonists that young, but I do like the premise for this book. I didn't realise the main character was 14, though... Hmm. I will have to think about this one. Great review, Juhina!

  18. I have been looking forward to this book for a while. It's a little disappointing that there is no character development and it's more suited for middle grade. Guess I'll have to rethink whether or not to read it as soon as I've been dying to. Loved your review!

    Angie @ YA Novelties

  19. I have this one on my TBR and I really like the idea and characters but that age factor, I feel, will definitely keep me hesitating to pick it up now. I don't know, we'll see. lol ;p I'm glad you enjoyed it somewhat! :D Fantastic review!

    ~ Maida

  20. Maybe characters will grow with each installment? I want to read the adult series before going to this one, and I'll keep an open mind.

    Great review!