Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger | Book ReviewEtiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Series: Finishing School #1
Also in this series: Curtsies & Conspiracies, Waistcoats & Weaponry
Also by this author: Curtsies & Conspiracies, Waistcoats & Weaponry
on February 5th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Manners & Etiquette, Robots, Action & Adventure, General, Girls & Women, Historical
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the 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. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail's legions of fans have come to adore.

I often join readathons and then do not do anything to really promote that I am taking part except maybe declaring my intent on twitter. I took part in the Slay That Series Readathon which took place during the end of September and the beginning of October. The point of this readathon was to finish a series. I made a conscious decision to read only Netgalley books for this readathon and to begin with Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series seeing as how I had three books from the series in my Netgalley review queue and also? The series looked like SO MUCH FUN. Who doesn’t love finishing school for spies? This girl right here loves that kind of plot line. I am so, so glad that I decided to pick this series for the readathon. I, of course, began with the first book in the Finishing School series, Etiquette & Espionage.

Sophronia is the youngest of the Temmenick brood. She has run a little bit wild as well as into some trouble, and so her mother, who is quite sophisticated and really into society, decides to send Sophronia away to finishing school. The headmistress of the finishing school goes to Sophonia’s house to interview her and decide if she is a fit for the finishing school. Sophronia passes muster and so, she is off to the school with the headmistress. Who, FYI, isn’t actually the headmistress, but is one of the students – Monique, who is awful. In tow, on the way to the school, is another girl, Dimity and her brother, Pillover. The girls get to the school and learn that it is not your average school. It’s a school which teaches young women how to be intelligencers using society’s rules of etiquette and flirting to their advantage. Sophronia isn’t content to just merely sit and learn her lesson, instead she sneaks out from her room at night and explores the school, which is a floating airship manned by lower class boys called sooties. Sophronia finds herself working with her friend Dimity as well as the sooties to uncover a plot that involves Monique stealing what is called the prototype. In all, Etiquette & Espionage is quite the rollicking tale.

Sophronia is such a fun main character. I really liked how Gail Carriger wrote her character. She’s very adventurous and outgoing. She is brave and willing to put herself at risk to help the school as well as to help her friends. Sophronia does not have the latest fashion in dresses or the most money despite being rather upper class, however, she does not let it stop her. Instead, she’s one of the best in her class. I really loved this about her character. I think that she’s just a lot of fun to read about and while I am not overly emotionally attached to Sophronia, I do think that she makes for a good “fun” book character, if that makes sense.

One of the neat things about Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is that it addresses class. Class and gender, and even race, plays quite the role in Carriger’s young adult series. This is a steampunk book set during that era when London was all balls and coming out parties and such. However, there’s technology. There are robots that act as servants. There are rigid class rules and rigid gender roles. The book often goes on to talk about what ladies do and do not do, during Sophronia’s lessons. Yet, Sophronia occasionally subverts these rules. There are also some clearly illustrated differences between Sophronia and those of a lower class – the sooties, which are lead by a Black young man called Soap. Sophronia has a bit of an attraction to Soap, but not much really comes of it. He just tends to help her out quite a bit and acts as a source of information and coal for her mechanimal dog, Bumbersnoot. There’s also a young woman who dresses as a boy and lives and works among the sooties called Vieve. She’s a bit of a highlight character from me, is all I will say on the matter because Vieve is best left discovered for yourself.

I really enjoyed Carriger’s writing style. It is very enthusiastic. It’s the sort of writing that pokes fun at the ridiculous and rigid rules of the regency era. It features technology and supernatural side by side — I did not mention that there are vampires and werewolves within the book, but they are a fun addition. Beyond that, I liked that she plays with convention and the era. I will say that this book does skew kind of young, despite the main character’s age. I would say it is probably best recommended for younger YA readers. Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage is a female-empowering steampunk read, best opened up if you are looking for a cracking good time.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Yay, I’m so glad you liked Etiquette and Espionage. I have read this one and the second one and loved them both. I still need to get to the others. These are really great as audiobooks, too.

    Isn’t Sophronia such a fun character? Have you read Carriger’s Soulless? It’s adult set in the same world mostly. It was written before this one, and it’s so great.

  2. This reminds me of ‘Worldshaker,’ the only other steampunk related book I have read. Especially with the setting being a large mode of transport and there being a ‘darker’ underclass. Sounds like I’ll have to check Etiquette and Espionage out!

  3. Coincidentally, I just finished listening to this book and loved it! I thought Vieve was certainly an interesting character, but honestly, Bumbersnoot is my favorite – he’s just so darn adorable! But overall, I got a real chuckle out of the shock and awe of characters when something was out of the norm or not within expectations of others. I’m looking forward to reading the other two books.
    – Krys