Author: Gail Carriger
Books: Etiquette & Espionage; Curtsies & Conspiracies; Waistcoats & Weaponry; Manners & Mutiny (pub Nov. 2015)
Published by: Little, Brown and Company
Genres: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Paranormal, Historical Fiction
At the age of 14, Sophronia is recruited for a finishing school – Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Little does she know that she won’t only be learning to pour tea and host a dinner party, but she’ll learn the arts of an intelligencer – lady spies hidden in society. Sophronia also doesn’t realize she’s going to be very good at intelligencing – one of the best.
It’s 1851 in the British Empire. Mechanicals serve households and humans live alongside vampires and werewolves. All under the Queen: vampires, werewolves, and Picklemen (human evil geniuses) fight for power. Meanwhile, girls are trained at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Academy for Young Ladies of Quality and will someday have to choose patrons or sides in this power struggle.
The finishing series is set in the same world as Gail Carriger’s other series – Parasol Protectorate. I haven’t read it, which may be why the details of this world’s society was confusing. It wasn’t until the third book that I started to understand the politics behind the story. However, that also may have been intentional, as the themes and topics of the books get more mature as Sophronia grows into a woman intelligencer. Despite the confusion, Carriger is a clever, imaginative writer who created a smart, capable heroine. Although the content of the books sounds dark, it’s remarkably lighthearted, especially in the first two books. Sophronia may combat a crazed werewolf and up-to-no-good flywaymen, but she also skirmishes with a mechanical chaise lounge guard dog (it’s exactly as it sounds). There are actual characters named Mrs. Barnaclegoose and Lord Dingleproops.
If you’re disappointed Sophronia's world includes vampires and werewolves, you’re not alone. I resisted the series for that reason. I’m tired of the Twilight-induced obsession. However, I was able to enjoy the series, maybe because these characters don’t take center stage (at least not in the first book).
One thing I loved about Carriger's series: there's an overarching story woven through, but each book has an individual story with a conclusion. No cliffhangers here! If you prefer to read a series all at once, this is a good year to pick up Finishing School. The final, fourth book, Manners & Mutiny, comes out in November. You can pre-order it on Amazon.
Would I let my teen read this series?
Like Harry Potter, this series matures with the age of the character. While Harry might be 10 in the first book, I’d take some time to consider if my 10 year old should read the whole series. Sophronia is 14 when the story begins, but she’s 16 by the third book. The third book is more mature, as the girls are introduced to lessons of seduction and Sophronia becomes more physically aware of her love interests. The publisher recommends 6th grade and up for this series, which is appropriate for Etiquette & Espionage (Book 1). If your teen is going to read the whole series, I recommend waiting until they’re 15.
Age recommendation: 15
Sex – There’s some innocent kissing, and noticing of muscles
Violence – Some fist and weapon fighting; violence associated with werewolves and vampires— In Curtsies & Conspiracies (Book 2) you read about a vampire feeding from several people to revive himself; In Waistcoats & Weaponry (Book 3) one of the characters is transformed into a werewolf (to save his life) which includes a violent bite to the neck.
My Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Buy: Etiquette & Espionage (Book 1) - on Amazon.com
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.