Sunday, 23 November 2014

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies (2013) (Orbit)
Gail Carriger
Grade: A
Genre: steampunk / young adult
Source: own
Finishing School: (1) Etiquette & Espionage, (2) Curtsies & Conspiracies, (3) Waistcoats & Weaponry
Young adult RBC 2014: A book set in the past 

This is a finishing school like no other. Based in a floating dirigible above the Yorkshire Moors, girls at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality don’t just learn how to curtsey and host a dinner party correctly – they can do it while throwing a knife, casing a room for hidden clues and mixing a deadly concoction of potions to take out a troublesome enemy. That’s right: this is a Finishing Academy for young spies. Having settled in and made quite an impression on her teachers and fellow spies-in-training, Lady Sophronia finds herself on the receiving end of a collective mission to freeze her out, from girls she had considered her friend.

As the dirigible leaves the relative safety of their mooring for London and takes on board a group of male students from Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnique, school for evil geniuses – imagine that, boys! – Sophronia has to uncover the real reasons behind their unexpected trip to London, whilst also dealing with the new sensation of flirting – and from two fronts! With her trusty mechanimal, Bumbersnoot for company and her penchant for finding and making trouble, Sophronia is in for an exciting adventure!

The second instalment of the wonderful Finishing School series, C&C is every bit as good as E&E, if not better. A steampunk version of Ally Carter’s equally brilliant Gallagher Girls, this is exactly the kind of school I would want to attend if I lived in Victorian England. Set chronologically before the bestselling Parasol Protectorate series, we’re again gifted with the presence of a number of characters with whom we’re destined to become more familiar with in their later life. As I’ve experienced with the 5-book PP series, Ms Carriger has a talent for weaving mysteries throughout all her titles and this was no different and even more spectacular as her characters (and their future storylines) are deeply meshed in the Finishing School series and beyond. I’m still dying to see what part Sophronia will play in her later life – too bad that the series is only destined to have four books.

I definitely felt more comfortable with this series with book 2. I found it a little hard to adapt to this new series, having loved the Parasol Protectorate so much, but I’m now fully in the swing of the Finishing School and our delightfully younger protagonists. Gail Carriger has taken to young adult with gusto (was there any doubt about it?) and young Sophronia really does lead the most charming life, what with her two prospective suitors, Soap and Felix, her little band of classmates, Dimity, Sidheag and Agatha and the most interesting relationships with Vieve Lefoux and Lord Akeldama, of course who we’re more familiar with in relation to Lady Maccon.

There’s no doubt that C&C has made to my very long list of best reads of the year, though there’s no guarantee what will make it to the shortlist. Though not as great a favourite as the Parasol Protectorate series, Finishing School does sport better covers and I’m serially addicted to the mystery and intrigue that is so central to Gail Carriger’s writing. Book 3, Waistcoats & Weaponry has just been published and is of course on my Christmas list, as will be the final chapter in this series, Manners & Mutiny. Finishing School has never been so thrilling!

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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