Thursday, 11 December 2014

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Waistcoats & Weaponry (2014) (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 another world 

At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, Sophronia Temminick and her friends are trying to finish their education in espionage to the best of their abilities (i.e. by flaunting the rules as much as possible), but school isn’t quite the same as it was. After an experiment gone wrong, their vampire teacher Professor Braithwope has gone a little loopy in the head, Sophronia’s friend and resident scientific and technology whiz Vieve has sneaked off under the guise of a boy to get her own education at Bunson’s School for Evil Geniuses, and despite the fact that they’ve yet to learn the fine art of seduction techniques, Sophronia continues to receive (not wholly unwanted) advances from two wholly unsuitable suitors: Lord Felix Mersey, beautiful peer but unforgiveably, son of a Pickleman, and Soap, sweet sootie from the Academy’s engine room. Fortunately, Sophronia has now found her deadly weapon of choice: the steel-tipped fan and is eager to get as much practice as she can – including thinking of new places to hide one about her person.

When Sophronia’s friend Sidheag, Lady Kingair, is called away from school in a pack emergency that threatens the continued existence of the Kingair pack, Sophronia can’t just stand idly by and watch the country’s werewolf population destroy itself. Along with her best friend Dimity, the ever-competing Lord Mersey and Soap and Sophronia’s trusty mechanimal, Bumbersnoot, the haphazard group are hot on Sidheag’s heels. Requisitioning a train for their journey to Scotland, they inadvertently stumble upon some vampire drones carrying out a plot to take over the country, and put into practice more skills and espionage techniques than Sophronia (and her teachers) ever dreamed of using …

In my eyes, Gail Carriger can do no wrong. Unlike the last three years, I unfortunately haven’t discovered a new stand-out author this year (Ruthie Knox, Tiffany Reisz and Gail Carriger respectively), but I think this year has been about favourite authors trying out new directions. January saw Ruthie Knox taking on the hot new genre of new adult with the breath-taking Deeper, followed by Harder during the summer. 2014 has also been a year for starting and catching up with Gail Carriger’s foray into young adult after finishing up her successful adult Parasol Protectorate series, with Waistcoats & Weaponry the third title in her Finishing School saga. Here I am with book 3 (mostly) straight after finishing Curtsies & Conspiracies, just because I can’t get enough of what has become a surprising favourite series.

C&C blew my mind and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, W&W has blown the whole series out of the water. Yes, I’m left with a slightly non-HEA that has left me both on-edge and wholly unnerved that Gail Carriger has been able to put me so off-kilter with the end of a book, but it’s good to keep things fresh. I’m reminded of how I felt after I re-read Changeless, book 2 in the Parasol Protectorate series just a few short weeks ago and how as events unfolded in the book, I was left devastated by the way that one of my favourite fictional couples had met a particularly bumpy stretch of their relationship. The final chapters of W&W has changed the relative comfort of Sophronia’s everyday life for good and she’s going to have to learn to adapt in the face of these cruel circumstances. With Manners & Mutiny set to be the last title in this explosive series, it’s going to be a finale to remember.

This series embodies everything that I love about Gail Carriger and why she’s such a great writer. Sophronia is resourceful, clever, a wonderful friend and an even better espionage student – a glimpse of the spy she will become. I’m still intrigued to find out her role in her later years, as this is set before the Parasol Protectorate series and thus also the forthcoming Custard Protocol series, if we ever meet Sophronia at all. A recent interview revealed that Ms Carriger has been plotting Finishing School and Custard Protocol for years, ever since the Parasol Protectorate – her patience is tremendous. I need more of this fantastic, funny, other-worldly and stunning writing in my life. Manners & Mutiny can’t come soon enough.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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