Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Cover of "Etiquette and Espionage," featuring a girl in a black dress with a full skirt holding a pair of scissors like they're a weapon
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette and Espionage

Series: Finishing School #1

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

Back Cover:

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. She 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 hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, 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 way, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousting first year’s education.


I made a mistake with this book. I started it the night before a super-busy week. Worst. Choice. Ever. By chapter two, all I wanted to do was sit down and read until I finished. Instead, I had to cram chapters into car rides and spare minutes before bed.

Sophronia was totally fun. She was a bit younger than I expected (14), but I could live with that. She was spunky and bold, but also clever and inventive. I thought she was fabulous in the beginning, but a little bit of subterfuge training and she was FANTASTIC. I can’t wait to see how many more awesome skills she gets.

Dimity, Sophronia’s first new friend, was Sophronia’s complete opposite. She was quieter and not as bold, and much more ladylike. She was a great foil fo Sophronia, and I’m looking forward to her learning more at finishing school, as well.

I really shouldn’t mention too many other characters, to avoid spoilers and making this too long. But let me just say that even the minor characters were fabulous. Vampire teachers, a student raised by werewolves, Sophronia’s friends in the boiler room and a sneaky seven-year-old…they were all amazing fun.

There was a good plot – student Monique hid a prototype of something, and everyone (good guys and bad) are desperate to get their hands on it. But exciting though the plot was, sometimes I felt like it was a distraction from the world and the school. Those are what I really wanted more of.

I have to mention the names, because they were so amusingly absurd. Besides Sophronia Temminnick and Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, there’s Dimity’s brother Pillover, and Mrs. Barnaclegoose…and all the names followed that kind of pattern. Some were downright absurd, but it fit right in with the completely-serious-yet-entirely-ridiculous tone.

I absolutely loved the concept here. The paranormal creatures I could take or leave, but the rest of it – steampunk Victorian finishing school that teaches girls how to be spies – was awesome. I’ll be honest, I seriously want to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine’s.

This series is actually set in the same world as Gail Carriger’s previous adult series, the Parasol Protectorate. According to Angie at the Bibliophile Support Group, the Parasol Protectorate have a few more adult themes in them. But I enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage so thoroughly, I may have to try it anyway.

Now I have to get to the library, and preferably soon, because I know they have book two. And I’m going to pick a nice, empty afternoon to start it, because I doubt I’m going to want to put Curtsies and Conspiracies down, either.

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry (November 4, 2014)
  4. Manners and Mutiny (2015)

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