05 February 2013

Etiquette & Espionage (Gail Carriger)

Gail Carriger's YA debut, Etiquette & Espionage, is set in the same steampunk, vampires-n-werewolves-n-ghosts-oh-my Victorian England as her endlessly charming Parasol Protectorate series, cause enough for celebration--this was one of those ARCs I clasped to my bosom in delight before even cracking the cover. Even better, it's set at a girl's school for spies and assassins, and since it takes place 30 years previous to the Parasol novels, a couple of characters appear as little girls! And there is a clockwork sausage dog named Bumbersnoot!!

For anyone who'd like a plot summary in lieu of my jumping up and down waving my hands about in glee (I can't say I'm doing it literally right at this moment, but believe you me it has occurred): 14-year-old Sophronia Angelina Temminnick is a rough-and-tumble, mechanically minded miss, a terrible disappointment to her mother, who packs her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, much to Sophronia's chagrin. However, she soon learns that elocution and country dances are far from the principal subjects of said school--weapons training, poison, and the judicious use of fainting spells are all required courses, and said "finishing" is less of the young ladies themselves than of "anything and anyone" who needs it.

This winning premise is of course right in Carriger's wheelhouse, juxtaposing mannered, deadpan prose, ingenious tech, and perilous sleuthing. And she slides effortlessly into writing for a younger demographic--heck, I'd give this to a ten-year-old with enough Nancy Drew and middle-grade Gaiman under her (or his) belt. I mean, I'd sell them a copy, cause they ain't getting their grubby little paws on mine.


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