Hi all! Today I’m getting a little punky…steampunk-y, that is. As you may have learned from some of my reviews, I’m a total science geek. *shrugs* As, such, the steampunk genre lights up all my bells and whistles. Gail Carriager’s Middle Grade/Tween/YA steampunk novel, CURTSIES & CONSPIRACIES, features a 15 y/o girl with a big imagination and lots of spirit, Sophronia, who happens to be my kindred spirit.
About the book:
Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing. For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ships boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is at first apparent. A conspiracy is afoot—one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans.
Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot and survive the London Season with a full dance card.
This second book of the Finishing School series picks up several months after the first, with (now 15 y/o) Sophronia Temminnick back at school following the thwarting of several groups’ attempts at obtaining the “prototype”. What we learn is this prototype is a guidance valve, for use in transmission across the aetherosphere. And, it had been created by the parents of Sophronia’s dearest friends, Dimity and Pillover.
This tale brings Mlle. Geraldine’s floating Finishing School into London–along with the company of ten male students from Bunsen’s School of Evil Geniuses, among them Pillover and Lord Felix Mersey who is quite taken with Sophronia.
Attempts to kidnap Dimity are dashed by Sophronia’s quick thinking and incomplete training, but Sophronia knows she must learn whom is behind the attempts, in order to keep her dear friend safe. Also, the cause of their mission–observation of a transchannel trip through the aetherosphere—seems to be far outside the realm of normal intelligencer behavior. It seems there is a covert test planned, one that may cause great harm to Sophronia’s favorite vampire professor.
In unraveling the conspiracy, Sophronia must keep her wits and seek alliances with old friends and new acquaintance–even dandy vampires riding about the London scene. Sophronia’s uncanny ability to spy, scheme and escape are put to the test when Dimity and Pillover are finally napped. But, can she apply her training to remover herself from the sticky business of finding herself caught between two suitors–especially those who do not suit? In the end, Sophronia discredits one teacher, nearly gets another murdered, and learns to accept that sometimes her schemes will force her to employ–gasp!–a dandy gentleman’s attire.
Oh, and it seems Sophronia’s being courted. By more than one powerful man. With all the mayhem and gore, this book’s heavy on the espionage and light on the romance, though the book seems decidedly more YA than the first one in the series (which I would suggest is Tween). The pace is blistering and the language is humorous and fascinating. I love the period speech, and the nuances of manners, how they are used to advantage by these intelligencing women. Lord Mersey will be a problem, no doubt, going forward, but so will Sophronia’s “friendship” with Soap, the black sootie. Looking forward to the next adventure.
As this is the second book in the series, I’d recommend reading book one, ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE, first. Not only because it’s a hoot of a story, but because the books are built to be a series, and so lots of the characters and their relationships have been fully described in ETIQUETTE. Click here for my review.
About the book:
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
About the Author:
Ms. Carriger writes steampunk urbane fantasy comedies of manners to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. She then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by a harem of shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London and cats that pee into toilets. Her books are all New York Times Bestsellers.