When I found out Gail Carriger was writing a YA series, I was like "HOO-HA!" (Picture this said with great passion, Al Pacino style J). When I found out the book was going to be about a finishing school for girls where they learn the fine art of espionage? Gah! I can't even tell you how excited I was.
Etiquette &Espionage delivered everything I look for in a Carriger book:
--Characters you care about
--Plotting that's out of this world
--A flair for Victorian fashion
--A good dose of the ridiculous
--Friendships and romance and dirigibles, oh my!
Sophronia Angelina Temminick, our heroine, was a girl after my own heart. She was overly curious. She loved to climb and contemplate the inner-workings of machinery, and wasn't all that interested in fashion (shocking!). Shipped off by her mother, she goes to Madame Geraldine's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality in a carriage with three strangers: Dimity and her brother, Pillover, and Madame Geraldine--who may or may not be an imposter.
When the carriage is attacked by flywaymen (think hot air balloons operated by men of criminal intent), the real fun begins. Sophronia shows her cunning and ingenuity in this first encounter, using only Pillover's "Depraved Lens of Crispy Magnification" and some fancy getaway driving to escape.
Sophronia was a spectacular main character. Like I said, she was curious enough to land her in loads of trouble--but smart enough to get her and her friends out of it.
I really loved all the friendships. Dimity and Sophronia quickly became besties. With her love of accessories and bold yet tacky fashion sense, Dimity reminded me of Ivy Hisslepenny (a favorite from Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series). Dimity had no interest in becoming an evil mastermind, like her parents, and she was a true friend. She and Sophronia couldn't have been more different on the surface. But throughout the book, they stand by each other.
Also loved the part where Sophronia goes down to the boiler room and meets the sooties. Especially, Phineas B. Crow aka Soap, who develops an immediate sweet spot for Sophronia and even sends a bit of coal up to her room for her pet mechanimal Bumbersnoot!
Seriously, you guys, this is why I love Gail Carriger.
I definitely recommend this book. When you read a Carriger novel, you can't help but be swept away. There's no one out there, YA or otherwise, that writes quite like her. Etiquette & Espionage was a great YA debut, and I can't wait for the second book of the series!
P.S. If you enjoyed the Parasol Protectorate, you might recognize a few characters in E&E :-). These were some of my absolute favorite parts, but I didn't want to give them away.