Review: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: NetGalley
Publication Date: February 5th 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pacing: fast
POV: 3rd person
Genres & Themes: YA-MG, Steampunk, Friendship.


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.


Really, I did not expect this to feel so young. It has such a middle grade vibe. And contains some immature characters.

The flywayman with the gun struck the headmistress across the face with his free hand.

‘‘Oh dear,’’ said Sophronia. ‘‘Violence.’’ She suppressed panic and a strange urge to giggle. She’d never before seen a grown man actually hit a woman.


Whaaat? And that would make you, Sophronia, giggle? *shakes head*

I didn’t like her as a character until maybe 75% of the story, when she seemed to have a little of a character development. The author seemed to want to make her seem strong and intelligent but there was always something she said or did that made me see her otherwise.

The story didn’t have a very interesting plot. It mostly felt simple, predictable. Also, some dialogs really felt absurd or unnatural in the story. It seemed. to me, that the author only included them for some effect.

For example:

‘‘Excellent. Ignorance is most undervalued in a student. And have you killed someone recently?’’

Sophronia blinked. ‘‘Pardon?’’

‘‘Oh, you know, a knife to the neck, or perhaps a cleverly noosed cravat?’’

She is fourteen years old, for God’s sake!

I can understand that they’re learning etiquette at school when not espionage skills, but learning to flutter their eyelashes? Is that really efficient?

Let’s see:

Sophronia decided to practice a bit her eyelash-fluttering lesson.

The tall one didn’t seem overly impressed by her eyelashes. ‘‘How-d’ye-do, miss? I’m Phineas B. Crow.’’


‘‘Though everyone calls me Soap,’’ added Phineas B. Crow. ‘‘Because I needs it more than most.’’

Sophronia continued batting her eyelashes at him.

‘‘You got some soot in your eye, there, miss?’’

Ha ha ha. Mission unaccomplished.

Soap was a nice character and the fact that he has his own ”way of speaking” did not bother me at all.

My favorite character though was Pillover since he was one of the only ones making Sophronia shut her mouth stop talking. And, when he spoke, I listened with interest.

She looked around. ‘‘Anyone know how to pick a look?’’

‘‘Some intelligencer you are,’’ complained Pillover.

‘‘I’ve only been there a month! I can curtsy now, and my eyelash fluttering is practically unparalleled.’’

‘‘Well, why not flutter your way into the locked room, then?’’

The writing is the same as in her Parasol Protectorate series. She has her own style, though I must admit that it is not my favorite for it is kind of simple and, in my opinion, this would have been better with a 1st person POV.

I said once that I could read any genre if only it contains some romance and, in this one, there isn’t really any of it. Too bad because there would have been plenty of couple possibilities.

It wasn’t a bad story but the plot could have been seriously more intriguing for it barely captured my attention from time to time. The only reason I’m not giving it a one star rating is because I did quite enjoy reading about two characters and there are some little elements here and there that are unique. As for example, there are, in this world-building, what they call ‘‘mechanimals.’’ They’re steampunk animals. How awesome is that?

My review on Goodreads.

15 thoughts on “Review: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

  1. Oh well… I guess she might not get very good grades in her ‘fluttering eyelashes’ lessons if it doesn’t work at all haha. This book has such wonderful premise. I’m sorry it doesn’t work out for you though. Mechanimals sounds simply AWESOME. ❤ Wonderful review, Lola! Your review made me smile a lot hehe. 😉


  2. LOLA, I’VE GOT TO GIVE YOU CLAPS FOR EVEN FINISHING THIS! I couldn’t. It was a DNF for me =____= I made a 10% dent and just couldn’t make it any further. You’re right because it just felt too middle grade for me to handle. I think I read it during a time where all I wanted was some romance, which was something this book was seriously lacking. I probably will never pick this up again unless…there was no YA books left and that is something I seriously doubt will ever happen LOL Fantastic review, lovely! <33


  3. I just listened to this on audio as well and I wasn’t expecting it to be as young feeling either, which was a little disappointing. I am starting the second and hoping it is somewhat better in that department.


  4. I was kind of wary of starting this book for the very reason you mentioned–it sounded like it could come off too middle grade (not that there’s anything wrong with middle grade, I just generally prefer books that don’t have such a young feeling to them). I had the same problem with Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series; it sounded pretty awesome, but in the end didn’t impress me very much.
    Thanks for the honest review! I may have to consider not picking this one up :/


  5. Oh goodness! I’m sorry this was such a letdown! Not that I don’t see why – underdeveloped and immature characters annoy me as well. And if something has such a young-sound narration like this one, why is it classified as YA and not MG? That makes no sense, and it probably threw a lot of people – like you – off. 😐 Anyhow, definitely skipping this one. Thanks for sharing Lola and, as always, BRILLIANT review! ❤


  6. This is the second review of this book I’ve read this week, the other person really liked this book, so I appreciated seeing the other side. From your examples it does read younger. The steampunk and fantasy creatures made it sound so good, but I think this one probably wouldn’t be for me either. Nice review, thanks again for saving me from reading a book. :


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