Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Hachette Audio, 2013 (print available from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Narrator: Moira Quirk
When Sophronia is told she will be sent off to finishing school, she is not pleased. Not at all. However, after a decidedly odd interview with "Mlle Geraldine," it quickly becomes clear that Madame Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not exactly what it appears to be on the surface. As it turns out, the school is not only a place young girls are trained to become ladies, they are also trained to become intelligencers. Classes include etiquette and how to execute a proper curtsy, as well as the use of seduction, stealth, and proper fighting techniques. In addition to all this knew knowledge, Sophronia and her friends do some intelligencing of their own regarding a missing prototype, an older schoolmate who failed to Finish and has been sent to study with the debuts, and other mysterious activity.
This first book in Gail Carriger's new series for teens is just delightful. Fans of her adult series, Soulless, would be well advised to pick this one up as well. Who can resist a fine comedy of manners mixed together with steam technology, the art of espionage, how to manipulate and obtain information, all while still being presentable for afternoon tea or ready to dance a quadrille at a ball? Oh yes, mustn't forget the werewolves and vampires. This book has action and humor in spades.
Sophronia herself is an excellent heroine, and a character I look forward to watching develop over the course of the next books in the series. She's resourceful, intelligent, has a good heart, and does not shy away from getting her hands dirty if necessary. I loved a lot of the secondary characters too, namely the sootie Soap, the young French engineer Vieve (age 9), and the loyal and easily scandalized Dimity (who also, I might add, is the daughter of evil geniuses and describes herself as "a good girl," to their chagrin).
Honestly, I think I like this one more than Soulless, though that might be because I listened to the excellent narration by Moira Quirk. Her accents and inflections completely made this for me, and I would highly recommend that anyone who had trouble getting into this series try the audio. This is one of the 2014 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults for a reason.
Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook through my local library and OverDrive.