Narrator: Moira Quirk
Series: Finishing School #1
Published by Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette Audio on February 5, 2013
Genres: Steampunk, Young Adult
Length: 8 hours 55 minutes
Sometimes a book’s description and cover really fail in preparing you for the mood of the book. That’s what happened to me with Etiquette & Espionage. While the subject was exactly as described, it was far more ridiculous than I expected. Ultimately I enjoyed it, but it took me some time to adjust my expectations and embrace the ridiculous.
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.
When Etiquette & Espionage first started I really enjoyed Safronia’s mishap with the dumb waiter that landed food all over a visitor and expedited her way off to finishing school. And it was a quality I continued to enjoy in Safronia the whole book. She is into mischief and struggles with being lady-like.
What threw me was both the adults and the scenarios. I can’t think of any better way to describe them than ridiculous. I expected a realm of believability, but you’ve got lessons in things like fainting and attack maneuvers involving fans and perfume to make a werewolf sneeze. Even more ridiculous was when the maneuvers worked. I think, though, that the ridiculous elements were well done and if you’re the sort of person that enjoys movies like Dumb and Dumber or something equally ridiculous, you would probably get a good laugh from Etiquette & Espionage. I, as a rule, am not – so I did lots of eye rolling.
But my eye rolling was tempered by some really great moments – Safronia’s friends are lovable, as is her mechanical dog, Bumbersnoot (the names fit with the ridiculous). If you like steam punk for its clothing and mechanical aspects, which I guess I do, Etiquette & Espionage has loads of that to enjoy. And there’s even vampires, werewolves and flyway men – although those all kind of ended up appealing more to fans of the ridiculous than the paranormal lovers, in my opinion.
I do highly recommend the audio version of Etiquette & Espionage if you decide this sounds like one for you, since Moira Quirk was quite good. I enjoyed her voices and she clearly understood the ridiculous, somehow making those bits more enjoyable.
I haven’t decided if I’ll continue with this series or not. I liked the mystery and characters, so I’m tempted to continue. I’d just have to get myself into the right mood before picking up another.