Note: I received a digital copy of Etiquette & Espionage from NetGalley for review consideration.
I requested this book from NetGalley months ago, and (as is often the case) by the time I picked it up, I couldn’t remember anything about it. So I was pleasantly surprised by the rollicking story I got. The book is set in 1850s England, but an alternate, steampunky version. Sophronia is a young teenage girl with an interest in mechanics and a knack for getting into trouble, so when the headmistress of a prestigious finishing school comes knocking, Sophronia’s mother is relieved to pass her daughter off to the boarding school. However, when the carriage is attacked by skywaymen on the way to the school, which turns out to be a huge, floating dirigible, Sophronia realizes that this is no ordinary finishing school. As she learns the finer points of eyelash fluttering, dancing the quadrille, and learning how to poison someone at dinner, Sophronia finds she might just enjoy this school after all. Despite Monique’s constant attempts to get Sophronia and her new friends in trouble, they manage to discover secrets and outsmart the bad guys, all while running around in skirts and never losing their handkerchiefs.
The juxtaposition of the odd classes is, of course, the main draw of this story. The teachers themselves are masters of their crafts–they include a vampire, a werewolf, a (former?) nun, and several other teachers who are not who they seem. The school is full of interesting facets as well, from the mechanicals (servants made of metal and gears that run on tracks around the school) to the lower level dwellers who keep the school airborne (and hold a special interest for Sophronia) to the secret records room that the girls must infiltrate. Sophronia learns valuable lessons, both in class and out, about how to use her femininity to find the information she needs, but she never allows her skirts to hold her down from what she really wants to do.
On the whole, it’s just a fun, interesting story, combining steampunk and boarding school aspects. What’s not to like? I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for the next books in the series.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good