Sunday 26 May 2013

Book Review - Etiquette & Espionage

Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Finishing School (book 1)
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: 5 Feb 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1907411588

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. Temminick 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 they 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.

My Review
I will confess that it was the cover of this book that originally caught my attention. It's an absolutely gorgeous cover and gives you a real feel for what the story is about, with a steampunk feel to it. I liked the title too, it intrigued me.
I sat down with this book ready to be amazed. I haven't ever read anything by Carriger before but have heard fabulous things about her.
I have a real fondness for books set in the Victorian era, I don't know why but I really like them, so having a 'steampunk' version of that world would be really cool. But I have to say I was really disappointed. I struggled with this book and at 150 pages into it I still wasn't sure whether or not I should just give up, but I had hope it would improve and pushed on. After all it's only 312 pages which isn't massively long.
I'm going to try to explain what I didn't like about it. Firstly, it seemed quite slow, a lot of the book is setting up the world and characters, there is a lot of information presented and I didn't really know how much was actually relevant, I just wanted it to get on with the action. 
I was actually confused with the world, for me too much had been added: Victorian era, Stemapunk adjustments, then robots, vampires, werewolves, floating buildings, highwaymen, flywaymen, spies, assassins. It just seemed like everything was thrown in together and for me it didn't gel properly. I couldn't keep up with it all, I actually think a simpler version would have been much more enjoyable. 
The names in this book, blimey we get given some names. The main character is Sophronia Angela Temminnick, what a mouthful, I ended up just reading it as Sophie, I gave up trying to pronounce her proper name and just renamed her simply. Then we also meet Pillover - Pill for short, I renamed him Phil for ease. We also get Preshea, Professor Braithwope, Dimity, Sidheag and so on. Each one I ended up giving an easy nickname that I would glance through when their name came up. I get wanting to be original, but these are mouthfuls to say or I'm not sure how to pronounce them. And it slowed down the pacing everytime I stumbled on one. Renaming them meant i could just keep going without hesitating. 
It took a while to get into the plot, I actually enjoyed the last 70 pages more than the whole rest of this book, things started to happen, the story came to a point, it got more exciting and I found myself finally interested and willing for Sophie to be successful. If there had been more of that in this book I would have really enjoyed it.

But it wasn't all negative, I enjoyed Sophie's excursions into the Boiler room and the characters she meets there were great, Soap and Vieve have a real innocence and sense of adventure. They have an easy humour and I could picture them running about the school. 
The basic idea and plot of the story was good I just wanted it to go somewhere further, become more exciting. I feel like this book only scratched the surface of something that has potential to be very gripping. 
I can't say I would want to read anymore in the series though, I struggled a bit with this and it didn't make me go Wow. 
I've heard that this works as a Prequel to her Parasol series, I have book 1 on my book shelves to read, I'll still give that a go, as I've heard it's quite different, but I'm not as excited about it. 
I think this is just a personal preference though. Just didn't work for me.

My Rating

1 comment:

Mara A. said...

I have this on hold at the library, and my initial anticipation level was not very high. Judging by your review, it sounds like it's about like what I'm expecting it to be.