Sunday, 17 November 2013

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger is the sequel to Etiquette and Espionage which I read and reviewed earlier in the year. They are part of the Finishing School series, which is set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate books, but twenty-five years earlier. I would recommend reading Etiquette and Espionage first, if you haven't already (just in general, everyone should read it), but although there's an over-arching plot, each book so far also has a very self-contained main plot.

The basic premise of the series is that the main character, Sophronia, attends a special finishing school where, while learning proper etiquette, the girls also learn how to become spies. And of course, nothing is ever quite as straightforward as it seems. Blurb:
Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.
I loved all of Gail Carriger's other books, and this latest instalment is no exception. I pretty much inhaled it in a day and after a trying week+, it was exactly what I needed. Carriger's customary wit had me laughing out loud several times, and miscellaneous adorableness — like Bumbersnoot, Sophronia's mechanimal dog, about whom I'd forgotten — made me happy.

One of my favourite aspects of this book (among many favourite aspects), was the tantalising ties to the Parasol Protectorate books. We have more hints about how the main cast characters, Vieve and Sidheag, end up where they do in the later series. Not that Sidheag's future/history are a great mytery, but I was delighted by Vieve's trajectory in this book. Other favourite characters from the Parasol Protectorate books made an appearance, including Lord Akeldama, which was particularly well-done from the perspective of someone who's read the later books. I suspect that, while his appearance might have greater impact on readers familiar with Carriger's world, it will still be amusing to new readers. Or at least, I hope so, because those scenes were among the funniest.

On the topic of linking Curtsies and Conspiracies to other books, the overarching plot becomes apparent in this second volume and it successfully whetted my appetite for the next book, not that it needed extra whetting. With new mysteries for Sophronia to discover and solve, building on the previous book, the trajectory for the next couple of volumes. (I note her website lists two more titles in the series: Waistcoats & Weaponry and Manners & Mutiny, albeit with undetermined release dates.)

This is a book I would recommend to all Carriger fans. If you've already enjoyed any of her other books (and particularly Etiquette and Espionage), then reading Curtsies and Conspiracies/the Finishing School series should be a no-brainer. For readers new to her work, I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series, but highly recommend it to fans of Steampunk, Victorian England and witty comedy. Or any one of the three.

5 / 5 stars

First published: November 2013, Hachette
Series: Finishing School book 2 of (at least) 4
Format read: eBook
Source: purchased from iBooks

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