by Gail Carriger
Plot Summary: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.
Review:There are some books that just fit the word "romp" all over. This is one of them. In addition to making me feel like I need to carry a handkerchief and some sewing scissors about my person at all times, this book was just so much fun. And the voice of Sophronia is the main reason for this. Sophronia is practical and forthright and clashes with her conventional, proper family. She is proud of the scrapes she gets into and her inquisitiveness means she fits into the unconventional finishing school she is sent to. The quirky steampunk world the author has created fits in well with Sophronia's wayward nature and is just as fun to explore as a reader as it must be for Sophronia.
The cast of characters at the school are varied and all sparkling with idiosyncrasies and quirks. They are all just so much fun to read about! The fact that supernatural creatures are also included in this world makes it that much more interesting and varied. I liked the new twist the author put on vampires and werewolves. And I haven't come across a book with so many characters that I want to hang out with in such a long time. The intrigue surrounding the finishing school felt secondary to the fun of Sophronia's adventures and her explorations of the school to me. But the mystery does give Sophronia the opportunity to show off her ingenuity with a strong suspense-filled resolution that felt very satisfying. And the burgeoning romance was nicely placed, as it was incidental to the narrative and appropriate for Sophronia's personality. But I hope to read more develop between the couple!
The writing is lively and humorous, and the author has created a great collection of characters at this school. With such a fiesty and admirable main character, this is definitely a great book to read as a treat to yourself.