Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage

I said I'd post book reviews here at some point, so I'm doing it! I'm doing it. I finished Etiquette & Espionage recently, and since I'm a huge fan of Gail Carriger, I thought it would be fitting to start with this one. Yay YA steampunk!

The premise of E&E (as I shall now call it) is pretty simple. Sophronia, a girl living in a steampunk Victorian England (do I need to explain what steampunk is? No? Okay), is sent off to what she thinks will be finishing school, but is actually a school for young ladies to learn how to partake in espionage. Among other things... including finishing people. (Meanwhile young boys get sent to a school where they learn how to be evil masterminds.) It seems kind of silly, and admittedly -- it is. But it's so clearly meant to be silly that it's amazing. And since this is an alternate version of English history, it also includes vampires and werewolves! If you've read the Parasol Protectorate series you'll realize that it's set in the same world, years earlier. Which is super fun because there are characters you might recognize from that series.

The plot isn't too complex, and the stakes aren't very high, but Gail Carriger's writing is so full of character that I had a hard time putting it down. Gail has a very Victorian, sort of Jane Austen-y vibe going with her prose, and it's very funny. Some of my favorite moments are in the details. In this world people have mechanicals instead of maids and butlers, and occasionally the mechanicals wear clothing, so often a mechanical would splutter indignantly and emit a jet of air, and its cravat would flutter up into its metal face. Details like that are one of my favorite things to write, so I love finding them in books; they make me so happy!

I don't really know how to review books, it turns out. I don't want to give anything away in terms of the plot, but there's the typical school setting tropes, where the outcast girls band together and become friends, etc. There's also a hint of romance (more in later books?), a werewolf who ties his top hat to his head so even when he changes to wolf form he's still wearing it, sky pirates (officially called "flywaymen"), and various secret societies and steampunk tomfoolery. It's a very quick read, and so much fun all the way through. I'd highly recommend E&E, as well as Gail Carriger's other work, because her writing is so funny and quirky and engaging.

And, if any of you have already read this or other books by Gail Carriger, do you have any recommendations for similar books?

Edited to add: If you want to read a bit more about my love of Gail Carriger, check out my post about the Steampunk Soiree that took place at Foyle's last spring in London! And much thanks to Little, Brown for the complimentary copy of Soulless, which began the love affair.

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