Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Some people might already be familiar with this title and are going "Helen, why are you reading this if you haven't finished The Parasol Protectorate?!" Well I still haven't been able to get a hold of books three through five and since this series is set 25 years earlier I figured it would be safe enoough (what you guys should be asking is how I got an ARC before a book was published for once, Unshelved had a link to where you could request one of a few different books from Little, Brown and I guess I was one of the first people to request since I got a copy). As a note this book actually isn't out until February but within a month you should be able to find a copy at brick and mortar bookstores or online.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Summary: When Sophronia is sent off to finishing school she expects something boring and conventional, after all her sisters are quite dulled and they've already been "finished". She certainly wasn't expecting a school on an airship where dancing and poisons are taught side by side and the teachers include a vampire and a werewolf. But somehow this all suits her rather well and gives her an almost respectable outlet for the mischief she gets into.

The Good: While the book itself isn't clear that it's set 25 years before The Parasol Protectorate (although seeing some familiar character names did tip me off) you certainly don't have to read those books to read this one and enjoy it, an especially good idea since those books were adult fiction while this one is young adult. Sophronia and the rest of the main cast are rather fun characters, although I did find them a little young for my taste (the characters aren't quite young enough to cross over into middle grade but come off as a bit too clever for 14-16 year olds). Regardless, this was a fun book that embraces the quirks and strangeness of the setting and I hope the next one is even stronger. 

The Bad: At times I was wondering if I was reading a parody of the steampunk genre (I'm sure that one group of characters was meant to poke fun at some of the more ridiculous costumes you find at conventions) since it gets well, odd at points. It's a little hard to articulate what exactly is weird (the characters attitudes? the fact that a school for mad geniuses is considered a normal part of the setting? the strange technology?) since Protectorate had it's moments of oddness as well (especially involving the technology) but here it's just a bit stranger. It did pull me out of the story a bit at times, hence why I'm calling this a bad thing, but it shouldn't be a deal-breaker for most. The ending also feels a bit unresolved, it's the first in a four book series so while it's understandable that not everything is wrapped up I just felt like this book didn't have it's own, distinct arc (sure there was the hunt for the missing technology but just didn't feel completely wrapped up to me). 

Despite the fact that this book felt a little off/like a little was missing I'm still giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars for entertainment and fully plan on reading the upcoming volumes (and buying my own copy of it, ARC's are just a bit too flimsy for my tastes).