Book Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Posted November 27, 2013 by Stormi in Book Reviews, Review Archive / 0 Comments

Book Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Curtsies & Conspiracies Series: Finishing School,
on November 5, 2013
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover


Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

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.

Second in the Finishing School steampunk series for Young Adults revolving around Sophronia, a quite incorrigible young lady.

This series takes place before Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate…and I am so curious to see how Sophronia slips into that series…!

My Take
Oh, lordy, I do love Carriger’s blend of Victorian manners and household management with assassination. The young ladies of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy learn to kill over (or with) dinner, make beautiful excuses, and use flower arrangements for all sorts of subterfuge and keep within the bounds of polite society. And that includes no secret meetings with young gentlemen who ought to know better!

Sophronia is a cheeky little thing. I do love how she plots against Felix and scampers about the airship, spying to her heart’s content. I felt sorry for her having to learn this lesson of consequences at the end. It will be interesting to see where Carriger goes with this, combined with Lord Akeldama’s interest!

Against the backdrop of the finishing school with its cliques and social disgraces, comes the point of this story and continues the pursuit of the advanced valve that could free one part of society and endanger others. No angle of distraction is ignored, and it’s only Sophronia’s inquisitive mind that brings the unwanted truth to light. Not that this is the only discovery Sophronia makes. No indeed. She is quite the busy lady as she snoops and sneaks, swings and climbs, listening at one door or another.

It’s kidnappings and frame-ups, conspiracy uncoverings and unwanted romances, unexpected betrayals and vicious furniture with many of the events encouraging new angles of learning to Sophronia. After all, knowing the limits of various species’ supernatural abilities could be quite useful.

I did think that Vieve’s demand of Sophronia was over the top. Then there’s Mersey, always being left on the dance floor. I do believe it’s good for him. And, sigh, now I have to wait for Waistcoats and Weaponry….

The Story
At last Sophronia learns why Lady Linette has been removing students a few at a time from Sister Mattie’s classes. And it’s not good.

Still bad can be balanced by good as they all learn the next morning when news of their guests is released: boy students from Bunson’s! and a trip to London to view the latest innovation in aetheric travel by Henri Giffard in his transcontinental dirigible.

Ah, if only life could remain on so joyous a keel, but it’s not to be as test results, balls, and kidnappings abound.

The Characters
Fifteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick quickly came to enjoy her lessons in this finishing school and has found she has quite a nose for spying, er, I mean, espionage. She’s also collected some useful “toys”, besides the illegal Bumbersnoot, who is her pet mechanimal eager to explore and willing to be good.

Fellow students include:
Sophronia’s friends include Dimity Ann Plumbleigh-Teignmott, who faints at the sight of blood; Sidheag Maccon, Lady Kingair of a werewolf clan, hates being at the school; Agatha Woosmoss is quite shy but seems to have potential. Genevieve, a.k.a., the ten-year-old Vieve, has the run of the entire dirigible school and is quite clever with the mechanics of things as Professor Lefoux’s niece.

Miss Monique de Pelouse is sneaking around and up to no good, but not for long. Preshea Buss is mean and smart with a disturbing habit of emphasizing her ending consonants.

The instructors at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality include:
Mademoiselle Geraldine is the headmistress, who hasn’t a clue, but does teach dance and dress. Captain Niall is the gorgeous werewolf who teaches self-defense. No one has had classes with Professor Beatrice Lefoux yet as she is deemed too fierce for the younger ladies. Lady Linette de Limmone promotes drawing room music, behaving in hive society, and subversive petits fours; she also has a cat, Artemisia. Sister Mattie Herschel-Teape includes domestic accounting along with proper poisoning. Professor Aloysius Braithwope is a vampire who teaches history, deportment, manners, etiquette, and genteel dress as well as vampire lore and defense.

Sooties include:
Phineas B. Crow, a.k.a., Soap, is learning how to read and more interested in Sophronia than she’s comfortable with. Furnival Jones is good at self-defense.

The student guests from Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnique
Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnique is a boys’ school and the training ground for evil geniuses, although they don’t believe in supernatural fraternization. It’s the evil genius part that is difficult for Pillover Plumbleigh-Teignmott, Dimity’s little brother, as he’s not interested in evil. Lord Dingleproops, a Piston, is greatly admired by Agatha; Felix, Lord Mersey, Viscount Golborne, is heir to a dukedom with a leaning toward the Picklmen and quite enamored of Sophronia; and, Gaspar Lefoux is a previously-unheard-from nephew of Professor Lefoux’s.

The Pistons are a group of students who think they’re all that and would never meet a lady without his top hat—there’s a rumor that some of ’em are sons of Picklemen! The Picklemen include Duke Golborne, Felix’s father, and appear to be the Conservatives.

Professor Algonquin Shrimpdittle is one of the instructors at Bunson’s and dislikes having to work with Professor Lefoux. He’s very anti-vampire, a fact that will work strongly against him.

Lord Maccon is publicly acknowledged as Sidheag’s father, but he’s really her great-great-great-grandfather and Alpha werewolf of the Kingair Castle pack. Mr. and Mrs. Plumbleigh-Teignmott are scientists and Dimity and Pillover’s Parental Evils, more interested in their own pursuits than their children; he leans to the Picklemen philosophy while she is against.

Roves are independent vampires; drones are their human servants who wish to become vampires. The vampire hives are territorial. Lord Akeldama is a rove with territory in London. Countess Nadasdy leads the Westminster Hive. Lord Ambrose and Duke Hematol are both vampires affiliated with the Westminster Hive. The potentate is a rove vampire who sits on Queen Victoria’s Shadow Council which advises on the running of the Empire.

The dewan, the queen’s own werewolf and the potentate’s counterpart on the Shadow Council, and Lord Vulkasin Woosley are witnesses to Giffard’s test. Madame Spetuna is a gypsy fortune-teller. Perhaps.

The Cover
The cover is of a more sophisticated Sophronia in her steel gray satin dress with its military braiding and tight-fitting sleeves. But make no mistake, she carries her dangerous letter opener, all against a deep hued and sombre purple with a metallic-looking lilac wallpaper of on-pointe squares with a racy looking dirigible centered within a leafy border.

The title reflects the stage of Sophronia’s education as well as the currents that swirl around her. It’s Curtsies & Conspiracies for all.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie

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