Curtsies & Conspiracies, by Gail Carriger, was published in 2013 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to Etiquette & Espionage.
Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing so far! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won’t Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia has become 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 love the way this book balances on the edge between “serious” and “so not taking itself seriously.” Etiquette & Espionage was charmingly (and surprisingly) droll, and Curtsies & Conspiracies continues that trend with some serious character development in between the shenanigans and ladies fainting.
Speaking of ladies fainting, let me say how much I love that Carriger is portraying awesome ladies as ladies, not as male mimics. Vieve is the exception to that, but all the other girls at the finishing school are learning to be awesome through tea serving, fainting, and sewing. It just goes to show that females don’t have to mimic what men do to be capable and amazing and strong.
I absolutely loved the final part of the book where Sophronia, Sidheag and Soap infiltrate the vampire hive using all the skills that they learned at the finishing school to win the day. Controlling the situation through confusion has always been a favorite trope of mine to read, and it was particularly awesome in this book which is full of delightful confusion everywhere.
However, as with the first book, I’m still unsure as to what Picklemen are. Some sort of supernatural creature? A secret group? Did I just miss the explanation in the first book? My confusion over who these guys are put a slight damper on the otherwise lovely book.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Warnings: There’s one part where Sidheag explains the male anatomy to the other girls. It’s played for laughs, but still deserving of a warning.
Genre: Steampunk, Young Adult
“Henri Giffard is scheduled to float, from France, in the very first transcontinental dirigible!”
This was of little consequence. After all, they spent all day every day floating about in an overlarge dirigible. Sophronia waited to be impressed.
“And he has said he will do it in under an hour using aether currents.”
This was met with pure shock. Even some of the boys looked surprised.
Float inside the aetherospehre? Inside the currents that swirled above the air itself? Unheard of!
“Those with the scientific know-how”—Mademoiselle Geraldine gestured at Professors Shrimpdittle and Lefoux—“tell me that he is most likely to succeed due to some exciting new valve technology. It is deemed that such a monumental historical occurrence is worth uprooting our entire establishment to witness in person.”
Sophronia was caught up in the metaphor of uprooting a floating school.
Curtsies & Conspiracies continues the serious-but-so-not-serious tone of the first book, coupling that with fun shenanigans and an overall wit that really makes the book (and the series) shine. I love the girls’ obsessions with being proper while contemplating how many foxgloves it takes to kill a dinner party. However, I’m still confused about those darn Picklemen.
You can buy this here: Curtsies & Conspiracies