Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners & Mutiny, by Gail Carriger, was published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to Waistcoats & Weaponry.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the every-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in a decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

Manners & Mutiny is a mostly satisfying conclusion to the Finishing School series, with enough new things and surprises to content and satisfy those, such as myself, who became slightly tired out after the third book. To my pleasure, though Monique (sigh) once again returns, she does have a different role to play, and it makes her seem much less bratty two-bit villain and much more fleshed out as a character.

The intrigue and hijinks of the novel were very well done, and the last third of the novel is the best part of the book, engaging the reader right when they’re starting to feel the tediousness of the pace a bit and ensuring that the end of the book is suspenseful, gripping, and a satisfying conclusion.

The part I least enjoyed, though it was meant to be the most satisfying, was the resolution of Sophronia’s romance plot. I do like her and Soap together, but there were a few things that made me a little exasperated. It was a very obvious resolution and Sophronia and Soap said and did all the things that I expected characters like them to do, and it drove home, at the end of the a very fun book, how formulaic the romance was. Which is a pity, because Manners & Mutiny is not at all a trope-y, formulaic book at all, nor is the series one. So, in terms of enjoyment, plot details, and overall originality, the Finishing School series is top-notch. But in terms of originality of romance…well, it’s not that great.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult

“Professor Braithwope, have you seen anything interesting dancing ‘round the school recently?”

“Condiments are scarce in the skies, whot.” The vampire was serious on this subject.

“Not so much as you would think,” Sophronia contradicted, wondering if he was aware enough to actually be referring to the Picklemen break-in. “Lost your mustard powder, have you?” She loaded in a bolt, taking her time.

“No, relish.” The vampire twirled away. Preshea’s shot went wide.

“Thought as much,” said Sophronia.

You can buy this here:

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Waistcoats & Weaponry, by Gail Carriger, was published in 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to Curtsies & Conspiracies.

Class is back in session. Sophronia continues finishing school in style—with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear—her freedom.

In this book, I finally figured out who the Picklemen are, but I can’t really blame my lack of understanding up to this point on Carriger. But replacing my confusion about the Picklemen is my confusion about the prototype/communication device thingy. I don’t understand what it does or why people want it, but I think part of that is supposed to still be a mystery.

Anyway, Waistcoats & Weaponry is yet another delightful installment in the Finishing School series. There’s less distraction and more action in this one, as Sophronia basically hijacks a train with nothing but her friends, her wits, and a bladed fan. As much as I don’t like love triangles, I loved both Soap and Felix as potential love interests, especially since I can actually see either of them as being “endgame” and, perhaps more importantly, I don’t have a preference over one or the other. It does look to be leaning towards Sophronia/Soap, but things get complicated towards the end…

As fun as these books are, I do wish that Carriger would stop bringing Monique back, or give her a different role. She’s no more than a two-bit villain, now, and her presence in this book was annoying. She is “gotten rid of” before the ending, and another person takes her place, but I hope she plays a different role in the fourth book.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult

“Sophronia Angelina Temminnick, what are you doing alone in the garden with a boy!”

“Um,” said Sophronia.

Pillover rubbed his elbow.

Mrs. Temminnick turned her wrath on the unfortunate young man. “Mr. Plumleigh-Teignmott, this is too bad! I am shocked, shocked, I say. After we welcomed you into our home last winter! I trust you will make an honest woman of my daughter?”

“Mother! Pillover is only fourteen!”

“Oh ho, Pillover, is it? What have they been teaching you at finishing school? To meet a younger man in the gardens, alone and unchaperoned…”

“Really, Mother! He is a veritable hobbledehoy. Don’t be silly.”

“Oh, thank you for that,” muttered Pillover, utterly dejected.

Overall Review:

Waistcoasts & Weaponry continues the rollicking good fun of the Finishing School series, although some things (like Monique) are starting to wear a trifle thin. The direction that the book finished in, though, makes me hopeful that things will take a slightly different turn in the fourth (last?) book.

You can buy this here: Waistcoats & Weaponry

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

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.

Rating: 4/5

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.

Overall Review:

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

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger, was published in 2013 by Little, Brown and Company.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than in proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick 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.

So, I took one look at the cover for this book and expected some sort of gritty, steampunk fantasy mixed with some The Agency vibes. But then I started reading it, and I was completely thrown off, and then intrigued, by the droll, almost absurdist tone that the book has. This is definitely a case where the cover almost misleads you as to what the book is about, especially since the girl on the cover looks about 10 years older than Sophronia, who is only 14.

This book is so steampunk; it’s delightful. There’s also some supernatural/paranormal thrown in as well with the inclusion of werewolves and vampires, and before you roll your eyes and groan, picture the werewolf with a top hat tied securely around his ears so it doesn’t fall off, and then picture the vampire saying “whot, whot?” all the time. Yes, it is that awesomely silly.

I did think some of what happened in the book was a little vague; I didn’t really get an accurate picture of what the Picklemen were like or why they wanted the prototype, or why exactly the prototype was important. But since there were so many unfinished threads in this book, I expect a clearer picture to come about in the next.

I also admit that I’m not a huge fan of the Action Girl trope, at least in some of its iterations—but I absolutely adore the type used in this book, which is the “don’t get rid of your corset/dress/knitting/feminine accessory—use it to your advantage!” type. Women should still get to be awesome when wearing dresses.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult

“When defending yourself against a vampire,” said Professor Braithwope at the start of the lesson, “it is important to remember three things, whot? He is a good deal faster and stronger than you will ever be. He is immortal, so debilitating pain is more useful than attempted disanimation. He is most likely to go for your neck in a frontal assault. And he is easily distracted by damage to his clothing or personal toilette.”

“That’s four things, Professor,” corrected Monique.

“Don’t be pert, whot,” replied the vampire.

“Are you saying,” Sophronia ventured, “that it’s best to go for the waistcoat? Say, douse it with tea? Or possibly wipe sticky hands on his coat sleeve?”

“Exactly! Very good, Miss Temminnick. Nothing is more distressing to a vampire than a stain. Why do you think containing blood is so important to us? One of the tragedies of any vampire’s life is that in order to survive we must continually handle such an embarrassingly sticky fluid.”

Overall Review:

Etiquette & Espionage’s tone and overall feel was not at all what I was expecting, thanks to the dramatic cover art. It was a fun, droll, rollicking good old time through an awesome steampunk world. I found a few things unclear and confusing, but for the most part it was good fun through and through.

You can buy this here: Etiquette & Espionage