My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.
Etiquette & Espionage is the first in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, a spin-off from her Parasol Protectorate adult series. As you can see from the review, I really enjoyed it, and was thrilled when she agreed to an interview with me - check it out here.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is being sent to a finishing school. She's none too happy about it, until she gets there and finds there's rather more to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality than meets the eye. Because while her mother thought she was there to be finished, she's also going to learn just how to finish - anything or anyone who needs finishing.
This is a spin-off from/prequel to Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, which I've never read - I'm not really a huge steampunk fan - but I'm very glad I took a chance on this one. I'm told there are some fun bits in for people who are familiar with that series, but I was able to follow this perfectly well without any prior knowledge. Sophriona is a very likeable heroine - more at home tinkering with machines than learning about proper manners - and the world-building here is fabulous. We get steampunk, mechanimals, vampires, werewolves, the wonderful Finishing Academy, another school, for the education of evil geniuses, and an exploding wicker chicken. And, as one of Carriger's characters says, Who doesn't want an exploding wicker chicken?
As you may be able to guess from that brief list of some of the elements included here, the chief thing to recommend this novel is that it's fun. Really, really good fun. I read it in two sittings - it would have been one, but the pesky day job got in the way - and had a wide smile on my face right through reading it. It's not without flaws, as I thought many of the supporting characters were on the thin side, and the plot seemed to take a while to get going and then end up being rushed at the end, but in terms of sheer light-hearted enjoyment this is pretty hard to beat. Carriger's witty dialogue, which is particularly strong, deserves a special mention also.
Definite recommendation - I'm already looking forward to the next book (especially if we get to see more of the wonderful Captain Niall!) and will be moving out of my comfort zone into adult steampunk fiction to try the Parasol Protectorate series.