Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Finishing School, #1
Release date: February 5th 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown BfYR
Hardcover, 307 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
Before any of you start plotting my painful and untimely death, I should point out that I’m a big fan of Ms. Carriger’s previous work. The Parasol Protectorate series is a favorite of mine, despite losing some steam in the later installments. However, I don’t think Etiquette and Espionage was up to her usual standards, and it makes me very sad that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped I would. It took me a while to put my thoughts in order and figure out exactly what went wrong, at least for me, and even now I can only explain a part of it. In Parasol Protectorate, Carriger’s trademark sense of humor was what made the series stand out, but there was also some substance underneath, and the plots kept me engaged and interested. Etiquette and Espionage had neither, I’m afraid.
“But I have advanced eyelash fluttering to practice, and a mathematics problem concerning how to order strychnine and a lamb dinner on a limited budget, and three chapters on court etiquette to read, and my handkerchief to starch, and the quadrille to memorize!” “No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear.”
And it wasn’t easy, my dears. Not for our main character, Miss Sophronia Angelina Temminnick, and certainly not for me. What started out as entertaining, promising read, ended up almost suffocating me with repetitiveness and lack of an actual plot. A good sense of humor is not a band aid you can just slap over a pile of problems and hope your readers forget they’re there. It has been tried before, and as far as I’m concerned, it never, ever worked.
As a fan, I loved revisiting Alexia’s universe, but at the same time, seeing it reused left me with the impression that Gail Carriger took the lazy way out. This is the part I’m most conflicted about, but it’s also one I would have been glad to overlook had the rest been interesting enough. But in the end, the most interesting parts were those links to the Parasol Protectorate series.
It wasn’t just the world that was the same, some of the characters showed up too, albeit as much younger versions of themselves. Of all the crossover characters, I enjoyed meeting a nine-year-old Genevieve Lefoux the most and was delighted to learn that she preferred boys’ clothes even as a little girl.
There is no romance in Etiquette & Espionage, just hints of one that could develop uite beautifully in the future. While I adored the no-romance part itself, in combination with a very weak plot, it gave a pretty empty book.
It’s obvious by now that I’m the odd one out in this case, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt and make sure to read at least a few more reviews before making a decision. It’s all a matter of personal taste, after all. I’m prepared to give this series another chance because I adore Carriger’s sense of humor. Hopefully the next book will have a more exciting plot.