In case you couldn’t tell from the profile pic, I am, among all the other things I squee about on a regular basis, a pretty big fan of Steampunk. I also fully admit that since I tend to enjoy all books, I enjoy plenty of YA books – I don’t really go in for the snooty ‘I’m to grown up for YA‘ thing. Plus, you know, I have a preschooler, so the books in our house gravitate away from ‘grownup’ material pretty frequently. Like if I have to read a Llama Llama book one more time I might scream. But I digress.
I have really enjoyed all of Gail Carriger’s books, which not only involve steampunk but also the supernatural. The main cast contains werewolves, vampires, preternaturals, and plain old humans. Her books are fun, slightly ridiculous, and have very likeable characters. Also, many of the characters have completely ridiculous names, which I find oddly endearing – normally that kind of thing would just annoy the snot out of me.
They’re not exactly high falutin’ literature, but these books are solidly in my ‘reading for enjoyment’ category. I thoroughly enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series about the indomitable preternatural Alexia Tarabotti. And now I find that I am actually enjoying her YA series, set a few decades earlier in the same universe, even more.
The first book in this series, Etiquette and Espionage, follows fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick away to a finishing school. She is sent away by her mother, who can’t deal with her daughter’s troubling mix of mischief, brains, and tendency to speak her mind.
The school turns out to be a very different kind of finishing school than either Sophronia or her mother anticipated. In addition to learning the finer points of fashion, landing a husband, and keeping a proper household, the young ladies at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality learn how to be spies and assassins.
The school is housed in a giant dirigible. It is staffed by a vampire, a French inventor, a werewolf-soldier, a nun, a woman of ill repute, a fluff-headed headmistress who has no idea that her school is not a regular finishing school, impish lads in the engine room, and a whole lot of mechanical servants.
Sophronia starts and ends the book in heaps of trouble, and I’ll let you read it to find out how and why. Overall, it’s a very fun read – but if you don’t appreciate steampunk, teenagers, silliness, and British humor, give it a miss. I would especially recommend this to anyone looking for a YA book with a strong female protagonist, that is not in the current dystopian fashion. It’s not Hogwarts, but Mlle Geraldine’s is certainly a school I would have had fun attending.