Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Brown/Hachette
Release Date: February 5th, 2013
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
I love everything about this cover.  The wallpaper background contrasts beautifully with the black starkness of the dress.  The ruffles and buttons on the dress keep my eye moving and I appreciate that the stance removes it from the typical "girl in a pretty dress" category.  The font works very well and doesn't mar the cover image. 

The Gist:
When Sophronia is unceremoniously shipped off to finishing school by her exasperated parents she pictures days of manners, curtsying and proper dinner etiquette.  And that is what she gets - some of the time.  She soon discovers that the school is much more than she expected and perhaps more than her parents had bargained for.  Sophronia learns the art of being a spy as well as being a lady and finds herself at the center of a mystery involving a missing prototype and several bands of dangerous thugs hell-bent on find it. 


Etiquette & Espionage holds the distinction of being one of the few books that I have ever stopped and re-started again.  When I started reading E&E, I seemed to be surrounded by mediocre books.  Having read some of the rave review, I was a little concerned that my feelings toward this novel were being colored by the whole MEH-Ness of my reading life at the time.  As such, I put it down, read something else and then came back.  Upon returning, I did find it much easier to get into the story and I was a little less annoyed by some of the issues with world-building.

DISCLAIMER: I am generally not a steampunk fan.  There, I said it.  I have not had a great deal of luck with steampunk books in the past and I am beginning to think that I just don't see what so many other people see.  That being said, this was probably the highest rated of my forays into steampunk - so that's something. E&E merges steampunk with mythological creatures and, oddly enough, the strange elements shouldn't quite work together, but they do. 

I did find the whole school setting a bit dry.  There seemed to be a great deal of telling me about what the ladies were learning in the classes instead of allowing me to see for myself.  I was also surprised, by the end of the book, at how much time had passed.  It seemed like events unfolded rather quickly, but the end of the book was the end of the year so perhaps things were moving more slowly than I thought.

The writing and narration style takes a little getting used to.  I found myself annoyed on occasion by the manner in which the characters spoke.  But, by the end, I had gotten used to it and could see some of its charm.  Of course, my major irritation came in the form of the names. Mrs Barnaclegoos, Lord Dingleproops, The Great Chutney- you have got to be kidding me.  The only character who had a "normal" name was Agatha and she was meant to be the most boring and timid!  This made it difficult to keep the characters straight in my head and, when a new character was introduced, I often found myself stopping to mutter "COME ON?!"

 I didn't find any of the characters particularly loathesome, but then I didn't find them particularly endearing either.  They floated in the land of the unforgettable.  Even Sophronia wasn't that remarkable and I was left searching for any distinguishing on which to throw my love - but none arose. 

I did find the novel much more enjoyable once I re-started at about 3/4 through.  This last section was more exciting and fast paced.  I have Curtsies & Conspiracies on my TBR pile and am really hoping that my slow start was just that, and that I will get to see some more character development in the second installment. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: None
Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None


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