Etiquette & Espionage

Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Alternate Universe, Steampunk
Quote: “Mrs Barnaclegoose had decided opinions on reforming other women’s daughters. Sophronia did not want to be reformed.”
Setting: England – AU Victorian era
Premise: Sophronia Temminick is the kind of wild, willful, tomboyish daughter that is simply not acceptable in polite society. Fortunately for Sophronia’s mother, there’s a highly esteemed finishing school willing to take her on, although Sophronia soon learns that the elite school doesn’t actually offer the same kind of ‘finishing’ that Mrs Temminick was hoping for.

I binge read this entire series in a week and then got straight into Carriger’s next series too! There is something addictive about the witty yet frivolous writing style, and the weaponised femininity wielded with such precision by the main character. This series is so bursting with life and adventure that it almost feels like you’re reading it in technicolour.

The main character, Sophronia, starts the series as a 14-year-old and grows with the books as she progresses through the academic years. There are some comparisons to Harry Potter, but only in so much as the primary setting is a boarding school with an extraordinary curriculum. The cast are brilliantly multi-faceted, each bringing their own conflicts to Sophronia’s extraordinary life and adding colourful depth to the story. Carriger has skillfully built a steampunk AU of Victorian Britain, where humans and the undead (werewolves, vampires, and a few ghosts) coexist in a chaotic harmony.

As themes go, this is very much a coming of age kind of book with a strong emphasis on the importance of friendship, and the lesson to underestimate no one – no matter what stereotype they are projecting.

This book has been incredibly well marketed, and my final decision to take the plunge and read this book was due to a war of attrition that Carriger and her marketing strategy won. My hesitation to pick up this book centred on the fact that I’ve never enjoyed a steampunk setting before, and I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about Victorian women with posh accents and enormous dresses. But true to form, Carriger took my stereotypes and smashed them for the flimsy excuses they were. I am so glad that I picked up this book and gave it a go, it’s some truly delightful escapism.

You’ve heard enough about how much I like this book, but is this book you’re hunting for?
1. Are you looking for a high-octane adventure to light your imagination on fire?
2. Do you enjoy outrageously eccentric and witty characters?
3. Are you in the mood for a fun, laugh out loud read?
If you answered yes, yES, YES! Then this might well be your next favourite read!


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How many times have you, either as a woman yourself or as someone talking to a person with double X chromosomes, heard phrases like ‘Oh I can’t do DIY, I’m not strong enough, or ‘I want to go for a run but it’s going to be dark soon’. The world we live in was designed by men, for men and as a result, is inherently biased against women. From power tools which are designed by default for the average male handspan to medication that was only ever tested on XY chromosome mice, and to urban planning which throws obstacles into the working woman’s life, this book exposes why ‘I’m sorry I’m just really bad at xyz’ should actually be ‘I’m sorry but this thing was not designed for someone like me.’

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