RELEASED: February 5, 2013 – November 1, 2013
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction, Steampunk
GOODREADS RATING: 3.80 – 4.11
It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners, and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s young ladies learn to finish … everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage – in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education …
This is going to be a whole lot of different. Usually I review the first book in a series and then stop reviewing the entire series – more because that’s my own personal choice than anything else. Today I’m doing it a bit differently. I’m reviewing the first two installments of The Finishing School-series to see whether or not I should continue them. [Spoiler: I already know the outcome.]
The concept I loved – I did! The thought of a finishing school where you learn both lady-like manners and interesting skills like manipulating, retrieving information and.. well.. espionage in general intrigued me right off the bat. It’s like Hogwarts, but instead of magic-focused, it’s espionage-focused!
His eyes were jet-colored circles of perpetual disapproval.
Reading these books, the historical, Victorian vibe Carriger wants to create comes across without a doubt. She writes in a perfect and elegant way, adding a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor along the way – which is an added bonus of course.
There definitely are some magical elements though. Or should I say creatures. Vampires and werewolves are present in the world Carriger created – albeit not very present in the first installment. I really liked the mix of steampunk and fantasy.
I do not giggle without purpose. Lady Linette says you should never misapply a giggle.
If I have to pick a favorite character, I’ll have to go with Bumbersnoot. A mechanimal. A mechanic wiener dog. With a name that I could love because.. well, it’s a pet and pet deserve weird names! Pretty weird to go with a side character, like, a very small side character, instead of one of the big ones but.. he’s just way more fun than our thirteen year old MC!
Another character I adore: Soap! One of the sole black characters mentioned in the two first installments. I really liked how Sophronia handled him as if he was just an ordinary boy instead of making a fuzz over his skin color – which would’ve been more normal considering the time period.
The first thing that got on my nerves were the names – and I realize that’s stupid – but I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the weird names Carriger went with. Sophronia? I kept reading it as Sophie to make it easier on my brain. Maybe I simply wasn’t in the right mood when it comes to those names because fantasy often has weird names but for once, I simply couldn’t handle it.
Sidheag could be quite crass, the result of having been raised by men, or Scots, or soldiers, or werewolves, or all four.
The plot. The progress. Now these are two things I definitely struggled with big time. In both books, I felt like nothing much was happening. The first installment – Etiquette & Espionage – felt like an introduction to another book but.. even the sequel to that book still didn’t feel like a well-thought-out story? I expected more adventure, more thrilling events. I expecting things happening and leading up to one big event but it wasn’t like that at all. Both books felt like they kept dragging on without actually going somewhere.
On top of that, I really missed fleshed out side characters. Dimity and Sidheag would’ve been perfect for just that, but they remained bland and boring. Not giving me the insight I wanted in their personalities and that’s a real pity.
All in all, both books definitely had their good and bad things, but the bad definitely outweighs the good in this one. I finished both installments feeling as if nothing of importance had happened. I fear this is simply Carriger’s style – to not have a certain “objective” that has to be reached by the end of the book. I don’t know. I do know it’ll be a while before I give any of her other books a shot.
I guess it’s safe to say I won’t be continuing this series.
Do you think I made the right call? Have you read these books?
Are all her books written in the same way or not?