Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
I selected Etiquette & Espionage for our read along this month after reading several great reviews a few months ago. The description reminded me of the Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter with some high society etiquette mixed in.
Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not your average finishing school. Yes...they learn the art of proper dress, manners, and etiquette...but there is far more to the curriculum than meets the eye. Not even Mademoiselle Geraldine is aware of the true mission of her school.
Sophronia Temminnick is a very inquisitive young lady, which causes her to get into quite a bit of trouble at home. Her mother is delighted when Ms. Geraldine extends an offer to her daughter to attend her very exclusive academy.
The majority of the book is a bit of a mystery as Sophronia and her friends try to locate a missing object that is desperately wanted by an outside group that is threatening the school. There is a werewolf, a vampire, and an all boys school for geniuses which all could have provided the basis for a great story. Unfortunately, this book fell short of my expectations.
The story is written in a very flowery 19th century tone, but at times it was a bit much. The character names were ridiculous and some of the unusual vocabulary detracted more than it added to the story. The characters and the story trudged along at a steady state, but it never engaged me to the point where it was difficult for me to set the book down. In fact, with 30 pages left, I easily turned out the light to resume reading the following night. By that point in a book, I would hope to be engaged enough to stay up an extra half an hour to finish.
It isn't a bad story, but I don't think I will continue with this series. I gave it 2 stars, which according to my definition means it was "okay". I haven't read any of Gail Carriger's other books, but it appears that she has a similar sort of series for adults. If you have read any of her Parasol Protectorate series, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Worldbuilding is an important part of any story, but especially of a fantastical kind of one. Think of Harry Potter, for example. A whole new world so detailed and amazing that Universal creates a whole theme park section so us muggles can stroll through Diagon Alley and drink butterbeer. But equally important to a story is plot development. You really do need both in order to have a strong story. (Along with strong characters.) I felt that Gail Carriger did a good job with worldbuilding. This school floats, which is pretty cool. All the contraptions can get a little confusing to read about when they are described, but are still pretty neat to imagine.
But I felt like the story did not really go anywhere. I made it to page 100 -- 1/3rd of the way through the book -- and felt like we were still just worldbuilding. Describing nifty contraptions and settings. For example, the chapter "The Real Meaning of Finishing," where Sophronia actually learns what happens at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality does not start until page 84. That is a long time to go, especially when the reader already knows from the description what kind of school this is going to be.
Like Jacque, I was reading it, but I never felt any motivation to keep reading. The last time I picked it up was about 4 days ago and I have not missed it.
I also felt like this book was over-quirky. I enjoy fun, quirky characters, comments, and scenes. They add splashes of color to the landscape of a story. But I think to be effective they need to be splashes, and not the entire story. Maybe one character or one side story. Etiquette & Espionage was quirky all the time. All the characters are quirky. All the scenes are quirky. It almost felt like over-kill to me.
I also what to hear if anyone has read the Parasol Protectorate series. I feel like if you like that series and are already a fan of this world, then maybe you might like the Finishing School series more?