Sophronia is a mischievous girl who does not quite fit into her semi-aristocratic family, what with her love of machines and general tomboyness, so imagine her shock when she is accepted to a finishing school. However, something is strange about the woman interviewing her for Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, and even though Sophronia cannot quite put her finger on it, she knows this is no ordinary finishing school. Even while being transported to her school, her carriage is besieged by flywaymen-steampunk air pirates of a sort-after some prototype, but with her quick thinking, Sophronia and her traveling companions-Dimity, Pillover, and Michelle-come out relatively unscathed.
Upon arrival at the school, Sophronia makes quick work of assessing the flying ship that houses the school, making friends in low places, enemies in high places, and a general name for herself as an observant and talented student, although, exactly what is she being trained to do?
This is a huge mash-up of criminal caper, steampunk adventure, and fantasy tome all in one little book. Even though at first the plot seems overrun with genres, it is a compelling story. Sophronia (despite my complete inability to pronounce her name) is engaging and kind to her classmates. She brings other students-like Dimity, Agatha, and the unusual Lady Kingair-and sooties-like Vieve and Soap-together for her exploits. The school itself is a steampunk marvel riding high in the air, and one can only guess that the vampire and werewolf professors will have a bigger role in further adventures.
My only compliant about this book is that the cover makes it appear more appropriate for an older audience. Sophronia is only about 14 years old in this book, and the action is only mildly perilous and completely appropriate for younger readers, like an ambitious ten year old. This cover looks much older than the book implies, although it is a lovely cover. To me, this is a tween book, with the potential to move up, but tweens probably don't mind carrying a book that looks a little more daring and mature.
Only time will tell if I continue with this planned series, but I wouldn't mind another adventure at Miss Geraldine's. The characters are witty, the action is entertaining, and overall, what girl doesn't want to learn how to incapacitate a man by using nothing more than a handkerchief and batted eyelashes?