Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Curtsies and Conspiracies

Curtsies and Conspiracies
Finishing School Book 2
by Gail Carriger
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
Audience:  Grades 7 to 10
ISBN:  9780316190114
Publication Date:  November 5, 2013

After all of the girls are tested on their espionage skills, Sophronia learns that not only did she test highest in her grade, but she tested highest in the history of the school.  This leads to a shunning from the other girls, but Sophronia has bigger problems including analyzing the prototype with the help of Vieve and learning more from the sooties, like Soap.  Then, when the school learns that they will be taking on several male guests and traveling to London, the shunning is forgotten, although it was all part of the test, and Sophronia must learn why the school is taking this sudden trip and why are the hosting guests.  She does get herself in over her head, but she is learning more everyday what it will mean to be a fashionable lady in society and a deadly spy.

The second in the Finishing School series does a nice job of answering particular questions, while leaving others hanging, making readers want more.  All of the characters are back, and in some excellent cases, like with Monique and the psychic, they are getting exactly what they deserve.  The steampunk and supernatural aspects are sometimes a little much for me to take, but all in all, it adds to the sensationalism of the book.

I do enjoy the historical fashion and period sensibilities added with the espionage and supernatural characters.  It's all so very at odds with each other, but makes the characters that much more interesting.  The strained relationships between the Picklemen, vampires, and werewolves take a more central position in this book, with Lady Kingair taking an unlikely role as diplomat.  I love her character, actually all the girls are pretty compelling, and my heart even ached for a little mechanimal.

This time around there might be a little more love in the air between Sophronia and Soap.  Or is it Sophronia and Lord Mersey.  I do enjoy that Sophronia is so involved in her spying that she gives little thought to being courted, yet it's that very hard-to-get attitude that makes her all the more attractive to the gentlemen.  Let that be a lesson, ladies.  If you have interests other than boys, you are actually more attractive!

I have one big question with this book:  What is the audience?  I can normally predict the audience pretty easily, but this series has me stumped.  The girls are fourteen or so, Sophronia is just getting her first kiss, there's no real problematic plot points, so my gut says junior high level.  I'm sure that some high schoolers might enjoy these books too just for fun, but I feel like the books are being marketed to an older group.  The covers always remind me of Kiera Knightley for some reason.  Maybe because she does so many historical movies and her cheeks are always sucked in.  Not that she's not lovely, but she has a type of vixen look that they are mimicking on these covers.  Maybe I'm the only one that thinks that, but I still feel like the cover feels more mature than the plot.

This second book slumped just a bit.  I think since the world and social structure of the school was set up in the first book, and readers know this isn't the end, it's bound to be a little less exciting simply because it's all a review, with a bit more action.  The story is moving forward, with some laughable and gasp worthy parts, but the biggest mysteries are still unsolved.  I'm sure that I'll read the next in the series, but it won't be a pre-order or marked date on my calendar.  It will rather be a pleasant surprise for a nice day by the fire.  It's a good book that I enjoyed, not a series that has me begging for the next one.

All that said, if you liked Etiquette and Espionage, stick with the series, it won't disappoint.

Happy Reading!

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