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. Temminick 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.
For a book that I anticipated so much (boarding school and steampunk are two of my favorite elements in a YA novel) it sure took me a long time to get around to reading it! In any case I am happy to say that it most definitely did not disappoint!
First of all, I loved the main character, Sophronia. She’s quirky, headstrong and smart, always poking her nose in where it shouldn’t be. She often talks her way out of situations and has an ingenious (if unladylike) solution for everything. Despite all this, she still ends up in trouble fairly often, which balances her out a bit – where in some characters the eternal luck and intelligence would be annoying, in her it’s just fun.
I also really loved the school. Not only is it a boarding school, but it teaches young “ladies” all sorts of self-defense and information gathering skills. After all, in the Victorian era, who better to spy than a woman, thought by default to be unable to handle such difficult matters. The effect is spoiled somewhat by Sophronia’s best friend Dimity who, despite being a legacy at the school, would be better suited to a “proper” finishing school, as obsessed as she is with fashion and fripperies. Still, overall the effect is kind of feminist and I really like it. Of course, as yet we only know that the school exists – I’m very curious why it exists and I hope that will be explored further in future books.
And then, of course, for those who read Carriger’s adult series, The Parasol Protectorate there are plenty of references to find. We see some favorite characters in minor roles and I hope eventually we will see some more.
I eagerly await the next book and I dearly hope it will be as much fun as this one was!