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Book Review: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Title: Waistcoats and Weaponry

Author: Gail Carriger

Series: Finishing School #3

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style—with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what—or who—they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all. –Goodreads

The Review:

Though this one was the best yet, I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed about the series.

I can’t seem to find a reason to care about the conflicts in these books or the overarching plot. They’re not bad necessarily, but they lack substance. They also seem a bit random. Halfway through this book, when it suddenly took a different direction, I found myself totally disengaged even though I’d been enjoying it up to that point. I think because it shifted focus to the external plot and left behind the stuff I liked.

The stuff I liked: the espionage finishing school, where the ladies learn the finer points of intrigue. And really the selling point of the series for me. This installment had more learning sequences than previous books, which is probably why I liked it a tad more. I also like the side characters and the banter between them all. The love interests are just okay (I have a clear preference), and the passages where she’s trying to navigate her relationship with both boys are probably the most engaging parts of the series so far. For the record, love triangles don’t bother me at all. I like having options.

While there are some things I like and overall the basic writing is easy flowing and fun, I still think the series is pretty mediocre. There just wasn’t enough time spent showing the reader the development of the external conflicts, so each book so far has just felt like everyone going through the motions but no one really invested in what’s happening.

Recommendations: pick this veritable hodgepodge of genres up for a light YA read. Although it’s not blowing me away, it’s still an entertaining romp.

Other books you might like (same as for the first two books):

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Title: Curtsies and Conspiracies

Author: Gail Carriger

Series: Finishing School #2

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy–won’t Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card. -Goodreads

The Review:

This sequel was a lot stronger than the first book.

The plot made more sense, the characters had better dynamics, and the finishing school elements were more prominent. Overall I thought it improved things on all accounts save one: the world building.

Rather than feeling like a good blend of genres, the world creation here still feels like a random hodgepodge of components. Perhaps it’s introduced and explained better in the Parasol Protectorate (the parent series to this spinoff prequel), but within the context of this series alone, I’m not buying it yet. There are vampires and werewolves, but there’s no lore explaining how these supernatural beings came about, nor is there much explanation on how they’ve integrated into society.

Their inclusion also doesn’t fit the sophisticated, steampunk vibes of the story. Because not only are there supernatural beings, but there are also small mechanical creations and airships large enough to support thriving communities. And while I like this component, thus far it feels a bit underdeveloped. I’m told they’re on a airship, but I never get drop-in details or other atmosphere-building descriptions while reading. The characters are so focused on their dramas that there’s not much room left over for setting the physical scene.

I appreciated the intrigue in the book, and find myself latching on to some of the more interesting plot points – ones I hope to see expanded on in next books. The characters showed a bit more depth in this book and I particularly liked the interactions between them all. The MC has a lot of big ideas and strategies, and while they’re not always super believable, they do make for a decently absorbing plot.

Overall the series is definitely improving, even if the world-building hasn’t quite won me over yet. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Recommendations: pick up this series for a fun, mischief -laden YA. Particularly if you love reading about boarding schools and high-brow societies.

Other books you might like (same as for the first book):

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette and Espionage

Author: Gail Carriger

Series: Finishing School #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: 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. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m glad I knew before diving in that this is a prequel series to an adult urban fantasy world because otherwise I would’ve described my experience Etiquette and Espionage as totally disjointed and under-realized.

Actually, I’m still describing it that way, but at least I have context and know the why’s of the situation. I’m sure it’s hard to approach a new series with fresh eyes when you’ve already been writing in the world for years. You forget that some readers have never been here before and may brush over details and neglect building connections from scratch. As it happens, I’m quite interested in this world, and while I found the combination of werewolves and airships quite confusing, it definitely piqued my interest. While I didn’t like the brushed-over presentation here, I’m planning to stick around for a while to get the full experience.

I also didn’t care for the plot. The main character had a weird objective that felt to me a bit forced. Would someone really get involved with that even though it had absolutely nothing to do with them? Another thing that struck me odd is how unphased the character seemed after learning the purpose of this finishing school. Again, here I’m still interested to see where things go, but have a few objections to the execution of the story.

Since these are the youthful days of characters from an established series, I’m intrigued to see what sort of backgrounds are cemented here and who will eventually make it to the main series. If given my way I usually choose chronologic order when reading, even if the first books aren’t stellar. I seem to have more patience that way.

Recommendations: pick this one up for a proper finishing school atmosphere and teen shenanigans. Because this is a prequel series to the adult urban fantasy Parasol Protectorate, it reads a bit under-developed. So if you’ve already read that other series, you might have a better go if it here by bringing all of the depth established in PP over. Otherwise it’s just a basic, average YA.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes