Here is part two of my read-along posts. I finished the first book and then quickly finished the second. Both of which I found thoroughly enjoyable. Here are my more complete thoughts.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
Here are my thoughts a third of the way into the book:
I love Sophronia! She is such a character. However I am also thoroughly grateful not to be her mother or teacher. Students like Sophronia make life so much more interesting. And one does have to admire her ingenuity and courage, if not her good sense. But it is clear that in some ways she will do well at this Finishing Academy that is really a spy school. But her lack of manners and her horrid curtsy make it clear that the teachers have their work cut out for them.
I have to admit I was a little surprised when I discovered the fantasy aspect of the story: the existence of vampires and werewolves. I expected the steampunk part of the story, but this aspect startled me a little. We'll see how it plays out. But the story is funny, both some of the character's comments as well as how in stride Sophronia takes the odd things that start happening to her. I very much look forward to seeing what happens next. Please stay tuned for further thoughts (if you wish). It should be an interesting ride.
My thoughts on finishing the book:
Sophronia has many talents, including a great deal of ingenuity, sneakiness, the mind of a spy, and a natural ability as a leader. But she is also a trouble-maker who can't help seeing conspiracies everywhere and insisting on knowing what is going on no matter how dangerous. But one cannot help but like her despite her propensity for trouble. Luckily she has some good friends to help her in her espionage efforts, Dimity, who really doesn't want to be a spy but who is extremely loyal. Soap, the colored Sootie who Sophronia meets in the boiler room to share information with and who has a crush on Sophronia. Agatha, who really isn't a good fit for the school, but who desperately wants to please her father and Sidheag who doesn't want to be at the school at all but back home in Scotland with her pack.
Sophronia leads them all on a wild ride to stop a classmate from betraying the school and all it stands for, while proving just how adept she is at being a spy. The details were great with Sophronia's mechanimal, Bumbersnoot providing great comic timing as well as help (a transportable, disguiseable purse anyone?). The lessons that Sophronia and her classmates attend that seem to be focused on learning to be a proper lady but also involve learning to fight and faint properly as well as gather and transport information as well as how to assassinate when needed. Not exactly what her mother thought she was signing her up for. I think some of my favorite parts though revolved around the discussions that Sophronia has with those around her, her bluntness and directness make her anything but a proper lady no matter how hard she tries. Thoroughly entertaining with lots of excitement as well as amusing moments.
Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?
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.
In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.
I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the Finishing School series. Sophronia is up to her old tricks as she seeks to discover why she's being ostracized by her friends, is it a test or are her friends really made that she got such high marks on their six month assessment? And why is the school leaving the moor and going to London? And why are the boys from their enemy boys' school along with their teacher? Finding the answers is going to be difficult on her own, so she recruits her friends Soap and Vieve to help her.
But things get even more complicated with the presence of one Lord Felix Mersy who appears to have a crush on her, something Sophronia simply has no patience for dealing with. And things get even more complicated when Soap exhibits signs of jealous. Sophronia has no problem with espionage, but has no clue as to how to deal with her own developing feelings and those of the boys who are intrigued by her. Increasing conflict between the Picklemen (who oppose anything supernatural) and the vampires and the government complicate things especially when it seems her friend, Dimity might be a target. Throw in a ball, a vampire hive, and a technology test that a teacher seems to be involved in really makes Sophronia's head hurt.
With the exception of some mild innuendo (a discussion of boy parts and female assets), I thoroughly enjoyed the book and Sophronia's antics.