By Gail Carriger
After quite the rousing beginning, Sophronia and her classmates are ready to take on another semester at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), Bunson’s School for Evil Geniuses has sent a delegation to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, and this delegation consists of the dreaded male sex – boys! With a school now invaded by top hats and dinner jackets, Sophronia barely has the time to focus on the important things; kidnapping attempts, vampire hives, new technology and Picklemen, not to mention the best fashionable attire for attending a ball or infiltrating an enemy stronghold.
I feel like I must explain a huge part of these books’ appeal to me: I think the Victorian era, at least the upper class, is absolutely hilarious. I have been known to laugh out loud while reading perfectly sober etiquette manuals from the time, so the constant admonishing about a lady’s proper behaviour that permeates this series is my comedic strawberry jam. I love it.
Carriger delivers an enjoyable sequel, with old questions being answered almost as quickly as new mysteries come to light. Sophronia is much more lady-like now, and by far the most gifted spy among her friends, but that’s not to say she has no weaknesses; she can fail to think through the consequences of her actions and is lost without her friends’s support. She also runs blindly into trouble, often just because she’s curious rather than out of any necessity.
The supporting cast remains fun. Among my favourites are Sidheag, a middle-aged Scottish aristocrat stuck in the body of a fourteen-year-old, and Vieve Lefoux, a nine year old inventor with dreams of evil genius-ness. I’m a little baffled by the character of Monique, who was built up as an antagonist only to seemingly disappear forever at the end of the novel. Maybe she’s coming back?
This newest book introduces the idea of a love triangle for Sophronia, which I would normally despise, but in this case I find it’s not so bad – mostly because she’s stringing one of them along for fun and profit. Things could still develop into cringe-worthiness, but for now I’m hopeful they won’t.
And of course the tone, my favourite thing about the first book, is alive and well in the sequel. All hail the mighty Victorian snark!
All in all, a worthy sequel to Etiquette and Espionnage, and a fun and breezy read. Huzzah!