Thursday, September 19, 2013

More Conspiracies, Draped In Petticoats

Expected Publication:  November 5th, 2013
Curtsies and Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
By: Gail Carriger
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780316190114

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 school 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.


     When we last saw her Sophronia had just managed solve a mystery about a stolen device and a traitor within her school for girls training to be assassins/spies (and debutantes).  With a penchant for curiosity Sophronia is in trouble again, this time because she has become entangles in another mystery surrounding a valve that has malfunctioned in the school's testing machine - and why they are going to London.  The harmless class trip to see an event with a dirigible may not be everything it seems, especially when Sophronia uncovers some shocking things while sneaking through the teacher's quarters, eavesdropping and using situations to her advantage.  With the help of her friends Soap, Vieve, Dimity, Sidheag, and Agatha can she figure out what's going on before it's too late.  Also, when will Lord Felix Mercer learn to take a hint, that she is just not interested?  And what is Monique planning now, that could direly affect everyone aboard the ship?
     Don't mistake me: I enjoyed this book, just as I did the first one in the trilogy.  But I feel that it's written more for established fans of Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series than newcomers.  The feel of it is very established, in that I went in feeling like an outsider looking in through my little bookish lens.  Those kinds of books don't necessarily make a new reader feel like they are very easily approached.  That said, Sophronia is an amusing, precociously nosy young girl who has found her niche in training to be a spy, even if the horrendous debutante training is necessary right alongside it! :)  I found her to be very loyal, genuine.  I love her curiosity; there is nothing worse to me than lack of curiosity on the part of a heroine in a weird/off-kilter situation.  Don't you want to know what's going on?  Sophronia always wants to know, and it gets her into trouble sometimes.  When the teachers announce the progress report results of each girl out loud, Sophronia was ostracized which made for an interesting plot twist.  A decent portion of the novel is spent with Sophronia trying to solve the latest mystery all on her own mostly (with only help from boiler room friend Soap and inventive, little scamp Vieve).  It definitely helped the reader, as well as Sophronia, to realize that she is at her strongest when she has the help of her friends.
     Carriger also introduces the possibility of a love triangle between Sophronia, Soap, and semi-racist, classist (but entirely charming) rich Lord Felix Mercer.  It's an interesting dynamic to say the least.  Sophronia is only just starting to realize her own identity as person old enough to feel romantic interest in another.  Soap is from the opposite end of the class spectrum, works for her school and is of a different race as well.  Yet Soap challenges her and keeps Sophronia grounded in reality.  He's a true friend and she values him for it - precisely the reason she's trying to avoid anything beyond harmless flirtation.  She knows it would most likely lead to heartache.  Felix Mercer is intelligent in entirely different ways, has loads of social connections and is within reach societally.  But his family is also prejudiced against supernaturals and has opinions opposite of her on their civil rights.  It's the beginning of  a fascinating inner-struggle on the part of Sophronia to stay true to herself.
      The main storyline about the mysterious valve, the habits and politics of vampires, the attempted kidnappings of Sophronia's friends Dimity and Pillover, and the further exploration of everyone's true loyalties was really well carried out.  I did find myself losing interest a few times when it started moving fairly slowly, but it picked up again so I kept going.  I was not disappointed and liked the way the book resolved, even if there were a couple of lingering questions still to be answered (I assume in the final installment of the trilogy).  Overall, I had fun and got to stop thinking for a couple hours - and Carriger managed to keep me by staying light on the steampunk, of which I am NOT a fan.  I would recommend it to fans of supernatural adventures and spy stories (more middle grade than YA in my opinion), but I still feel fans of the adult series this is an off-shoot of would be better suited to truly fall into effusive declarations of love with it.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication is November 5th, 2013.*

1 comment:

  1. Ooh nice review! I loved Gail's adult series and was excited for this spinoff. Yet when I read an ARC of the first one, I found myself not quite in love with it. It was still interesting and I still might be giving this one a go. Since it's a trilogy after all, I might as well finish it up!


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