"[Is] that wise? Having a mess of seedling evil geniuses falling in love with you willy-nilly? What if they feel spurned?"
"Ah, but in the interim, think of the lovely gifts they can make you. Monique bragged that one of her boys made her silver and wood hair sticks as anti-supernatural weapons. With amethyst inlay. And another made her an exploding wicker chicken."
"Goodness, what's that for?"
Dimity pursed her lips. "Who doesn't want an exploding wicker chicken?"
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Get It | Add It
Steampunk/Fantasy, 320 pages
Expected publication: February 5th 2013 by Little, Brown BYR
I have to say, I was equal parts excited and trepidatious* when my fave awesome person at Little, Brown asked me if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for this. I loved Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, but was concerned about how she would make the transition to YA, especially after my friend Elizabeth's reaction... That gave me pause. FORTUNATELY, I have to (politely, maybe) disagree with E. on this one. Yes, it was a little heavy handed at first, and was missing some of the magic that came with Alexia's narration and her fabulous personality - but it worked, and in the end I quite liked it.
I'm a pretty firm believer that you don't have to change your style/writing much (if at all) when you change age levels - there's no need to "write down" to kids (especially in this case, as the Parasol Protectorate series was a highly popular cross-over - Pretty much remove the steamy Victorian sexytimes and you're good to go). But the beginning of the book seemed like Carriger was going to write down to her audience and point things out in a really obtrusive way (as if they couldn't possibly put things together all on their own...), and that has got to be my number one I-will-throw-you-against-the-wall-you-just-see-if-I-don't pet peeve. Even as a kid, I found it highly insulting; you've got to have faith in your audience, and faith in yourself as a storyteller that you're doing fine - you don't have to handhold, and if you do feel the need to, you're not telling it right. But either the handholding was just a brief blip, or I got used to it, because the rest of the book slipped into the quirky, upper-crusty, hilariously Missish storytelling I'd grown to love in the Parasol Protectorate.
Etiquette & Espionage - much like the PP series, or Sorcery & Cecelia, and others of its kind - thrusts readers into a strange** world, very like ours and yet decidedly not, and then relies on an irrepressible but pragmatic narrator to guide the ship*** and draw readers along on a whisper of curiosity and charm. After Elizabeth's unfavorable reaction, I did something I generally don't do, which is look into reviews of a book right before I'm set to read it. (I don't want to be biased, so I typically avoid them - but I had to know if it was going to be a dud! I needed to brace myself if that was the case...) One of the complaints I saw most about this book was about the characters, actually - a lack of connection to them, a dislike for them, etc. And though I can see a tendency toward stockness about them, I didn't ever find myself disliking them - especially Sophronia and some of her more unlikely companions. I loved her fearlessness-bordering-on-recklessness quite a bit, and her intelligence and composure, and I think she'd keep me entertained over the course of a series by dint of that alone. But beyond that, I found that the characters manage to be both well-suited to their AU Victorian England and to a modern audience looking for characters a little less demure and a little more spirited, and that's really all I could ask of them. I was curious, and I was charmed.
Etiquette & Espionage turned out to be a very fun, very YA-appropriate expansion of Carriger's world. Set earlier than PP, there are all sorts of little easter eggs for readers already familiar with the world (traditions, characters at a younger age, or before big events, etc.), which made it fun on a level that works without being obtrusive - readers who aren't familiar with the world won't feel confused or like they're missing anything, but will have bits of handy background should they choose to move on to the other series. The world of Carriger's steampunky England is expanded in some ways by this spin-off, though I think for the most part, as it largely takes place in such a very insular location (a boarding school on a dirigible, for realsies), some readers may feel the lack of variation and be disappointed. Personally, I liked being able to explore a more confined world in depth, and on the few instances when they went offship, plenty of hijinks ensued to balance it out. Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality was a good starting point, not overwhelming the reader with the alternate universe, but providing a good foundation for it. And while I'm not panting for the next books, as I was with the first few of the Protectorate, I look forward to seeing where the world expands from Mlle. Geraldine's over the course of the series.
* Spellcheck needs to stop telling me "trepidatious" isn't a word. If the OED says it is, then it is.
**Both from a historical and a contemporary point of view
***I'mma just go ahead and mix all the metaphors I can, mmmkay?
[Please note: the opening quote is from the ARC of Etiquette & Espionage, and as such may be different in the finished version - or not there at all. Though I hope that isn't the case, as it tickled me immensely.]
Make sure you check out my awesome interview with Gail & enter to win a copy of Etiquette & Espionage here!!
Before I let you go, please to enjoy TEH TRAILER: