Fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick is the despair of her mother due to her disheveled appearance and unladylike fascination with mechanical objects. In desperation, her mother decides to send her to finishing school — a prospect that fills Sophronia with dismay. But she soon discovers that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School is much more than meets the eye. For one thing, it’s located on a giant dirigible; for another, lessons include weaponry and poisoning as well as dancing and the proper way to drink tea. Sophronia is delighted with her unexpected education, which proves to be useful when the school is attacked by foes who are looking for a valuable prototype. Along with her newfound friends both above- and belowdecks, Sophronia decides to learn more about the prototype and its significance, but her investigation may endanger her family as well as herself.
I very much enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, so I was eager to read this new book that is set in the same universe, but a few decades earlier. I’m happy to say that I liked it even more than the Parasol Protectorate books! The concept of a finishing school that teaches young ladies how to be dangerous secret agents is absolutely fascinating, and I was absorbed by the world of the novel. I really enjoyed the combination of Victoriana, steampunk, and humor that Carriger does so well; I especially loved the occasional bits of pure silliness, such as the existence of “flywaymen” (highwaymen that travel by hot air balloon) and a villainous society of Picklemen whose leader is known as the Great Chutney. There are also some wonderful secondary characters and a few potential love interests for Sophronia, so I definitely look forward to reading more books in this series!