After the events of Etiquette & Espionage, Miss Sophronia Temminick is back at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s finishing school, where young ladies learn to finish…anyone or anything. Sophronia learns that she has received top marks in her espionage classes, which causes resentment among the other students, even her close friends. Meanwhile, she discovers more information about the crystalline valve prototype that caused so much trouble in the previous book. While she tries to learn more about the valve’s purpose, it quickly becomes evident that she’s not the only interested party — and that her best friend Dimity might be in danger because of it. While Sophronia attempts to put her clandestine skills to good use, she must also cope with the arrival of boys from a rival academy — including one who flirts with her most scandalously! Will Sophronia be able to protect her friend and solve the mystery, all while trying to listen to her confused heart?
This second book in Carriger’s Finishing School series is another fun Victorian romp with steampunk trappings. The world of these books is fascinating and very entertaining, with its steam-powered “mechanimals” and rules of supernatural etiquette. This book even furnishes a few specific alternate-universe facts, such as that the telegraph was introduced a few years ago but failed dismally. These tidbits help to anchor the novel’s plot a bit more in reality, which is important because most of it is so entirely silly! If you’re not familiar with Carriger’s schtick, be prepared for a lot of riduculous names and pseudo-British witticisms. I personally enjoy the silliness, but your mileage may vary. I also quite like Sophronia, a delightfully practical, self-assured heroine who doesn’t let little things like rules or restrictions prevent her from satisfying her curiosity. My only complaint is that I’m still very confused about the valve and the various parties involved. No one’s motives are clear yet, which makes it hard to know whether Sophronia is doing a good job or not. But I’m still definitely planning to continue with the series to find out!