I have a disclaimer, and a moment of shame for this one.
Disclaimer: Apparently Gail Carriger is an author of note on some level, but I haven't read anything else by them. For the entirety of the time I was reading it, I was unaware that there are other books that take place in this world. It does make me curious about the timeline flow of the books.
A moment of shame, after an amazon summary! "It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.
Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail's legions of fans have come to adore." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE
My moment of shame. I believe by page 60 there had already been the acknowledgement that vampires existed in this world and I had already gotten a little terse with suspicion. When it was also mentioned that werewolves existed in the world, I got a little angry. Angry in the sense of I figured out where the one third mark of the book was so if need be I could abandon the book before finishing. I've come across too many books that want to be the next Twilight, Underworld, etc etc that use the plot of VAMPIRES VS WEREWOLVES as their driving plot point. I've had it with those books. Unless they bring something truly interesting to the story or tell it in a different manner or something, I just don't want to have anything to do with it.
So after werewolves were acknowledged I got a bit huffy with it, but I read on. I'm glad that I did because it turned into a splendid book (it remains to be seen whether or not there is just a vampire vs werewolf conflict). So shame on me for getting huffy and reluctant because of vampires and werewolves. Shame on me indeed. Honesty guys, sometimes I give too much, I know.
Bear in mind that is all is set in some sort of steam-punk like 1850's. I'm not entirely sure if the year was mentioned in this at all. There are also a lot of mechanical servants of sorts (maids, butlers, etc) that operate on tracks and primarily serve in household settings it seems.
So the book begins with Sophronia tinkering with the dumbwaiter (a small, man powered elevator that is designed to carry small items such as food to different floors of a house). She ends up tumbling out of it, causing a ruckus, and meeting the Mademoiselle that had come to speak with her mother.
After an odd conversation with the Mademoiselle, it turns out that Sophronia is sent off with her immediately to a finishing school (a school that is designed to educate young females on the proper behaviors expected in polite company in many different aspects).
On the way to the finishing school, she meets Dimity and Pillover (siblings). Dimity is off to the same finishing school and Pillover is off to a nearby boy's academy of sorts. Based on the line of conversation that Dimity and Pillover (reluctantly) have, Sophronia begins to suspect that the finishing school is not quite what she had expected. As their riding in this carriage, the Mademoiselle is strangely silent until they seem to be under attack.
By flywaymen. These flywaymen are gents that travel by air balloons and seem to be of the unsavory variety. They stop their carriage and demand for a prototype. The new students all look at each other with disbelief while the Mademoiselle seems to go into fits as she's dragged from the carriage.
Sophronia leaps into action and manages to save everyone (with no help from the Mademoiselle) and they continue their course to the schools with a bit of fright under their petticoats.
On a side note, it took me way too long to get a mental image of what a petticoat was. A petticoat in this story appears to be the layers of skirts worn under a proper dress for decency? I'm not entirely sure if it replaces underwear or acts as underwear but a lot of girls seem to be scandalized if a petticoat was lost or revealed or something. Also, exposed ankles was also scandalous. It seems to just be a separate skirt worn 'because reasons' and they tended to layer them in this book. If there is more of an explanation that I'm missing, I apologize, but I don't really tend to know how 'ye olde' dresses work. I understand that folks still wear them today, but I like pants.
BECAUSE PANTS. ಠ_ಠ
So Sophronia has her first encounter with a werewolf as they try to get to the school. The school is floating and they are spirited up on the wolf's back to a glass container of sorts before being raised up into the school. The werewolf stays on the ground below as it cannot 'float' (which doesn't make any sense to me at all).
Sophronia is shown around the school as she is a covert recruit (which means the first in her family as most girls who enter the schools are legacies). As she is being shown around, an alert happens and the school has a confrontation with the flywaymen as they seek the prototype from the school.
There is a stand off of sorts and Sophronia meets her first vampire. (Vampires were acknowledged in the beginning of the book as one of Sophronia's sisters teases her that she'll be forced to be a Vampire's drone if she doesn't stop misbehaving.) The battle turns into a warning of sorts and the school is given three weeks to produce the prototype.
Thus begins Sophronia's life at 'finishing school'.
It was a fun, relatively fast (about 300 pages) read. There were many interesting characters, a lot of different contraptions, devices, manners to grapple with, and the world of the book would be something I'd like to see more of.
This is "Book the first" in the series so I wonder where it will go.
I wonder if the other books this 'Gail Carriger' have written are good. Anyone?