Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:


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 field 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.

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature
humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.



Pros:

This is the second book in the Finishing School series, and all of the pros I mentioned for Etiquette & Espionage apply to this book as well. Gail Carriger continues to defy stereotype by  excellently melding tomboyish qualities and traditionally feminine qualities in her characters, showing that the two personality types are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, she demonstrates that "feminine" does not inherently mean "wimpy" or "silly." And Carriger's trademark humor shines forth in full prominence as well. But since I have already discussed these aspects of Carriger's books in more detail in my Etiquette & Espionage review, I will refrain from going into any more depth here.

While all the things I loved about the first book continued on, Carriger added more conflict and raised the stakes in this book, thus increasing tension overall. Though I would still classify this book as light pleasure reading, the extra uncertainty as to what would happen next or what was really going on just made the reading experience more enjoyable. 

Also the characters have more depth than in the first book which makes sense given that they know much more and thus would have grown in maturity from the beginning of the first book. For example, the character Agatha is shy and delicate throughout Etiquette & Espionage, and she does not do well in her training as an intelligencer. Yet in the second book, though she still retains much of that old personality, she becomes more versatile and helps out with several important plans, thus earning her place at the school (at least in my mind).

Cons:

Honestly I'm not sure if this is a con because I haven't finished out the series yet, but I felt like Carriger did not make the main love interest, Felix, likable enough. He has a very high opinion of himself and a very low opinion of supernaturals such as vampires and werewolves. Furthermore, he is completely rude to one of Sophronia's best friends, Soap, simply because he is a low-ranking sootie. Now I have no problem with these traits as a method of developing an unlikable character, but Sophronia finds herself liking him more and more as time goes on though he changes very little. Plus there were no indications that he was intended to be an antagonist or someone who would negatively impact Sophronia later, thus making me think that he is supposed to be a protagonist. But for the life of me I can't like Felix and don't understand why Sophronia would like him either.

Also, because readers only get to see events through Sophronia's perspective, we learn the underlying conspiracy in bits and pieces, which can get a little confusing. It requires keeping track of many different events and developments separately until the end when the connections between each mysterious occurrence are finally revealed.

Overall, this book was an excellent sequel that completely lived up to its predecessor and kept me engaged the whole time.

Now I'm going to do a breakdown of each element of the series, judging it on different criteria. I'll rate each element on a scale of 1-5, 1 being bad, and 5 being amazing.

Plot: 4

Complexity: 3
Creativity: 5
Believability: 4
Surprise: 4

Characters: 4

Depth: 4
Personality: 5
Believability: 4

Writing Style: 4

Description: 4
Tension: 4

Overall Score: 4

Happy Reading!

Sarah

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