Title: Curtsies & Conspiracies
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 2013
Series: Finishing School #2
Reason for Discovery: I loved Carriger's Soulless series
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. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ships boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is at first apparent. 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 latest Finishing School book, a test is completed, romances are started, and mysteries are solved. Sophronia and the rest of her cohort begin their semester with a test to see how they are doing and whether they are up to Mademoiselle Geraldine's standards. The test does not go well for many of the girls, and as a result, friendships are strained. A simple test does not damper the ladies' spirits on the romance front, however. Dimity, Sophronia's dear friend, continues to be head over heels in love with a boy from their sister school. Sophronia is also starting to attract some attention of her own both from Soap, one of the young men who works at their school, and from Felix, a young man from their sister school. Although Sophronia is not ready to throw her hat into the courting ring, Soap and Felix are both ready to catch it. Finally, a school for finishing is also not without its danger. Some kidnappers appear to be intent on snatching Dimity and her brother, and when the villains are not after these two, they seem to be after a certain mechanical piece.
Before I say anything else, I want to give one caveat. If you are not familiar with the Finishing School series, you should start with Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1). Although I will start a series in the middle at times, this series relies on the reader know what is going on. You are given a little background to remind the reader of what happened previously, but a new reader to this series will only be confused.
This book was so much fun. I think I might actually want to go to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality more than I want to go to Hogwarts. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but I love the idea of learning how to be a spy and how to "finish" someone (pun intended), while at the time, acting the part of the lady. I know it may sound crazy, but I think learning how to manage conspiracies and curtsies seems a bit more practical than magic.
Alright, I should probably talk a little bit about this book. Just like in the first book, I found the characters to be quite lovely. Sophronia is definitely the most well-thought out character; however, the other characters are well-described as well. The girls are almost like Carrie and the gang from Sex and the City. What I mean is that Sophronia (and Carrie) are well thought out, because their adventure is the main one; and Sophronia and Carries' respective groups are a little less three-dimensional, but they are still loads of fun. Because Sophronia's relationship with her cohort are strained in this book, we don't get to learn a lot about the girls in this book, and this makes me sad. Some of the characters in this book are seen later in the Soulless series, and I would love to get to know them even more.
The B plot line spun through this book is a blooming love triangle with Sophronia, Felix (boy from the sister school), and Soap (boy who works at the school). I do not know what to think about this! There are reasons for Sophronia to end up with either of these young men, but there are also reasons for her not to be courted by either. I feel that this storyline reminds me more of a Gale versus Peeta situation (it wasn't until the final book that I saw which way the tide was going) than a Edward versus Jacob situation (was there really any doubt which way Bella was going?). Because this is a YA book, I think Sophronia will end up having some sort of romance. I must admit that I am really hoping that Sophronia will end up single in the end. I don't get the impression Sophronia is ready for married life just yet, even if that was the status quo for the era.
Okay, we should probably discuss the central plot to this book. As I mentioned above, someone is trying to kidnap Dimity and her brother. Also, people are after certain mechanical pieces. The plot was tight and worked well. It probably would have made a bit more sense, if I wasn't trying to inhale the book in one sitting. I wish the story arc that is being thread through this series was a bit more interesting to me. I am personally not that interested in this amazing piece of technology. I am hoping that once the series is complete and the final parts of the storyline completed, I will be more interested in it. This happened with the Soulless series. During my reread, I became fascinated with the overarching story arc.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The plot was fun and the characters are great. Some of the little plot twists seemed a bit obvious to me, but this may be because the book is YA. If you are a fan of Carriger and/or supernatural steampunk, you should try this series out. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.
I give this book a 4 out of 5.