Curtsies & Conspiracies
Sophronia heads into her first tests at the Finishing Academy with glowing marks, but it’s the lessons she learns outside of class that make this second title in an excellent steampunk series truly memorable. It’s not just about espionage and poison out in the real world, after all.
Tests are secretive and mysterious like much else at the dirigible Finishing Academy. Sophronia has to choose weapons, serve tea, and remember details among other skill tests in the dizzying exam. When her marks are announced, several of her debut level friends no longer speak to her, including her roommate and best friend Dimity.
Luckily, Sophronia still knows how to sneak around the ship and visit Soap, a charming young man in charge of fueling the shop. Vieve, the niece of a teacher who disguises herself as a boy, continues to be a source of information for Sophronia as well. But even Vieve does not anticipate the arrival of several boys from their rival yet equal boys’ school, including Dimity’s brother and the handsome, flirty Felix.
The sky and school technologies are fascinating details along with the historical setting, and Sophronia’s spy adventures continue to appeal.
No one is quite sure why the boys have arrived, or why the ships are now disguised as clouds and are headed to London. The girls are mostly thrilled at the prospect of shopping, But Sophronia’s night investigative visits tell her only about dark undercurrents among factions. She learns of vampire unrest and secret drones that feed the vampires, new technologies to be tested and a possible plot to control the aether. Several attempts are made to kidnap Dimity and her brother also, and while they try to find the source of those problems, the friends work together again.
Bullying older teen Monique is planning her coming out ball for when they land, and while Sophronia usually hates balls, she needs to know what is being planned. Her vampire professor Braithwope seems to be at the center of the highly political new valve test, and Sophronia unwittingly places him and another innocent professor in serious danger while trying to flush out the criminals.
The sky and school technologies are fascinating details along with the historical setting, and Sophronia’s spy adventures continue to appeal. The series is maturing with Sophrina as she finds the results of some of her choices hard to live with, and adds “hiding guilt” to her skill-set.
Her struggles with a friend who may or may not be more add another dimension to the heroine. This clever and well crafted series will bring new readers to steampunk with its delightful plot and cast.
Reviewed by Amy Alessio on December 17, 2013