Etiquette & Espionage
Sophronia likes to take things apart to study them. She does not like to take tea with nosy neighbors or wear fashionable clothes. Consequently, her mother sends her to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, but this is no ordinary etiquette school. Sophronia will have to master spy skills in addition to society skills and quickly, as she is embroiled in intrigue even before she arrives --- for one, the school is an airship, and a werewolf has to jump the students aboard in this fun steampunk world! Readers new to the historical yet techy world will enjoy this as much as steampunk aficionados when details of setting, plot and character all combine to create a highly entertaining adventure and promising start to a new series.
"This title and series will no doubt make new steampunk fans, while also delighting readers who already enjoy the sky-history-technology mix."
Flywaymen attack Sophronia’s coach as she, the “headmistress,” another new student named Dimity and Dimity’s brother Pillover are traveling to the school. The bad guys insist that the headmistress, who turns out to be Monique, another student posing for an assignment, has a secret item. She falls into hysterics and Sophronia, with help from Pillover, rescue her and get the coach flying to safety.
When they arrive at the floating school, Sophronia is surprised to be carried up to it by a werewolf, but she learns to expect the unexpected in a ship full of robot domestics, students, weapons and secrets. She finds a robot dog, or mechanimal, and adopts it, only to realize that she has to feed it with coal. She is forced to find the engines of the ship, and there encounters the “sooties,” or young boys who shovel the coal and help keep the ship running. There, she meets the charming “Soap,” or Phineas B. Crow, a smart ally who helps her keep her secret pet fed and find her way around the ship.
On two trips to the engines, she finds herself in the middle of an air war and finds faculty, including a vampire, trying to protect the ships from picklemen, who want the mysterious item Monique supposedly had. Sophronia is caught by another student exploring after hours and is forced to stay in when the other girls go to the local boys’ school for a play. By the time the evening arrives, she knows she has to sneak over to the school to learn more about the secret item. Soap helps her go to the school where they find Pillover and more information amidst danger and hilarious near misses that cost her some petticoats.
Back on the ship, Sophronia realizes that Monique hid the item at her own home when she came to get Sophronia to take her to the school. She, Monique, Dimity and Pillover are all planning to go to Sophronia’s home for the holidays and her sister’s coming out ball. She determines to get the item before Monique, as the older girl has murky motives and may not turn it over to the good guys. Everything comes to a head at the ball amid fashion, gadgets, danger and plans in an exciting conclusion.
As with any fantasy world, the scene has to be set before readers are drawn fully into the action, though things move fairly quickly here. The steampunk setting and funny details about the ship, fashions and robots will appeal and add depth to the building suspense. This title and series will no doubt make new steampunk fans, while also delighting readers who already enjoy the sky-history-technology mix. Fans of Ally Carter and Anna Godbersen will enjoy this as well.
Reviewed by Amy Alessio on February 12, 2013