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Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Book Name: Curtsies and Conspiracies
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher(s): Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): YA Steampunk
Release Date: November 5, 2013

After the delightful impression that Etiquette and Espionage left me with, of course I had to follow up with Curtsies and Conspiracies. Set in the same story universe as the Parasol Protectorate albeit several years earlier, Sophronia has her first test in upper class manners and the art of passing notes and successful poisoning. While the test goes well, the fallout does not as Dimity, Sophronia’s best friend at school, isn’t on speaking terms with her. Unfortunately this makes Sophronia’s task of figuring out who wants to kidnap her much more challenging.

I really enjoy Sophronia as a character. She’s quiet, patient, attentive, and concerned for the well being of the people she cares about (even if those people are apparently angry at her). Since she usually thinks things through to possible consequences before taking action, she tries to glean all the information she can before doing something she will likely have to answer for later. She sometimes miscalculates and has to deal with the resulting hurt. If the first book was about Sophronia trying to figure out how to look for the plans and meanings behind other people’s actions, then this book was about her figuring out how she personally relates to other people. Unfortunately sometimes she thinks rather too analytically at times and that brings about its own consequences particularly when determining what she wants her friendships to be and where she wants them to go.

It was nice to see Dimity grow into a more developed character too as she is very often overshadowed by Sophronia. While seemingly silly and distractible, Dimity nevertheless determines for herself that she does indeed have a backbone when her loyalty is tested. Phineas (aka Soap) gently makes his interest in Sophronia a little more obvious, even though the class and racial differences between them are enough to make it problematic for Sophronia (as the interest is mutual in some ways). It was a nice balance between characters growing and asking questions of themselves internally and the more main plot oriented questions concerning who is planning what and what to do about it.

Curtsies and Conspiracies has more hidden twists than a bucket of garter snakes. There’s a greater inkling of the larger storyline through the Finishing School series in this book than there was in the previous and it looks like it will be a society altering one in many ways. The Picklemen and vampire rivalry figures much more heavily in this book and Madam Geraldine’s Academy to remain at least outwardly neutral between the two is quietly called into question. Science and scientific investigation plays a big part in the Finishing School novels and the conflict over who controls progress between the human centric Picklemen and the vampires is one that looks like it will eventually boil all over the place and Sophronia will have to determine where she stands in this larger conflict. Most of this is layered underneath the veneer of silliness and the sense of the ridiculous that I find so delightful about Carriger’s storytelling.

The other part of the story that I’ve been enjoying are all the little links between Finishing School and the Parasol Protectorate. None of them require reading one to enjoy the other and yet I love that there are characters shared between them and that one can see the beginnings of certain subplots with Sophronia that are explained and ended with Alexia in the larger sense of worldbuilding, it makes sense that dramas among the supernatural set would span across several normal human lives. I think it makes the social worldbuilding much richer in addition to the exploration of “sciences” that were debunked in real life and how things would work out if aether was real. The scientific worldbuilding in these novels is a hidden gem of both series.

I will be reading the next installment as soon as I can and I would happily recommend Curtsies and Conspiracies to those looking for young adult reading with an intelligent and thoughtful protagonist.


One Comment

  1. A.E. Marling says:

    Thank you for the review. Glad to see that I’ll soon be able to tell my poisons from my pickled eggs. What is infiltration without panache!

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