Curtsies & Conspiracies (The Finishing School book 2) by Gail Carriger (book review).

‘Curtsies & Conspiracies’ is book two in ‘The Finishing School’ series by Gail Carriger, who has also written ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ series set in the same world. Book three in this series is ‘Waistcoats & Weaponary’ and book four is provisionally titled ‘Manners & Mutiny’. Carriger is also starting to write another series called ‘The Custard Protocol’, also set in the same world the first book of which is called ‘Prudence’. As these series are all set in her steampunk version of the UK you will often see different characters from previous books so I would recommend that you start with ‘The Parasol Protectorate’.


Sophronia, our female protagonist, is busy trying to figure out pretty much everything in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy For Young Ladies Of Quality. Unfortunately, this need to figure out everything has a tendency to get her into trouble both with the teachers and, in this book, also with the other pupils. This time the entire floating school has to move from its usual home of Dartmoor, where it can float around without being noticed, to London! This is all due to the fact that a young human is going to try to float from France to England using the usual dirigible but all within one hour by using the special air currents much higher into the atmosphere. This is all to do with the prototype that Sophronia managed to steal in book one, ‘Etiquette & Espionage’, which allows humans and possibly supernaturals to travel at an altogether faster rate. The school decides this is something the girls should see, but as you can imagine it all goes terribly wrong when errant vampires, Picklemen, kidnappers and a coming out ball all try to happen at the same time. As usual, Sophronia manages to get into trouble and even dresses as a boy! Well, trousers are so much easier to handle than a full skirt and petticoats when you’re moving around on the outside of a dirigible.

During this book, one of my favourite teachers manages to get himself very nearly killed. Also, Sophronia becomes part of a love triangle, which she is desperate to try and get out of but Mademoiselle Geraldine’s hasn’t taught her the necessary skills as yet. If she needed to kill one of the suitors using a letter-opener, she might very well be in with a chance though. Sophronia does learn that almost anything can carry a coded message, including embroidered pillow cases, and that sofas are not all that they may seem.

There are certain elements I really love in these books. I mean you’ve got to love a good mechanical sausage dog who snacks on discarded gloves. If anyone could invent one of these or the mechanical staff that keep the floating school clean and tidy I want the first one! Also, I’m not sure if Carriger has some kind of old-fashioned cookbook by her side when she writes but she comes up with some truly interesting food for the girls and their teachers to eat. I always find myself looking up at least one or two dishes she mentions, thinking they can’t be real, but they actually are.

Carriger tends to write to a particular formula in that there is always a strong female protagonist at the head of the story, normally followed by a band of trustworthy companions, one of whom will be a bit of a space-cadet. There are normally some boys involved as well, as the female protagonist never seems to be aware of how attractive she is to the opposite sex. Having said that, I still enjoy these books, even when they veer into the ridiculous. Just as a heads-up, this is not high literary fiction and I don’t suggest you read more than one or two in a row as they are so similar.

All Carriger’s series are based in the same world and, having read the entirety of ‘The Parasol Protectorate’, I still found myself learning new things about the vampires and werewolves and how their society functions. Carriger somehow manages to do this without making it dull at all. I also enjoyed seeing a few of my old favourite characters crop up as both elements in lessons and also as people within this series. I cannot wait to see how some of them develop relationships with Sophronia.

Overall I did enjoy this book and can’t wait to get into the next one ‘Waistcoats & Weaponry’ which is lucky as it’s sat right beside me. I’d like to see a little more character development of the other girls in the next few books, but I’m interested to see how the new mean girl in school compares to Monique!

Sarah Bruch

January 2015

Follow me @shelbycat

(pub: Orbit. 310 page paperback. Price: £ 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-90741-160-1)

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