Waistcoats & Weaponry (book 3 of The Finishing School) by Gail Carriger (book review).

This is the third instalment in ‘The Finishing School Series’. I’m not entirely certain how many other books will be published but there is definitely a book four set to come out in 2015.


Welcome back to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, otherwise known as the floating dirigible based school training young ladies in the art of espionage and assassination. During this book, Sidheag receives news that the werewolf pack that she grew up in is now minus both a pack leader and second-in-command due a slight incident involving a plot to kill the Queen. Those of you who have read ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ will recognise this plot twist which has ramifications far into the future. This means that Sophronia, Dimity, Felix and Soap all need to come to her rescue in the form of stealing a train in order to get Sidheag back to her pack before the Dewan gets there. Just prior to this train heist, Sophronia and her pals happen to be attending the engagement party of Sophronia’s older brother when a strange automaton malfunction occurs, leaving all the mechanical servants immobile. Unfortunately for them, the train they chose to steal is not your common or garden version.

No, this one involves added vampire drones, picklemen and flywaymen, along with a dastardly scheme of immense proportions involving said mechanicals. Sophronia even has to sacrifice her own freedom for the safety of one of her friends. Basically, Sophronia manages to get herself stuck in the middle of yet another adventure! Even her friends have started to say that anything that happens is always Sophronia’s fault. She just happens to attract adventure, although this one is a lot more dangerous than her previous ones. I was in floods of tears at the end of this book, just as a heads-up there are feels! This book is filled with Carriger’s usual mix of whimsy and steampunk. It shouldn’t work but, somehow, it really does.

This book seemed a lot easier to follow than the previous one. There was just the one main storyline and not quite as much politics to get your head around. There is still the main story arch about the crystalline valve frequencers and their ability to communicate with each other and with mechanicals which was introduced in earlier books. We get to learn a little more about what the vampires and picklemen are both trying to do with the frequencers, which I had to say I found pretty terrifying! In this book, we also learn that more of the main characters are going to be leaving. This makes me a little upset as I really enjoyed each of the main characters but I’m also really excited to find out whether any new characters might be introduced.

I hate to say it but Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is the perfect steampunk single-sex floating school version of Hogwarts you could imagine. Full of adventures that just seem to spiral out of control, along with interesting characters. I would love to go to this school, but I think I’d be one of the quieter pupils. I really don’t fancy getting up to some of the stuff Sophronia takes in her stride, like taking a walk on the outside of the school while it’s floating hundreds of feet off the ground! I also love how there’s Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys Polytechnique School in Swiffle-on-Ex that teaches them how to be mad scientists and evil geniuses, it just seems to be the perfect balance.

There is a lot more to do with the love triangle between Sophronia, Felix and Soap which I found interesting. We get to watch as Sophronia tries to work out which of the two boys is the best fit for her while at the same time she tries to consider their various allegiances along with their social standing. Oh and I’m on Team Soap. I just seem to think he’s better for Sophronia than Felix, plus you can’t help but root for the underdog. Also, I find Felix to be altogether creepier and not entirely trustworthy. Soap, I would trust with my life.

It was also interesting to see the girls all thinking about their lives after school. Dimity seems to want to get married as she really isn’t into the whole espionage thing, even though she’s actually pretty good as long as no-one starts to bleed. Sophronia has the hardest choice, as she really is built to be in the espionage business. Her brain is perfectly suited to it, but this does mean she needs to consider her options when it comes to having a patron. She is currently being courted by Lord Akeldama, but now the werewolves might also be interested, along with Mrs Barnaclegoose. Who should she choose to look after her interests and whose moral compass points in the same direction as hers?

I’m really enjoying this series and I can’t wait to find out what Sophronia and her friends do next in terms of the frequencers and also what happens to them when they eventually have to leave school. These books are super-quick to get through which is a good and a bad thing. Good because they really do not get boring. Bad because you want them to last so much longer! I really tried to save this book so I didn’t have so long to wait until ‘Mutiny & Murder’ comes out but I couldn’t manage it.

Sarah Bruch

March 2015

Follow me @shelbycat

(pub: Atom. 298 paperback. Price: £ 7.99(UK). ISBN: 978-1-90741-161-8)

check out website: www.atombooks.net

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