Waistcoats & Weaponry, by Gail Carriger (2014, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), $18, ISBN: 9780316190275
Recommended for ages 13+
If there is one writer I fangirl for these days, it’s Gail Carriger. I discovered her Parasol Protectorate series a few years ago, and was immediately hooked. There’s paranormal adventure, steampunk fabulousness, including airships, mechanicals, and loaded parasols, and most importantly, fierce fashion. And tea. A lot of tea. What’s not to love?
When she announced she was writing a YA series that takes place in the Parasol Protectorate universe, I was jubilant. The Finishing School series: Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and now, Waistcoats & Weaponry, take place at a finishing school for young ladies. But it’s not just any finishing school: the ladies are taught to be covert assassins as easily as they’re taught to properly bat their eyelashes and set a proper table. If you’ve been following the series, you know that Sophronia left off with a pretty major benefactor last book. He’s alluded to here in Waistcoats, but Sophronia is front and center in this book. She’s working out her feelings for both her friend, Soap, and Felix, a wealthy Duke’s son who’s been flirting outrageously with her. She’s still trying to figure out what Monique – and, by extension, a vampire hive – is up to. And when family drama strikes at her friend Sidheag, she has to be there for her. She’s got a full plate, and watching her juggle it is nothing short of brilliant.
I love Sophronia, and seeing her develop as a character throughout these three books has been a delight. She goes from being a headstrong young girl who likes to find out how things work, to a headstrong, determined young woman who exudes an air of polish when she needs to, but is never afraid to pull on a pair of trousers (gasp!) and get right into the thick of things to find out what she needs to know. She’ll take on a vampire or a werewolf if it means helping her friends, but she’ll always think things through and try to come to the best situation for everyone involved. It’s also tremendous fun to see the storylines developed in The Parasol Protectorate come full circle here; Finishing School takes place about 15-20 years before, and events discussed in the first series find their origins here, as do several key characters.
I’m sad to see Finishing School dismissed, but I can’t wait for Prudence, her new series, to hit stores next month. Pick up the Finishing School series. You’ll be so glad you did. And make sure to stop by the Finishing School website, where you can take some lessons of your own, and download an educator’s guide to the series. THERE’S AN EDUCATOR’S GUIDE TO THIS SERIES. Why wasn’t I taught this stuff in high school?!