Series: Finishing School #3
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on November 4th 2014
Genres: Steampunk, YA (Young Adult)
Source: the publisher
Also in this series: Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies
Also by this author: Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies
Class is back in session...Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.
Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.
I love this series for its blend of steampunk, the paranormal, and Gail Carriger’s characteristic sly humor. Waistcoats & Weaponry is no exception, but it takes a turn toward the serious as its protagonists and secondary characters mature.
Sophronia and her friends stumble upon a widespread plot that could upset the balance of power, and all of them are forced to think about their futures, their loyalties, and their relationships. At least two and possibly three of Sophronia’s stalwart friends face major changes as the book comes to a close – which means Sophronia’s life will be changing as well.
Sophronia is a wonderful character, and I loved seeing her grow in this book. She has to articulate and evaluate her own ethics (or politics?) and loyalties while dealing with her conflicting feelings about Felix (Lord Merton) and the sootie, Soap. And she’s developing into a remarkably good intelligencer, skilled in combat and acrobatics as well as extremely intelligent and quick to recognize the implications of what she uncovers or overhears. I have no doubt that she will “finish” by the end of book four, and end up covered in glory – from the school’s perspective, at least. Whether she gets a happy ending is, I think, still very much up in the air.
I’ve always liked Dimity for her loyalty and determination to stand by her best friend; thankfully, that remains unshaken through this book – one of the few things that hasn’t changed. Sidheag, on the other hand, has suffered a family tragedy and needs the help of her friends; she also appears to be developing a tendre for another member of the cast. For their parts, Felix and Soap are more open about their feelings toward Sophronia, which leads to a certain amount of tension between them and puts her in an awkward position.
The steampunk elements are just as marvelous and the humor just as witty as in the previous books. I laughed out loud at several scenes, especially Lady Lynette’s lessons on seduction and the girls’ reactions to them. There’s also a wonderful moment at a ball involving misbehaving mechanicals, and Bumbersnoot is a delight as always. But as I mentioned above, the overall tone is more sober as one political power threatens the stability of the realm, while changes in their personal lives may lead to unhappiness for Sophronia and her friends. That more somber tone is not a bad thing; as in most good series, the stakes grow higher with each book, and the main characters must grow in order to survive, let alone triumph.
I devoured Waistcoats & Weaponry in a single night. I can’t wait to see how Sophronia and her friends rise to meet the challenges in book four!
Note: The fourth book, Manners & Mutiny, is expected in November 2015. I’m not sure I can wait that long!