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*Starred Review* Set 25 years before her Parasol Protectorate series, Carriger's YA debut brings her mix of Victorian paranormal steampunk and winning heroines to a whole new audience. After an incident involving a plummeting dumbwaiter and an airborne trifle, Sophronia is sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy to learn how to be a proper lady. Their carriage is immediately waylaid by flywaymen looking for a mysterious prototype the first of many clues that this academy will not be the dreadful bore Sophronia expected. Once established at Mademoiselle Geraldine's (set on a chain of dirigibles!), Sophronia learns that she is a covert recruit into a school that trains girls to be part assassins, part spies, and also always fashionable ladies of quality. It's this last bit she has trouble with; in her self-assigned search for the prototype, she acquires an illegal mechanimal pet, befriends the boiler room sooties, and avoids both teachers and mechanicals to explore restricted areas, yet she can't master curtsying or eyelash fluttering. While the prototype plot isn't fully developed, Carriger's series starter more than makes up for it with cleverly Victorian methods of espionage, witty banter, lighthearted silliness, and a ship full of intriguingly quirky people. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Carriger has made major waves as a best-selling steampunker, and the promotion and outreach planned for this YA offshoot should continue that streak.--Hutley, Krista Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 6-9-Sophronia is far from the proper Victorian young lady she is expected to be. She would rather climb, take apart machinery, and cause a general ruckus than sit for tea and crumpets, making her a blight on her mother's reputation. She is enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to learn proper decorum. But she soon discovers that its students are learning more than a proper curtsy. The school is a floating airship charged with teaching the skills of espionage. Sophronia is an early savant of sorts and quickly learns to use her skills to help thwart a fellow student in an attempt to steal a prototype essential to communications. The author touches on themes of gender identity and racial and social equality, though they are not developed thoroughly enough to either add to or distract from the story. Carriger's leading lady is a strong, independent role model for female readers. There is still more to be learned about the relationships of other characters who are integral to the story, perhaps in a sequel. Ladies and gentlemen of propriety are combined with dirigibles, robots, werewolves, and vampires, making this story a steampunk mystery and an adventure mash-up that is sure to intrigue readers who can get past the language of the time period.-Betsy Davidson, Cortland Free Library, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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When troublesome 14-year-old Sophronia is sent off to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she is none too happy about it. Her despair evaporates, however, when she learns that, at Mademoiselle Geraldine's, "finishing" means learning the finer points of deceit, espionage, and assassination. Far from a stodgy old castle, the school is a giant dirigible that floats above the moors. Effortlessly blending Victorian, paranormal, and steampunk elements, Carriger offers a feast of words (flywayman, mechanimals) and names (Dimity Ann Plumleigh-Teignmott, Phineas B. Crow) to lunch on in her YA debut, which is set in the world of her Parasol Protectorate books for adults, but several decades earlier. Carriger deploys laugh-out-loud bon mots on nearly every page ("But I don't want to be a vampire drone," Sophronia whines to her sister early on. "They'll suck my blood and make me wear only the very latest fashions"), and Sophronia is a capable and clever heroine. Amid all the fun, the author works in commentary on race and class in a sparkling start to the Finishing School series. Ages 12-up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.