Fourteen year old Sophronia Temminnik is not a prim and perfect young girl, much to her mother’s chagrin. She has spent time exploring and climbing rather than practicing good manners and a proper curtsy. When Mademoiselle Geraldine appears at her home with an invite to the Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, Mrs. Temminnik leaps at the chance to turn her daughter into a proper young lady. What they don’t know is that this is not your ordinary finishing school. For starters, the school is suspended from several airborne dirigibles in order to stay in hiding. While they do learn proper manners, it is more to manipulate and spy than to acquire a well to do husband. Their education focuses on weapons, nonhuman creatures, war history, and intelligence acquisitions. While settling into her new life Sophronia quickly discovers that some evil characters are after something in the school, and will stop at nothing to get their hands on this item. Will the spies in training survive the barrage of aggression that has fallen upon them?
OK, I know the description sounds really strange, but the story falls together beautifully. I had so much fun reading this book and its aspects of steampunk, historical fiction, and humor (laughing out loud occurred often.) The characters are amazing and hilarious and are varying in degrees of girlishness. For example, Dimity loves fashion and is constantly searching for a proper husband, while Sidheag is the definition of a tomboy, not to mention Bumbersnoot the mechanimal (coal powered dog.) On that note, Carriger has come up with some truly quality names for her characters, but I won’t give anymore of them away. My favorite part of the book is the world that has been created and described. It has given me a great picture of the setting of the Academy, without being overly wordy (which in my opinion is the downfall of some steampunk novels.) One not so great note: I really felt that the climax of the book came too suddenly and happened too quickly, and then the book was over. I wish that it would have been a little bit more drawn out. But on a bright note, it wasn’t one of those books that has an ending that drones on. Overall, this was a great book, especially for those that love historical fiction, humor, and steampunk!