Thursday, November 14, 2013

The duties of a lady of quality

ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE By Gail Carriger ISBN: 9781619693166, New York, N.Y. : Hachette Audio, [2013], p2013., I am just beginning to discover Steam Punk, and, so far, I am finding it delightful. I love the idea of inserting elements of fantasy and unhistorical technological advancement into a familiar historical setting. There is a certain whimsical charm in imagining dirigibles floating over Victorian or Edwardian England, while “ladies of quality” learn the fine points of appropriate mannerly behavior, conduct, and, oh yes, along the way, how to efficiently spy, manipulate, commit espionage and kill …with nothing more lethal than a pair of embroidery scissors or eyebrow tweezers. Throw in some vampires and weir wolves (who have found places in polite society), and what you get is a part fantasy, part spy story, part mystery romp through time and space. This is the first of 2 books, which introduces us to a definitely off kilter but marvelous world, replete with political machinations, evil scientific geniuses, unexpected but believable (mostly) inventions, a flying school, duchesses, heiresses, marriage games, and a climax that has all the exuberance and silliness of the very best slapstick comedy. The characters are sometimes too zany to be real, though by the end of the book, I found myself accepting them, perhaps because the central characters are *very* believable, and often sympathetic. The plot is …well, a cross between a roller coaster and a mostly harmless fun house ride, and the colorful writing holds it all together, making the reader forget some of it makes absolutely no sense until the last page has been turned or the last word heard. This book, and its sequel, Curtseys and Conspiracies, don’t have a serious bone in their decorated petticoated (with horsehair petticoats, thank you very much) bodies. They don’t make the reader contemplate Universal truths (well, not many, though they do raise issues involving the nature of friendship and loyalty), or provide much insight into society. But like the nicest meringue, they melt on the mind, leaving a very satisfyingly sweet taste on the palette.

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