Waistcoats and Weaponry, the third installment of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Series, is a bit darker and more mature than the preceding novels. Don’t be alarmed – as in the previous books, there is still delightful dialogue and whimsical witticisms to be found on every page! We begin aboard the floating dirigible school, and we immediately feel sorry for dear Professor Braithwope. I do hope we see more of him in the future, and that he regains more of himself! Sidheag receives a message from home, and the news is not good. Preshea has stepped into Monique’s evil little shoes, but she proves to be a bit more bloodthirsty than her mentor. We start seduction lessons, and the first thought is – poor Felix! Sophronia seems to have mixed feelings about Felix and Soap. She fears that Felix may have given up on her. She is 16 now – old enough to be let out into the world if given the opportunity. We discover that Soap has aspirations of werewolfdom. Sophronia worries about his future, both in his survival and the chance that she may not see him again. “Only you, miss, would try to stop us all from growing up.” 74
On the way to Sophronia’s house for the engagement party of her eldest brother, we really feel bad for Felix. Sophronia has learned her lessons rather well. We go to the masquerade ball – Dimity is the Queen of Mechanicals and Sophronia is a sootie. She goes to meet Pillover to receive a message from Sidheag, but they get caught by her mother and accidently become engaged. Soap snuck into the ball (in costume, of course!) to keep an eye on Sophronia. Sidheag suddenly appears at the party with two wolves in tow – Captain Niall and the dewan – the Queen’s werewolf advisor. Werewolf politics! The wolves leave, and against their wishes Sidheag decides to go to Scotland to save her pack.
They all (minus Pillover) decide to go with her – they will pose as lads taking the stolen airdinghy (from the last book) to a train headed north. Before they can leave, all of the mechanicals go bonkers at midnight. They spin about, sing “Rule, Britannia,” then shut down. They finally make their escape, and stow aboard a train heading north. It is here that they all seem a bit grown up, and there is a sad realization that childhood, with all of its frolics and tomfoolery, is ending. We come across more moments where we see that Felix was raised to be a gentleman, whereas Soap was just raised to be a man. This is not a normal train, and seems a bit suspicious. Monique is on the train, (she was bound to show up sometime) following orders from someone. After a while, we learn that Monique is not necessarily the bad guy – she’s following orders for what she thinks is right. A school rival, yes, but perhaps not the bad guy. Sophronia is still showing her youth by keeping her loyalty with the school and trying to not pick sides. “Are you going to fight for a finishing school, Sophronia, for the rest of your career?… You are going to have to choose sides. We all do, in the end.” 241
We are coming to the point in the series where some hard decisions are going to have to be made. The times of sneaking around the school for the joy of discovery and the thrill of not getting caught are over. Lives are at stake, and childlike innocence is being lost. Politics is not a distant game played by adults, it is now a reality that is being shoved into their laps. Like little birds are pushed from the nest, the girls from Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies are about to be thrust out into the real world. Some will fall, but I’m fairly certain that Sophronia will spread her wings and fly.