Manners & Mutiny is the fourth and final installment of The Finishing School series. The school in question is Madame Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Yong Ladies of Quality, a flying dirigible where the young lady students study manners and spycraft. The heroine is Sophronia Temminick who, along with her friends Agatha and Dimity, must save the school, London, and probably England from the evil pickle-themed villains, the Picklemen.
Much of the action concentrates on discovering and thwarting the Picklemen. There is much less classroom time than in previous novels, which is too bad. Those parts are usually pretty funny thanks to the character interactions and the actual contents of what is being taught. The pickle jokes are silly, but entertaining; they just aren’t enough to sustain the humor and wit that is a trademark of Carriger’s. In the grand finale, which involves crashing the school on the outskirts of London, Sophronia reunites with her nemesis Monique and the two finally seem to settle their differences, sort of (they basically agree that they hate each other but they’ll do their jobs even if it means working together). After the Picklemen are defeated, various characters go off to their futures, some of which are set forward more specifically than others.
Overall, this installment is a satisfactory conclusion to the series, with 2 exceptions. Some of the characters get less closure than others. I would really like to know what happens with Agatha and Pill (short for Pillover, Dimity’s brother), and there’s a reveal from Agatha that Sophronia doesn’t take very well. I would like to know if they made up about it or not. Nearly all the teachers get epilogues of some sort, as does Vieve (a girl who pretends to be a boy so she can study mechanical stuff at Bunsen and Lacroix’s Boy’s Ploytechnique, a school for budding evil geniuses). Sophronia’s friends don’t get this closure, even though Sophronia herself does.
This series is perfectly readable if you haven’t read Carriger’s 2 other series that are set in the same steam-punkish world. The biggest drawback would be missing some connections to characters from another series. For example, Sophronia spends time with her married sister who might just be the future mother of a key character from the original Parasol Protectorate series. I do get the feeling that I missed something in Sophronia’s final assignment. I feel like there is a similar connection being set up, but I’m just not sure. I might just have to go back a re-read the Parasol Protectorate series, and that’s not a bad problem.