This book! This is why Goodreads need to give us half stars. This is not a three star book! Three stars, for me, is like, okay I guess I liked it, grudgingly. Or maybe I liked it but there something fundamentally wrong with it. Or maybe it’s really well written but it’s just not my thing. And four stars is: I liked it a lot and it was great! Nothing to complain about, but not my favorite, would read again. And this book fits into neither of those categories. I have some issues with it that are keeping me from giving it four stars. Three and a half stars is the perfect amount of stars.
GOODREADS, GIVE US HALF STARS.
It was nice being back in the Parasol Protectorate universe, though. I’m not sure why I waited so long! I loved that first series. It was cheeky and fun and full of Victorian inspired creepery and romance. This book, the first in Carriger’s YA Finishing School series, is actually a prequel set about twenty-two years before Soulless. Our main character is Sophronia Angelina Temminick (all the characters in these books have ridiculous names). She is a “covert recruit” (i.e. a muggle basically) who thinks she’s just off to a regular lady’s finishing school, and they do learn some of the traditional things, but they also learn to do other types of “finishing.” Cough cough, espionage, assassination, etc. One must always keep a secondary handkerchief in their décolletage, and one must also know which type of poison is best to slip into someone’s tea, and when to efficiently deploy one’s fainting.
I listened to the audiobook and it was really fun! I had a good time with it. But this was definitely a much slighter book than her previous series, and not just because it was YA. The only difference there is that there is less sexiness (and it was very light on the romance, too! which was refreshing). What I mean is that it was light on pretty much everything: plot, worldbuilding, premise. There was just enough of all three of those things for me to have a good time, but if there would have been more of each, I would have loved it.
For the plot, there just isn’t much at stake here. There’s a supposed issue with a prototype, but it wasn’t very compelling. Monique was also a lightweight antagonist, as were the “Flywaymen”, because their appearances were so sparse. Most of the worldbuilding actually came from the previous series. I’m not sure I would have felt as grounded and comfortable in the world without having read the Parasol Protectorate. And finally, this is a book about girls learning to be dangerous ladies, but there was barely any school in it! I like to see the training and the learning, and most of the book takes place off-hours. I just wish there had been a bit more depth, a bit more stakes to invest in, even if what was there I liked. (My two favorite things were that Sophronia has a mechanical pet wienerdog she calls Bumbersnoot, and she befriends a nine-year old Genevieve Lefoux, from the first series, and I love her so much.)
I will definitely finish out the series, and just hope that it deepens as it goes on.