It's been a while since I've read such a delightful novel. And not only is this one great and good, I'm thrilled that there are several more books in this young adult series that I can read next. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is set in the same world as her adult Parasol Protectorate series (a combination steam punk/romance/paranormal series that is also super-fun). This YA entry takes place a number of years earlier and introduces Sophronia Angelina Temminnick. Sophronia is 14 years old and the despair of her mother who doesn't know what to do with a young lady who has more interest in climbing and dismantling mechanicals then she does in learning a proper curtsey. Nothing will serve but to send Sophronia to a finishing school. But unbeknownst to Sophronia's mother, the school she's chosen teaches a lot more then etiquette.
Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not the dread experience that Sophronia fears. Instead she begins to thrive amidst lessons on poisons and flirting and self-defense against vampires and werewolves. Though she has difficulty with her eyelash-fluttering, Sophronia more then makes up for it in other ways. When she discovers there's a mystery involving a missing prototype, Sophronia throws herself into the investigation utilizing all that she's learning in the process.
This novel was just fun to read beginning to end. I've seen other reviewers compare Sophronia to Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce, and I can see that. But she reminded me more of another plucky girl protagonist, Anne Shirley. Like Anne, Sophronia comes at every situation in a head-on, straightforward way. And her wry wit serves her well when she screws up. And like Anne, nothing daunts her. There's always a way. Adding to the appeal of Sophronia is Carriger's well-imagined steampunk(ish) world. The imaginative inventions and gadgets meld seamlessly with the sensibilities of a late 19th century England. I'm already eager to see what she comes up with in the sequel, Curtsies & Conspiracies.