ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE by Gail Carriger
Sophronia’s older sisters are refined and well-mannered Victorian ladies. But Sophronia is much more interested in climbing around in dumb waiters and tinkering with gadgets than more ladylike pursuits. So when a highly sought-after finishing school offers Sophronia a place at their academy, her mother ships Sophronia her off immediately. What her mother does not realize, however, is that Sophronia is a covert recruit to a finishing school that trains evil geniuses in espionage, assassination, and other fascinating arts–in addition to the requisite curtsying and handkerchief manipulation, of course. Sophronia’s curiosity and climbing skills thrust her into the middle of a skirmish between the school administrators, dangerous flywaymen, and her least favorite fellow pupil–the pompous Monique, who has stolen and hidden a very valuable prototype somewhere off school grounds. With help from her new school friends, the school’s young mechanics (the “sooties”), and her pet mechanimal (Bumbersnoot), Sophronia is determined to find the prototype before Monique or the flywaymen can get to it.
Set in an alternate 1850s England, this novel is part sci-fi and part fantasy. There is plenty of machinery to please steampunk fans, and some werewolves and vampires for those who prefer the supernatural. And for readers who enjoy stories about boarding school mischief (think the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter), it is a very fun read! I highly recommend it to middle grade and teen readers.