Edition 24: Book Review: Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carrier
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
Since my review of the first in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series back in Edition 8 of SQ Mag, I’ve loyally followed the misadventures of Sophronia Temminick aboard an airship finishing/espionage school. Our young heroine has learned quite a bit of deadly, yet mannerly knowledge since books two and three. She’s experienced both success and failure in trying to stop the nefarious deeds of various enemies. Now we come to the end, in a fourth book that wraps up the story quite nicely with exploding pastries, werewolves, and Picklemen. Oh my.
Manners & Mutiny picks up shortly after book three’s end. Sophronia’s unconventional romance with the former sootie Soap now seems doomed from what transpired in that installment. I won’t go into specifics so as not to offer spoilers (I hate those!). But I will tell you that she’s quite heartbroken and guilty for the choices that she made. We haven’t seen the last of Soap, thankfully, as he does play a rather important role in helping Sophronia interrupt a dastardly plot. Their longtime enemies, the Picklemen, have infiltrated Madame Geradine’s airship school with plans to take control of the country’s many mechanical devices—this is steampunk after all—so they may overthrow the English government.
Throughout the escalating conflict, Sophronia shows an impressive maturity at being able to differentiate friend versus foe. She’s also improved her ability to formulate the best possible plan of attack by thinking things through and weighing the risks. This is refreshing, as before most of her actions seemed more trial and error. The author did a fantastic job of showing how Sophronia has grown through her time at the finishing school, although it seems only a couple years at most have passed.
Like the last couple of books in the series, the first half of this one dragged. It’s loaded with a lot of details and, as before, a whole slew of inner thoughts from Sophronia that became rather tedious to read. More balance between narrative and dialogue would have made for a smoother read, but at the halfway point, the action picked up and kept me flipping the pages.
Had it not been for the incredibly well-done final battle toward the end, the series would have ended on a sour and somewhat boring note. What can I say? I’m quite the fan of a good battle, especially when exploding pastries are involved. Many notorious characters from the earlier books come back in the midst of the takeover, including the gorgeous but deadly Monique and Felix, son of a prominent Pickleman and former competitor for Sophronia’s hand. Even poor vampire Professor Braithwope, who’d been rendered quite mad in an earlier book, was given a remarkable role in foiling the enemy’s plans. I love seeing familiar faces return in a series, though I greatly missed Sophronia’s Scottish schoolmate Sidheag, who I kept hoping would make at least a cameo appearance.
Sadly, I didn’t see nearly enough of Soap, as I think his particular circumstances kept him out of the setting, and any more involvement on his part would have been inconsistent with the story. The author may have unintentionally written him into a corner by putting him in that situation, but she did her best to give him proper attention, all things considered. Being the romantic that I am, I enjoyed the rekindling of his relationship with Sophronia and am happy with how that aspect worked out in the end.
As far as fitting into the series, this final installment did a bang-up job of wrapping things up, though I’m a bit disappointed in that there is a great deal of potential to keep this series going. The world within which Madame Geraldine’s airship school floats is a complex one full of rich settings, outlandish steampunk devices and fascinating characters.
Should Ms. Carriger be so kind as to write a spinoff series, I’ll be snatching it up like the last buttered crumpet at teatime. If you have yet to read this series and enjoy steampunk that’s appropriate for middle grade and beyond, do give it a try. Please note that these are not standalone stories, so you should begin with Etiquette & Espionage and read on from there.
Manners and Mutiny, by Gail Carrier
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015
Mysti Parker is a wife, mother, and shameless chocoholic. While her first love is romance, including the Tallenmere fantasy romance series and an award-winning historical with EsKape Press, she enjoys writing flash fiction (the weirder the better) and children’s stories. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband, three children and too many pets.