An Explosive Finishing
Manners and Mutiny marks the fourth and final book in the Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger. It is a brilliant read! I still love Carriger’s style of writing. Sure the naming is a bit silly, the plots are ridiculous, and the characters are not the most real (some are dead after all!), but it is wonderfully well done. She is a perfect example of good writing. It is quirky, inventive and set in a world that is detailed and internally consistent. As a result I love her work.
I started with her first series, the Parasol Protectorate. While I might not love the name of the series, I did like the title of the first book: Souless. I was drawn to the strong female lead, the slightly odd manner of description (which is endlessly entertaining to read and reread), and the fantasy/steampunk world Victorian world. So, the undead and shapeshifters are not always my thing. And there are definitely elements that I am not fussed over, but when faced with great writing that draws you into the world and the characters, well nearly all else is forgiven.
I would have expected writing a new series, with even more mechanicals, set a couple decades before the author’s original series would be problematic at best. Not only was there more technology, but the leads were younger and the writing was more for YA than adults. I confess I might have had my doubts at the beginning (stated in previous post). Fortunately the author had a plan, one that came to glowing fruition in this final installment. Manners & Mutiny neatly concluded the story arc of that had been started four novels earlier with Etiquette & Espionage. It cleaned up all the necessary loose ends and it hinted (or blatantly explained) a number of connections these characters have with those in the Parasol Protectorate. It was remarkably well done.
So, what was it all about? Well, in Etiquette & Espionage, young Sophronia is shipped off to an unusual, floating (dirigible) finishing school for young ladies. A school where they learn to … well, finish. They are being trained as intelligencers – spies, assassins, that sort of thing. At school they learn how to take out, or at least take down, humans, werewolves and vampires alongside other important subjects like correct dress, dancing, flirtation, and of course code-breaking. All the important traits any young lady of good breeding ought to know when she is presented to society. Sophronia is a headstrong, resilient and very active girl. She easily gets herself into trouble, and nearly as often gets herself back out. But she is not without friends (from various parts of society), and those friendships help to define her and her choices. Manners & Mutiny sees Sophronia through the end of her school and sets the table for her future happenings.
Manners and Mutiny is simply another excellent example of superb writing. Gail Carriger has a strong, clear voice. She as a wonderfully quirky style of writing that is never boring to read. Her characters are alive with strengths and failings. The relationships are real and relevant in modern times. She does really well with the constraints of her Victorian society and doesn’t use this as a lazy reason to keep with the perceived status quo of fantasy writing. There is a discussion of skin colour and sexual orientation – it is masterfully handled and neither glaring nor so subtle to be missed.
This is an author whose books I would recommend – highly!