I had the fortune of attending the L.A. Times’ Festival of Books a few weeks ago. While there, I stumbled upon the booth of Mysterious Galaxy, an indie genre bookstore. After the show I ordered today’s book from their website and their service was FANTASTIC. I ordered on Saturday, got confirmation on Sunday – along with a note that showed they read MY note and the book showed up on Thursday with a handwritten thank you note. They also have a series of interesting book clubs called the Fantastic Firsts where they, approximately once a month send you the first edition (often signed) of what they think is a great title for the genre. It is a year long commitment and you do get 20% off for joining. You do, however have to pay full shipping on each book and it is on the expensive side (starting at $7 for medial mail in a padded envelope to $10+ for a box). Really, the only complaint I can make is that generally speaking you’ll have to pay full price for the books because it is an indie, but the service does make up for it. I highly suggest giving them a once over if you’re looking for something new to read. They can be found here: Mysterious Galaxy.
I bring them up because today’s book was their YA Fabulous First selection for the month of February.
Etiquette & Espionage is about a 14 year-old girl named Sophronia, the youngest tom-boy daughter of a minor country noble who is a bit of a tom-boy. Her mom, fed up with her ill manners ships her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. It just turns out that in addition to the normal finishing school topics – etiquette, dancing, languages and the like – they also teach finishing – spy work and assassination skills. And the tail is the first few months of her time in this school. The protagonist is plucky and intelligent and very likable and the author surrounds her with a fun cast of characters in and interesting environment that all adds up to a fun read with some witty dialogue.
If I were to have any complaints about the book is that the world feels over-busy. There is heavy steam-punk elements at play, and the usual pseduo-Victoriana that tends to come along with it. On top of this there are vampires and werewolves. While the supernatural elements didn’t necessarily detract from the book, I don’t know that they added much either. To be fair, although this is the author’s first YA novel, it’s not her first book and she set it in her Parasol Protectorate series and maybe if I had the background knowledge of the world they’d feel less tacked on.
All in all though, my complaints are pretty trivial and I really had an enjoyable time with this book and look forward not only to the next book, but I might even go check out her adult titles. Unless you’re just not a fan of steam punk, I can give this an easy recommendation.
Verdict: Buy It