Finishing School Series
Tofa Borregaard under the pen name Gail Carriger writes Regency romance, steampunk, and paranormal fiction. (See the discussion of her The Parasol Protectorate series in the Romance Novels post.) In the Finishing School series she adds a school setting and teenagers to the mix. This new series which starts in 1851 England is a prequel by 25 (22?) years to the The Parasol Protectorate series. While both series appeal to and are appropriate for both adults and teens, the lead characters in the Finishing School series are young teens while the other series has no primary teen characters. Though there are characters who appear in both series, either series may be read first – but do not read the volumes in a series out of order! Since five-volume The Parasol Protectorate series is complete, I recommend starting with that series even though it occurs later chronologically.
Etiquette & Espionage
Class, gender, and race prejudices are much more predominant issues (and in that order) than those of species. Sophronia, the main protagonist, is in the middle: country-bred, part of the gentry class but not titled, largely self-educated (going through the pedestrian, limited range of topics in her father’s library), and of the female persuasion – but lacking the refined feminine wiles that would enable her to succeed in her family’s natural social setting. To rectify the latter, Sophronia is sent packing by the end of the first ‘Lesson’ (Chapter) to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. She quickly finds herself at the low end of the scale in two other areas: as a ‘covert recruit’ – someone who did not grow up in a family used to covert activities and who still believes vampires and werewolves to be myths – she is viewed as being akin to a charity case, and as a ‘debut’ (freshman, essentially) she is lowest in seniority.
As Tofa Borregaard observes in her blog, while her series include vampires and werewolves (among other supernatural beings), they do not include magic. Instead they amplify the scientific experimentation occurring in England at that time. However, I do question the representation of almost all the engineers (or at least wannabe engineers) as amoral and at least vaguely sinister. Further, some of the students at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s and at the associated school for young men come from ‘evil’ families and though Sophronia and her close friends doubt their capacity for murder and mayhem, other students do not seem to have the same reservations – but this somewhat compromises the nature of the Academy and of the boys’ school (or at least of the Academy’s association with the boys’ school (particularly in light of the subsequent acts of murder and mayhem in the later series)… this is not covert operations training in the unequivocally altruistic fashion of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Academy for girl spies (set in contemporary times).
The aforementioned are minor quibbles when weighed against sprightly dialog, engaging characters, and a logical plot (in the context of Victorian England with paranormal and steampunk elements).
The notable crossover characters in this volume are: Professor Beatrice Lefoux and her niece Genevieve (nine years old in this volume), werewolf and professor (instructor?) Captain Niall, and fellow ‘debut’ (student) Sidheag, (human) offspring of a long line of werewolves… Now I need to reread The Parasol Protectorate series to see if more characters from this volume make an appearance.
Curtsies & Conspiracies
Volume 2 follows Sophronia into her second year of finishing school. November 2013 publication date. Given that finishing school was typical one or two years in length, is it safe to assume that this Volume will not go to the end of Sophronia’s second year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy?
Final volume planned for this series.
Celia and Kate
A series set in early 1800’s England in a universe in which sorcery exists (though not paranormal beings). Written by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.
Sorcery & Celia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot is a cream puff rather than a souffle, this book is light and sweet without falling flat by the end. The narrative form, a dialog entirely in letters, avoids the pitfalls of annoying pretentiousness and indistinct voices. The correspondents are cousins from the same village, one of whom has gone to London for her first season. Both are “young ladies of quality” – and both possess talents uncovered during the course of the story. The chocolate pot of the title is a focus in more ways than one – though I was misled into thinking that the story would have more to do with chocolate. I checked on a reference to a Mexican blue dress and found a La Belle Assemblee from April 1817 with a reference to a “High round dress of Mexican blue reps silk, elegantly ornamented with rich white silk Peruvian trimming”.
The Grand Tour follows Celia and Kate on their honeymoons with their respective husbands and Lady Sylvia as told through their diaries. Knitting enthusiasts will get all wrapped up in the method for knitting coded messages. The villains and the scuttling of their plans were not as satisfying in this book as the first, but the Continental setting – including attending operas (not well known to contemporary audiences) at La Scala in Venice – is a nice change from London.
The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After – as the title suggests – follows further adventures of the two couples now well-settled into family life. In this volume we get not only the exchange of letters between the two (female) cousins, but also their respective husbands. The story makes a very interesting connection between ley lines, the growth of the railroads in England at the start of the Industrial Age, stone circles (think Stonehenge), and political stability and slow, deliberative legislation. A nice companion to the other books – but probably best read after reading the first two.
Cirencester road; social vade mecum, pied-a-terre, Mayfair, Darlington, Goosepool, Stockton, Stockton and Darlington Railway, Manchester – Liverpool railway line, stone circle the Dancing Weans, Haliwar Tower, Royal College, Theodore Daventer, House of Lords and Parliament, Stroud, Duchess of Kent (and her daughter Drina / Alexandrina), Kensington Palace
Books by Darren Shan
The Demonata series
CNP liked this series even better than the Cirque du Freak series.
Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising Series
Two trilogies by the prolific paranormal writer Kelley Armstrong feature teenagers coming into their powers – but with the addition of evil and not-so-evil DNA-manipulating scientists. Each trilogy needs to be read in order and, for a fuller understanding of the references to Cabals and the various types of paranormals, in sequence with other novels, novellas, and short stories in Armstrong’s canon. The novels are a fast read – especially if you skip over the romantic and parental relationship angst. I much prefer Armstrong’s teen angst over her adult version (especially amongst the werewolves) – her characters who don’t take themselves too seriously and who have a healthy dose of self-confidence are vastly more entertaining. Since the trilogies each take place over a matter of a few weeks, the characters don’t have time for the emotional growth that comes from reflection and introspection; they acquire new powers – akin to hitting puberty – and are battle-tested, but that doesn’t create the wisdom of experience. The Reckoning, the third book in the Darkest Powers trilogy, leaves the reader hanging; it ends but not in a very satisfying fashion – though the characters do reappear at the end of the Darkness Rising trilogy in a more satisfying conclusion.
Enthralled is a collection of short stories written by female writers featuring paranormal teens. I picked it up for Kelley Armstrong’s story which picks up one of the threads after The Reckoning, the third book in the Darkest Powers trilogy. Some of the stories left me cold but on the whole it’s a worthwhile read – especially the story in poem form which I almost passed over but fortunately read straight through to the end… even if it did cause me to tear up.
Because It Is My Blood has an interesting premise – in the near future in a dystopian America chocolate is a banned substance. The central character is interesting so long as she’s separated from her love interest. Hopefully the dopey rich-boy boyfriend bites the dust (figuratively) in subsequent adventures.
(See the Teen Manga post.)