By Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
To Sum It Up: When one of her closest friends receives disturbing news from home, Sophronia is set to do whatever she can to help. And so Sophronia and friends journey to Scotland, a trip that finds them on board a mysterious train carrying even more mysterious cargo. As an intelligencer in training, Sophronia is determined to discover the train’s secrets, as well as who is behind its existence in the first place.
Review: Another Finishing School novel, another fun, delightful read! Thanks to Gail Carriger’s distinctive writing style, these books are just so addictive. They never fail to make me laugh most heartily, and occasionally out loud. With Waistcoats and Weaponry, I found one line so hilarious that I actually pounded my fist on the table while cackling with laughter. Every time I start one of Carriger’s books, I know one thing for certain: I shall be amused!
This time, Sophronia, Dimity, and Sidheag go on an adventure outside the airship that is Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Sidheag receives some bad news from Scotland and wants to return home to the Kingair werewolf pack at once. The three girls, along with Soap and Lord Felix Mersey, wind up on a mysterious train that demands further investigation. This turns into one of the most, if not the most, dangerous missions that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s recruits have encountered thus far. It’s thrilling but also sobering, as one character’s path is altered irrevocably.
Fans of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series will be interested to see some of the Kingair pack’s backstory filled in here. I love any and all connections between that series and this one, especially the references to a certain werewolf lord and a certain vampire lord. I also love how strong the friendship between Sophronia, Dimity, Sidheag, and Agatha has become. Sidheag’s troubles are her friends’ troubles, and it’s touching to see the other three girls rally around her.
The love triangle between Sophronia, Soap, and Lord Mersey makes a move toward the forefront, and I have to say, I didn’t really care for its effect on Sophronia and Soap. Lord Mersey has always come across a little too suave for my liking, so this book didn’t change my feelings toward his character all that much. Soap, on the other hand, broods quite a bit in the novel, and jealousy over any interaction between Sophronia and Lord Mersey does not suit Soap at all. As for Sophronia, learning to perfect the fine arts of eyelash fluttering and longing looks may be part of her intelligencer training, but she’s rather heedless in her usage of them on the two boys. It takes a good while for her to realize that they’re not playing a game here; there are genuine feelings involved all-around. It’ll be interesting to see how the romance aspect resolves in the last book.
Love triangle aside, Waistcoats and Weaponry was rollicking good fun to read. Having binge read the first three Finishing School books now, I’m pretty bummed about having to wait for Manners and Mutiny. I’m really going to miss these characters in the meantime because I’ve grown so accustomed to spending time in their wonderful world of espionage, mechanicals, supernatural beings, Victorian manners, and, of course, tea. One can never forget the tea!
All in All: Waistcoats and Weaponry is every bit as enjoyable as its predecessors and has left me eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the series.