A Finishing School where the ladies become spies?
An organization of like-minded humans, supernaturals and metanaturals defending the innocent and wearing only the most fashionable accessories at the same time?
A ladybug painted dirigible that travels the world searching for and protecting new supernaturals unheard about in the British Empire?
Ah, yes. An ode to Gail Carriger. Oh, Gail Carriger, how I love you. Every time I read your books, I feel like I’m being wrapped in a warm – if slightly awkward – hug.
So, where to start. At the beginning, yes.
So. Many years ago, I picked up the book, Etiquette and Espionage. I had read somewhere that it was a great steampunk YA book. That’s all I knew about it. I was down to give that a try. So I did.
But, it didn’t resonate with me. I think my exact wording of my review on Goodreads was, “I couldn’t get into it because it made no sense to me that the main character had no clue what was going on at that school.” It had been clear to me that it was a school to educate spies (or intelligencers as they are called in Victorian times) and that it was a world where vampires and werewolves are not only out in society, but are called upon to teach the new generation of intelligencers. Why was Sophronia – the main character – so obtuse? I put the book down in defeat.
Boy, how I wish I had pushed through. I will come to eat those words – with a spot of tea on the side.
Fast forward to last year. I decided I could no longer listen to the news during my daily commute and I turned to audiobooks. I found a great review for the book, Prudence, and I thought, “I’ll give it a shot.”
What a gem! What a delight! I could not get over how adorable this book is. The reader, Moira Quirk (what an appropriate name for this quirky book. Sorry about the pun. Ok, not sorry) does a phenomenal job really digging into each of the characters. I loved the oddball characters, the steampunk setting, and the wry humor. I plowed through the whole series and then went back and read ALL of her books (in both print AND audio – that’s how obsessed I am)!
Now, here’s where I bet you’re waiting on the edge of your seat. “Cheryl,” you must be thinking, “You went back and read them all? I need that first book. Prudence. Consider it added to my TBR pile. I’ll definitely be reading it with my next cup of tea. Tell me about it!”
Not so fast, honey. Here’s where you must learn from my mistakes, Grasshopper.
This book, Prudence, and the three others that follow in the Custard Protocol series are the THIRD series that Ms. Carriger has written in the same universe. What would have been helpful to me, would have been to have read them in a different order.
Oopsy. My bad.
To be clear, you don’t HAVE to read them in the correct order. I certainly didn’t and knew while reading them which parts clearly referenced something that I had missed from another book. It didn’t bother me at all… until I went back and read the previous book. Then it was like a lightbulb went off.
See, the correct order for the series’ is:
- Finishing School (Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoat and Weaponry, and Manners and Mutiny) – takes place in the 1850s
- The Parasol Protectorate (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless) – takes place in the 1870s
- Custard Protocol (Prudence, Imprudence, Competence, and Reticence) – takes place in the 1890s
Plus a slew of novellas for in-between. And she’s not done yet.
After I plowed through the Custard Protocol, I actually had to crowdsource on Twitter what I should do next! I knew I’d read them out of order and needed advice as to which series to read next. Especially since many characters appear in more than one series. Gail Carriger has a whole Wiki devoted to her universe. Don’t be like me.
Let me tell you about each series and you can be the decider of your own fate*!
*or which order you should read them in – because you should absolutely read them all!
This series follows Sophronia Temminnick as she is drafted into Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality (or “Qual-i-tay” as Mlle. Geraldine emphatically says). This is a school to train new intelligencers and Sophronia will have to navigate all the drama of being a teenage girl in finishing school (and all that entails: Boys! Mean girls! Espionage against teachers!) while handling plots against the British empire. This was the hardest series for me to get into, if i’m being honest – but also the one where I’m most curious about the fates of all the characters. (Seriously, Gail… Felix Mersey? Monique de Poulouse? Lord Dingleproops? Pillover Plumleigh-Teignmott? I GOTTA KNOW!!)
Alexia Tarabotti (later Maccon) is the star of this series. She is a no-nonsense preternatural (this means that she can negate a supernatural’s – both vampire and werewolf – power with a single touch) who find herself constantly being hunted down by a variety of supernatural creatures, scientific secret societies, and/or the Templars to be researched or killed. Her group of friends, including the hat-crazy Ivy, rove vampire Lord Akeldama, and the inventor Genevieve Lefoux, as well as her husband – the werewolf Conall Maccon, all help Alexia maintain order and balance throughout the British empire.
Following the adventures of Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (aka Rue), whose birth is a main storyline in the Parasol Protectorate, while she captains a ladybug painted dirigible given to her as a birthday present from her adoptive father – Lord Akeldama. She enlists her friends (and frenemies) Primrose and Percy Tunstell (the children of Alexia’s friend, Ivy) and Quesnel Lefoux (Genevieve’s son… see above) to join her crew while she traverses the world looking for new supernaturals, yet to be discovered.
I’m purposefully not giving too much away. I am still reading (and re-reading the series). I finished my last full length novel (Timeless – the last in the Parasol Protectorate) a week ago and have started on the novellas. I am trying to be good and dole them out slowly because I do not know what I will do when I have no more to read. And frankly, I might revisit specific series (or individual books) on this blog, just because they are wonderful.
Please, Gail. I beg of you! Never stop writing. Now everyone, get reading! And beware of the Wicker Chicken.