Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School, #3)

By Gail Carriger

Rating: 4 stars

There’s more frothy, fashion-filled fun as Sophronia and gang return for espionage and carrying themselves properly. This time Sophronia and her friends attend a pre-wedding party for Sophronia’s brother, and help Sidheag stowaway on a train heading back to Scotland to deal with a serious problem in her clan of werewolves.

As with the others, this is a huge amount of fun, even if Sophronia does spend a lot of it angsting over the two delicious boys who are fighting to fall at her feet. But we do get some respite from that with politics! The politics of this world are all about balance, trying to keep the differing supernatural and human factions equally disgruntled. And now there’s something that upsets that balance, and it’s up to Sophronia and friends to do something about it.

I’ve seen complaints that Sophronia is a Mary-Sue character. This might be right, but I’ve read enough golden age science fiction featuring “hero scientists” (Doc Smith and Heinlein, I’m looking at you!), to suspect that we’d not be having this conversation if the protagonist was male.

Tangentially related, I’ve recently got very into the Hugo, Girl podcast, and one of the segments they have is “boob talk”, where they talk about egregious descriptions of (usually) female characters. This has made me much more aware of it when I come across this in writing. Something that I might have not really paid attention to before now stands out quite a lot. There are a lot of references to Sophronia’s looks and figure here, which I guess makes sense in a series about a school for female spies – as Lady Linnette says, seduction as a tool of espionage has a long and (maybe) honourable history. Still, it was slightly uncomfortable to read, especially about a teenage girl.

Still, notwithstanding that, the book is hugely readable and a lot of fun. The status quo has been well and truly shaken up and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the final book.

Book details

Publisher: Atom
Year of publication: 2014

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