It’s always nice when the highly anticipated ending to a series is satisfying. (I still haven’t forgiven you, Mockingjay!) Manners & Mutiny, the final book in the Finishing School series, delivers on that front. The book assumes you’ve read the other three novels, and likewise I will assume you’ve read my other three reviews (Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and Waistcoats & Weaponry). All of the plots from the previous three books come to a head, and Sophronia must work with friends and suspected enemies alike to save the world from an evil conspiracy of the Picklemen.
There’s more on the line as the series draws to a close, and the prices paid are higher, so it’s a tad darker than the other books. It brings Sophronia’s school career to a logical if explosive close, and makes me hope for the further adventures of Sophronia and Soap. It also makes me want to rereadThe Parasol Protectorate series to see where exactly the Finishing School series fits in and where it overlaps!
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Violence and Death
There’s a plot to topple the government and take over England. With so much at stake, hurting and killing people is clearly how high the stakes have gone. Quite a number of unnamed characters die, sometimes due to things Sophronia does. She’s really not ok with this to the point of feeling physically ill when it happens, but the stakes are in fact that high and she does what she needs to do. When she can deal with someone without killing them, she does.
A minor character, an ally of Sophronia, blows herself up somewhat graphically to create a diversion and protect Sophronia. Sophronia is hurt pretty badly as the book goes on—her face is cut up, her shoulder is dislocated, she has two black eyes, and she hurts enough that it’s hard to keep going.
Professor Braithwope, a vampire, is used as target practice during class, but he’s quick enough to mostly evade the crossbow bolts, and he heals quickly. He’s tortured by the Picklemen, and they know how to harm a vampire. He sees every human as a potential meal and eats frequently.
After the accident a few books ago, Professor Braithwope is essentially mentally ill. Sophronia frequently wonders whether the school takes advantage of him, such as using him for target practice, and how much of a danger he poses to the students since he’s not always in control of himself.
Kissing, Cleavage, Nudity, and Marriage
Soap is very much in love with Sophronia, and now that he’s a werewolf and more her equal, he’s not shy about pursuing her. She still sees no future for them because no one would ever approve or accept their marriage. That doesn’t stop them from kissing a good bit, though, and she finds that very enjoyable. She refers to him as her “secret lover” even though all they’ve done is kiss pretty chastely.
In the end, she and Soap realize that there’s no need for them to marry. As intelligencers, they’ll be living in the shadows anyway and can be lovers with no one the wiser. Sophronia is relieved that she won’t have a husband who can control her life.
There’s a good bit of male nudity. When Professor Braithwope is tortured, he’s stripped naked and Sophronia needs to find clothes for him when she rescues him. When Soap turns human, he does so without clothes and has none to put on. Lord Akeldama is clearly appreciative of the view. Overall, though, male nudity is something to be politely ignored until it can be covered up again.
Cleavage is a pretty big deal. Agatha has developed enough that she has some fashion issues around keeping properly covered. Dimity has not developed to the point that she would like and has tried many ways to fix that. Sophronia wears a ball gown that’s more revealing than usual. She finds this both useful and annoying.
Sophronia continues to be more open-minded about this than her friends and teachers. When the school is taken over, most people are willing to leave the sooties to their fate. Sophronia, of course, refuses to abandon them. But Madame Geraldine realizes the usefulness of the sooties and in the end takes them under her wing—she will educate them if desired, helping one in particular become a medical doctor.
Loyalty and Betrayal
Sophronia realizes that she trusts very few people—she questions the motives of even her dearest friends. She worries that her education has left her unable to trust anyone. On the other hand, in this book we learn that almost no one is who they seem. Everyone has depths and secrets. Just because you don’t get along with someone doesn’t mean they aren’t your ally. Just because someone is your friend doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping secrets from you. Just because you’ve always assumed something about someone doesn’t mean it’s true. There were several revelations about characters that were fun and added to their complexity.
The punch at a school gathering is spiked with absinthe. Alcohol is consumed in moderation a few other times. When Professor Braithwope overeats, he ends up essentially intoxicated on blood.
You must read the first three novels before you read this one, but if you got this far, you definitely want to read this book. It is a bit darker and more violent than the previous books, but I doubt most fans of the series will have a problem with it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it makes me want to read and reread more of Gail Carriger’s books!
Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger
Published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
Final book in the Finishing School series, after Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and Waistcoats & Weaponry
Read the hardcover