I never imagined how much I could like a book that is deemed "steampunk," but this series literally has me turning page after page, not wanting to put the book down, yet, at the same time, not wanting it to end. The first two books in the Finishing School series were good, and they firmly established these lively, adventurous characters - Sophronia, Dimity, Sidheag, Soap, and so many others. The author, Gail Carriger, creates such vibrant personalities for each one, that they are all unforgettable.
Waistcoats & Weaponry picks up some time after the conclusion of the previous book. Lessons continue on Mademoiselle Geraldine's floating finishing school. Only, this time around, the school only plays a very small portion of the story, as Sighead and her family (or should I say, "pack") take centerstage. The Kingair pack is in trouble, having committed treason to the British empire. Sidheag is afraid of what will happen to her pack, and although she is not a werewolf, these are her uncles, and she can't leave them to their fate. Sophronia, our ever true heroine, along with her trusty sidekick Dimity, as well as that sly little sootie, Soap, and the brazen Lord Mersey, set off to help her get to Scotland to be with her family.
This is adventure in grand style, and with Carriger's typical humor, fine manners, and deadly fights (all the while maintaining all lady-like modesty), it is a true treat to read. The story moves fast, so the 298 pages was almost like nothing. As the characters age in the story, they also mature and change. Sophronia fights to figure out her feelings for both Lord Mersey and Soap - the first insufferable but of equal class, the second more understanding yet beneath her station. Dimity struggles to overcome her fear of the world of spies and intelligencers into which she has been thrust, still wanting more than anything to marry well and settle down. Soap takes chance after chance in not only letting his feelings for Sophronia be known, but also revealing his desire to move up in station and put himself in a position where he could win Sophronia's heart in normal society. And Lord Mersey - - well, let's just say that some people just can't help but be who and what they are.
Since the book is written for young adults, Carriger maintains a certain level of modesty - for when the werewolves shift back to human, as can be expected, they are naked. But the author never deals in much detail (although there is certainly plenty of innuendo and insinuation). And while there is certainly some violence (gun fights, hand-to-hand combat, train destruction), the gruesome details are kept to a minimum - and a certain werewolf situation at the end occurs off-screen (as the main characters do not witness it, so neither does the reader).
This is definitely a series I would recommend - it's not a mystery, per se, but it is filled with intrigue, mystery, and some soap opera elements mixed with humor that will hold a reader's interest and make a reader smile.
RATING: 9 steel-bladed fans out of 10 for proving that fashion accessories can be useful, as well as deadly.