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Literature / The Finishing School Series

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Sophronia Temminnick in all her intelligencer glory.

The Finishing School series is set in the same world as The Parasol Protectorate, only 25 years earlier, and features a finishing academy located in a giant caterpillar-like dirigible floating over Dartmoor in which young ladies are taught to ... finish everything and everyone, as needed. There is steampunk etiquette! There is well-dressed espionage! There is Victorian fake food! There is a mechanical sausage dog named Bumbersnoot! The first book, Etiquette & Espionage, released Feb 5, 2013, was an instant New York Times Bestseller.

The series concerns an unconventional young girl, Sophronia Temminnick, who is sent to a finishing school by her mother after an incident at home. At first despondent, Sophronia changes her mind when she realizes that they do not just teach manners at Mademoiselle Geraldine's, but espionage. Quite delighted, she stays on and embarks on many adventures.


There are four books in the series:

  • Etiquette & Espionage
  • Curtsies & Conspiracies
  • Waistcoats & Weaponry
  • Manners & Mutiny


  • Academy of Adventure: Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School. It's even located in an airship.
  • Action Fashionista: The majority of Mademoiselle Geraldine's girls.
  • Action Girl: Sophronia, Sidheag, Monique, Lady Linette and many others in the school.
  • Afraid of Blood: Dimity faints at the sight of it.
  • Alliterative Title: Every book in the series.
  • Alpha Bitch: Monique de Pelouse, full stop.
  • Arranged Marriage: Late in Waistcoats & Weaponry, the dewan does this for Sidheag and Captain Niall, although they're still only engaged, because by society's standards a young, unmarried woman cannot live with a werewolf pack, with no blood relatives around anymore.
  • Big Eater: Pillover was quite delighted at how nicer the food was at Mademoiselle Geraldine's compared to Bunson's.
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  • Big Friendly Dog: Captain Niall ties his hat to his head so it won't fall off when he transforms in his werewolf form for this very purpose. On their first meeting, the provincial Sophronia is quite frightened at first but then she sees the hat and recognizes the Captain.
  • Bitch Alert: Monique's introduction scene. Sophronia has a feeling that she is being sneered at, and she is right.
  • Black Widow: Preshea desperately wants to become one. She's already plotting how to best kill her first husband.
  • Blue Blood: Most of the girls in the school are gentry, if not nobility outright. The Bunson boys play it straighter, having the sons and heirs of noblemen in their ranks. Felix, a Viscount and heir to a Dukedom, is the main example.
  • Book on the Head: Used during poise classes, as can be seen in the trailer of the second book.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Sidheag Maccon is a major character in the first three books, and her and Captain Niall's departure from the series are directly connected to the off-page events, first mentioned in The Parasol Protectorate, regarding how Conall Maccon came to London and took over the Woolsey Pack.
    • Genevieve "Vieve" Lefoux and her aunt Beatrice play major roles. Beatrice did mention in Heartless that Sidheag used to be a student of hers.
    • The prototype everyone is after in book 1 is for the crystalline valves used in aethographic transmitters, a prominent form of communications in The Parasol Protectorate.
    • At the end, Sophronia becomes Alexia Tarabotti's governess as her latest assignment, nodding to a mention in Blameless about a really fantastic governess she used to have as a child. It's also implied that she's the soon-to-be aunt of Alexia's Muggle Best Friend Ivy.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Bladed fans are one of the many weapons Mademoiselle Geraldine's trains its girls to use. Sophronia turns out to be a natural, and considers making it her Weapon of Choice.
  • Damsel in Distress: Dimity in the second book, several times.
  • Dances and Balls: It is Victorian England. One coming out ball for a debutante in each book so far.
  • Dark Action Girl: Monique de Pelouse. Her minion Preshea seems to be heading toward it as well.
  • Emergency Transformation: With vampires and werewolves integrated into society in this world, it's bound to happen eventually. Such as to Soap, when nearly killed in a fight. The nearby werewolf isn't incined to attempt changing a low-born, untrained boy into a werewolf, but Sophronia offers her services as a spy/assassin as soon as she finishes school in return.
  • Fake Faint: Students of Mademoiselle Geraldine's are taught how to faint graciously, and the right times to do so.
  • Faint in Shock: Dimity faints for real every time she sees blood.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Bunson boys and graduates tend to really hate vampires and werewolves. But mostly vampires. One particular vampire becomes the victim of a hate crime.
  • Fille Fatale: Preshea.
  • Flirting Under Fire: Sophronia and Felix when the former is dealing with wannabe kidnappers.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Those who've read The Parasol Protectorate and recognize the names of Sidheag and Captain Niall will not be surprised by the off-page events involving Lord Maccon that lead to their departure from the series in Waistcoats & Weaponry.
    • Tied in with Ludd Was Right, in The Parasol Protectorate, household mechanicals are nowhere to be seen, but in this prequel they're very common. So, why the change?
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the first book, when Professor Braithewope (a vampire) wants to know what Sophronia was thinking during their first class, she tells him she was wondering about him and his tether to the airship. She further muses out loud, wondering what would happen to him if he fell off the airship and outside the range of his tether and whether or not he will die. In book two, he DOES fall out of the airship from an extreme height, his tether snaps, and the combination of the fall and snap leaves him near-dead. Though he does survive, the snap left him completely insane, and he never recovers. And it's at least partially Sophronia's fault.
    • In book 3, Soap tells Sophronia he's thinking about becoming a claviger, and maybe being turned into a werewolf. At the end, he's subjected to an emergency transformation into such to save his life.
  • Fur Against Fang: In the first book, there's a fight between the vampire Professor Braithwope and the werewolf Captain Niall. It's full moon, and Braithwope has to hold off the moonstruck Niall so that the students returning from seeing a play can get back onboard the school safely.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Vieve and her aunt. Most of the boys at Bunson's Polytechnic Institute.
  • Girly Bruiser: Both Sophronia and Monique.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Captain Niall uses his top hat for this purpose at the climax of Waistcoats & Weaponry when he realizes Sophronia is present during a confrontation with Picklemen.
  • Hidden Depths: All over the place, due to being set in an espionage school.
    • Mademoiselle Geraldine is in fact aware of the true nature of her school, and is just as capable as the other teachers.
    • Agatha is in service to Lord Akeldama, and has been since the beginning.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: The main reason of Felix, Lord Mersey's attraction to Sophronia. She is the only young lady that ignores and scorns him due to him being the heir to a duke.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: A significant amount of their training is teaching the girls how to operate while wearing the finest Victorian ball gowns, using extremely decorative and secretly bladed fans or tiny daggers and pistols.
  • Lady of War: What all the students aspire to become. Sidheag especially fits this trope.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Mademoiselle Geraldine has no idea that her own school is a training ground for spies and assassins, and keeping it that way is part of the curriculum. Except that Book 4 reveals that she was in on it the whole time, and is herself a fully capable intelligencer.
  • Ludd Was Right: The Picklemen plot involves reprogramming the bulk of Britain's mechanicals, causing them to turn against their masters. When the plot is thwarted, instead of coming up with proper safeguards the British just destroy all their mechanicals and refuse to use the technology.
  • Master Poisoner: Sister Mattie, who teaches the girls to be the same.
  • The Millstone: Dimity tends to faint in every action scene.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: The Mademoiselle Geraldine's girls are far more useful in a a conflict than the Bunson boys. The girls are specifically taught to finish just about anyone and anything.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Captain Niall is almost always in some state of undress.
  • Mundane Utility: The mechanimal Bumbersnoot, who can fly and be used to smuggle the occasional MacGuffin, also makes a lovely legwarmer.
  • Nice Hat: Captain Niall's ever-present top hat, which has straps to tie it onto his head so it stays on even if he's changing form.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Many of the students are wealthy to various degrees, and they are all learning to become spies.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Mademoiselle Geraldine is not at all the oblivious woman she seems to be. Far from it.
  • One-Gender Race: Vampires come close to this, as a male is far more likely to survive the change than a female. But since only females can become hive queens, it balances out. Werewolves come even closer, as barely one woman in a century survives metamorphosis.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When Soap is shot and dying in Waistcoats & Weaponry, Dimity does not faint despite there being someone bleeding, noting that the situation is too serious for fainting.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Only the females, called vampire queens, can turn humans. And all vampires are bound by their tethers to their territories.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: All of them go batshit insane at full moon, and they are all required to serve in the military. And as with vampires, only an Alpha can create new werewolves.
  • Perfect Poison: Foxglove seems to be in this universe, likely due to the lack of sufficient advancements in medicine.
  • Prequel: To The Parasol Protectorate.
  • Proper Lady: What Dimity and Agatha would rather be. Alas, family legacy demands otherwise. Sophronia's sisters and mother.
  • Put on a Bus: In book 3, Sidheag and Niall leave because they have to manage the Kingair Pack. Soap, meanwhile, is grievously wounded in a fight, and Sophronia persuades the dewan to change him into a werewolf, so he has to go off to learn how to be one.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The series reads very differently once you know that Mademoiselle Geraldine knows about the school's true nature and is a full intelligencer, and that Agatha has been an active agent in service to Lord Akeldama since before she arrived at the school.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The little boy Vieve is revealed to be little girl Genevieve.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: The girls are not just taught espionage and assassination, but etiquette and ladylike graces as well.
  • Shear Menace: The girls are trained to use sewing scissors as a weapon, partly because they're innocuous and easily concealed.
  • Shrinking Violet: Agatha, much to the consternation of her parents.
  • Stern Teacher: Professor Lefoux.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Sidheag has very distinctive golden-yellow eyes, and is related to werewolves.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver:
    • Vieve eventually gets herself into Bunson's, a boy's school for mad scientists, as "Gaston" Lefoux.
    • During the train business in Waistcoats & Weaponry, Sophronia, Dimity and Sidheag disguise themselves as boys. The latter is the most convincing at it.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: The sootie Soap, full name Phineas B. Crow. Lord Felix and Captain Niall.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Sidheag Maccon and Captain Niall, although mainly after they've both left Madame Geraldine's.
  • Team Pet: The mechanimal Bumbersnoot. Not only cute, but he also is very useful to Sophronia.
  • Teen Superspy: Sophronia is well in her way to become one.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sophronia and Dimity, but Sophronia has her girly side too. A better example would be Sidheag contrasted to all the other girls in her dormitory.
  • Tsundere: Dimity toward Lord Dingleproops. Also Sophronia toward Lord Felix.
  • Uptown Girl: Soap, aka Phineas B. Crow the sootie, has an intense attraction to Sophronia, who is the daughter of landed gentry.
  • When She Smiles: Sophronia has quite a lovely smile.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Monique has icy blonde hair and is quite selfish and ruthless.
  • World of Action Girls: Mademoiselle Geraldine's seems to churn them out by the hundreds.
  • Wrench Wench: Genevieve Lefoux, aged about 10 and going by Vieve. Also her aunt, Professor Lefoux.