Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
Narrative: First Person, Past Tense.
So, if in an alternate universe somebody decided to write me a book to make me smile, and asked what I wanted in it, A School for Unusual Girls would fit the wishlist pretty well.
An Alternate History, Regency England, Smart Girls, Paranormal Twists, Some Sweet Romance, and Pre-20th Century Science all wrapped into an Espionage novel! From start to end I had a giggly grin and eager eyes, because this book tickled a whole hoard of my favourite subjects and was pure joy from one page to the next. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let the serious go for a few hours!
I enjoyed Georgie’s character immensely. Her highs and lows, her smarts and her insecurities. I am finding myself getting blasé about all snarking, arse kicking YA characters at this stage, so to see Georgie’s brain at work, calculating, formulating, generally being extremely intelligent and then flip to worry about her looks or her tenuous situation, struck me as being incredibly true to life for many teenage girls. Hell, most woman really. In my opinion, writing in insecurities does not make a weak character or book, it just makes them more realistic, and I appreciate authors who take the time to give characters faces that don’t always show bravado.
Both Tess and Miss Stranje (who I admittedly pictured as a regency era Emily Strange throughout) also peaked my interest. Enough information was given about them to make them pretty well fleshed out characters, but enough held back to keep them mysterious and unpredictable. A precarious balance to keep, but kept very well throughout the book.
I was also quite interested Sebastian, but it may have been more for imagination candy more than his inquiring mind.. Yes, I really am that shallow occasionally!
The plot was nicely twisty and well paced. It moved forward quick enough to keep the pages turning, whilst not rushing past the more important interactions between characters. The writing is fluid and the dialogue kept close enough to the time period that it felt authentic, without getting too archaic that it might lose readers not interested in trying to process 19th century English.
The only real problem I encountered was with distinguishing between the other Stranje girls. I am not sure whether it was because they weren’t really given a large amount of attention, so I didn’t get a chance to create a connection with them that made them memorable, but there were times when I had to check back to see which one was which. There was a bit of ‘which one was Sara again?’. It started to rectify by the end when a bit more character exposition was added, but I did still have to stop and think harder than I wanted occasionally. I would say, that since the series looks like it will be taking the narrative of a different young lady in each book (I’m speculating due to the sample chapters of book #2 that were in Tess’ POV), they will start to take form in further books, but it was a slight sticking point in this instalment.
It will be interesting to see how many readers start looking up recipes for invisible ink after reading this book! (oh yes I did!) There’ll be a spate of blank missives being passed from hand to hand in the next few years! I will definitely be having some more sleep overs at Stranje House in the future!
I’d suggest this to those that are fans of Gail Carriger, especially her Finishing School series… It’s not a carbon copy, but it’s comparable.
Harcopy Worthy? Yup!