Sophronia Temminick is undeniably and unattractively inquisitive for an aspiring lady, and is sent of to a finishing school with a most exciting and distinctly unfinished outcome. Sophronia Angelina Temminick, 14 years old and painfully curious, is emerging from a previously operational dumbwaiter to survey the damage she caused by a flying trifle when she is summoned by her exasperated mother to the family drawing room. Upon her arrival, she finds her mother in conversation with a most intriguing lady, who claims to be the headmistress at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. After a brief, and primarily one-sided discourse with her mother, Sophronia is packed up and sent off with the mysterious headmistress to finishing school, in the hopes of finally becoming a lady.
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Sophronia thusly embarks on a carriage ride with her new headmistress, and two other passengers, a brother and sister named Dimity and Pillover respectively. While on the road to the undisclosed location of her new school and temporary home, the carriage is attacked by a troupe of flywaymen, unscrupulous thieves who ransack the passengers' luggage in search of something only referred to as "the prototype". When the headmistress fails to act and is dragged unceremoniously from the carriage, it us to Sophronia to commandeer the situation. With prodigious skill, she rescues the hysterical headmistress and spirits all parties away safely and once again en route to her new finishing academy. Once Pillover is delivered to his school for evil geniuses, the girls continue on to their own academy, which turns out to be a dirigilbe, a steam powered hot air ballon of sorts that floats ceaselessly above the moor.
Once delivered to the actual school by way of a helpful werewolf, Sophronia and Dimity are informed of the true identity of the headmistress who is not, in fact, the girl with whom they had ridden in the carriage. That girl is identified as Monique, an older student whose beauty is surpassed only by her own opinion of herself. While Monique attempts to take all the credit for Sophronia's audacious escape, Dimity and Sophronia are adjusting to attending a floating finishing academy. There are mechanicals, robots that trundle along tracks and serve as maids and butlers, a vampire professor who is well-versed in the appropriate manner of dressing, and three female professors, whose jobs involve teaching the delicate art of ladylike behavior as well as instructing the girls on the benefits of eyelash batting, well-timed fainting and other apparent frivolities. Being of a naturally inquisitive nature, Sophronia soon finds herself exploring the more unsavory parts of the school such as the boiler room, and thus making a few less than choice acquaintances. Among these are the colored "sootie" called Soap, and the alarming crossdressing Vieve, niece of one of the professors, and unfortunately disposed to the habit of wearing men's clothing.
One evening, while all of the students and the majority of the professors are attending a play, Sophronia, Soap, and Vieve go on an adventure to the neighboring school for evil geniuses in hopes of laying eyes on the machine which the fabled "prototype" is needed to operate. There, the trio bumps into Pillover, and the quartet ascend to the roof where they observe what is an aethographic transmitter, a fabulous invention that would allow wireless communication between parties miles and miles away. Returning to the floating academy before the other girls return from their evening exploration of the theater, Sophronia finds her way blocked by a werewolf in the throes of moon madness. Cleverly escaping and returning to her room, Sophronia and Dimity discuss the evenings jaunts and conspire to get their hands on the prototype, discrediting the impossible Monique while receiving accolades for their exemplary execution of etiquette and espionage.
When the winter break rolls around, Sophronia invites Dimity to her home to attend her sister's coming out ball. Monique who will also be in attendance accompanies the girls and Pillover from the school to the Temminick residence without much in the way of grace. That evening, while engaging in appropriate behaviors for young ladies of quality, Dimity and Sophronia keep a close eye on Monique, anticipating her retrieval of the prototype from whatever corner she stashed it in. When Monique exits the glamorous event for a stroll around the gardens with a well dressed gentleman, Sophronia follows, only to find Monique in the gardens at the mercy of the gentleman as well a dandy brandishing a gun. Demonstrating excellent use of the skills that she learned at finishing school, Sophronia uses the guise of fainting to retrieve the prototype and replace it with a cheese pie, while none of the concerned parties noticed. After delivering the prototype to a trusted and respectable source who would ensure its safe arrival at Madamoiselle Geraldine's Sophronia returns to the ball, only to be accosted by Monique and the cheese pie. After thoroughly embarrassing her mother and family by having a pie thrown at her in the middle of a social gathering, it is decided that Sophronia isn't quite as finished as she good be and she prepares to be shipped off for yet another year of adventures at her school of etiquette and espionage.
Best part of story, including ending:
I found the fanciful contraptions to be more exciting than taxing. The idea of a floating school is undoubtedly very strange and yet not unappealing.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was Sophronia's conversation with her vampire professor on one of the school's several balconies. It is quintessential Sophronia, engaging, witty, intelligent, and most endearingly completely unconcerned by her lack of politeness.
Opinion about the main character:
Sophronia is surprisingly witty and sarcastic for a teenage girl. She is very snarky which has the effect of making her an endearing character to not only her professors, but also to the reader.