While I am certain that there was a plot in the book somewhere, it was almost completely obscured by the wonderful world building, enchanting characters and the complex details of this society. Sophronia Temminick is the youngest daughter of a large family who is unable or unwilling to fit into the proper mode for young ladies. Her mother has reached her wit's end with regard to Sophronia and has decided to send her to a finishing school on the recommendation of her friend Mrs. Barnaclegoose. Sophronia is not eager to be "finished" and doesn't look forward to her time at Madmoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. However, her interest is caught when the carriage she is riding in to the school is attacked by flywaymen riding in airdinghys. It seems that "Mademoiselle Geraldine" is really a senior student on her finishing assignment who has somehow managed to acquire a prototype that all sorts of parties would like to have for themselves. After arriving at the school and learning that it is a grouping of airships that float over Dartmoor and learning that the school turns out intelligencers, assassins, and other covert operators. Among the curriculum offerings are budgeting for a dinner party and preparing poisons; flirting, lying, and acting; self-defense using their handkerchiefs and vinaigrettes. The teachers are an interesting assortment of characters including a vampire who teaches history, etiquette, and vampire lore and a werewolf who also teaches defense against werewolves. The students are also an interesting assortment of characters. Sophronia's best friend is Dimity who comes from a family that has attended this finishing school for generations and who also has a brother attending the companion school for boys whose mission is to turn out evil geniuses. The fake "Mademoiselle Geraldine" -- really Monique de Pelouse -- becomes Sophronia's nemesis because Sophronia outshone her when the flywaymen attacked and, as a consequence, she failed her finishing assignment and was demoted back to Sophronia's class. Other classmates are Sidheag Maccon, Lady Kildair, and Agatha. But Sophronia also is befriended by an assortment of "Sooties" -- the young lower-class boys who keep the engines running and a young nine-year-old character named Vieve who is a female inventor who prefers to dress as a boy. Her best friend among the Sooties is Soap.I was particularly fond of the steampunk elements in this story especially Sophronia's little dog Bumbersnoot who needs to be fed coal to keep his internal steam engine running and who plays a pivotal role in the resolution of the plot. I was also fond of Carriger's humor which was outrageous and just this side of too cute. I think that this story will appeal most to middle graders and young adults who are already interested in steampunk and those who enjoy humor in their stories.