5bat! Review: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

July 3, 2017 Review 0

5bat! Review: A Face Like Glass by Frances HardingeA Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
Published by Pan Macmillan UK on May 10, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Pages: 496
Source: NetGalley
Sexual Content: None
Reviewed by: Rebecca
5 Stars

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone's an artist . . .

In the underground city of Caverna the world's most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare. They create wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned. Only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell's emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed ...

In A FACE LIKE GLASS your face will freeze like that. Maybe it’ll be stuck in Face No. 456, Joyous Rapture at Excellent Characters, or Face No. 943, Unbridled Excitement for Plot Development. Either way, you’ll be smiling throughout. In the world of Caverna facial expressions have to be taught. The poor only know a few expressions (happy and dutiful) while the rich learn all the intricacies. Neverfell has been raised in seclusion by a Cheesemaker, learning the secrets of his trade. But there’s something wrong with her face, something that the Cheesemaker tells her to keep hidden.

When Neverfell finds herself lost in Caverna, after falling through a literal rabbit hole, you learn how beautiful and dangerous it can be. Caverna is rich and complex. You don’t doubt that this is a world where cheeses can explode or wine can erase memories. It’s rare that a book can pull off a naive narrator and an unreliable one. The fact that they are the same character? Amazing. Neverfell is the best kind of naive: she’s sweet, kind, and utterly entranced with the world around her. I never grew tired of her optimism, even when I saw all the daggers poised to stab her in the back.

There are moments in A FACE LIKE GLASS where the perspective shifts and we see Neverfell through the eyes of other characters. These scenes become important, as we learn more about the power struggles and madness of Caverna, but I wanted to keep Neverfell for myself. There are almost no pauses in the novel, every time Neverfell finds her footing, there’s another stair, another new power, to yank her out of place. All these missteps are purposeful. Just when you think that perhaps the novel should have been shorter, or cut into two books, there’s payoff after payoff that makes the page count worth it.

The moment I finished reading, I wanted to read A FACE LIKE GLASS again. The ending is perfect and complete. It so refreshing to have a novel that ties up all the loose ends. While I want more of the world, I’m happy with how the characters are settled. Pick up this book immediately. Don’t let the fact that it can be classified as Middle-Grade fiction dissuade you. I could give you reasons like the carefully crafted writing or the fully-developed characters. Instead, pick up this book if you want to experience Face No. 864, Satisfaction of a Well-Written Book.

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For similar books with amazing child protagonists, check out the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

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