Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
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…
I honestly don’t even know where to start. I was completely blown away by this book, the first I’ve ever read by Frances Hardinge. In fact, I think I need to read it again, it was so wonderfully complex that I’m sure I could reread it and still miss things the second time around. Now, before I say anything else, a forewarning: this is not the book you want to choose if you’re in the mood for a little light reading. If you need a guilty pleasure, or a fun bit of fluff (hey, we all do from time to time!) you’ll want to pass this one up. But if you’re looking for fascinatingly bizarre world building, deeply motivated characters, a fast moving plot and socio-political commentary, this should be high on your list. As I was preparing to write this review, and wondering what in the world I would say, I came across a review on NPR’s website and I’d like to share a little of it here:
“Let me begin by stating that this is a perfect book.
I don’t say this lightly. It’s perfect in the way that excellent clockwork is perfect: intricate, precise, and hiding all its marvels in plain sight. Imagine a clear box full of interlocking gears and springs and pulleys — you can follow all their movements, trace every tooth’s bite, but what it produces in chimes or bursts of colour and light are mysteries to surprise and delight you.”
A perfect book? Well, maybe. Then again maybe not. The underground world of Caverna is so strange and unfamiliar that it may turn off many would-be readers. Most fantasy novels have a learning curve—the reader has to become acclimated to the world and its magic and laws. In A Face Like Glass, this curve is steep. There are no elves or dwarves or dragons in this book. Nothing typical for the genre, and so the book takes work to read; especially in the beginning. At the same time, if you don’t mind some intellectual fantasy, Hardinge’s book is absolutely amazing.
*Thank you, Netgalley and Amulet books, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*