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A Face Like Glass

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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...

496 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2012

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About the author

Frances Hardinge

31 books2,496 followers
Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,361 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
783 reviews12.5k followers
April 27, 2023
DISCLAIMER: There is an actual risk that one of the patient's charts in my local ER will say by tomorrow, '28yo female presents with symptoms of NyQuil poisoning, incoherently rambling about underground cities and glass faces. Poison control contacted.'

Yes, this review is written in that febrile, NyQuil-fueled fog of hazy clarity where the world becomes muted at its edges and yet everything comes into a strangely sharp focus, and brain-mouth dissociation may reach dangerous levels.
I wrote a final paper back in college with high fever and in the similar NyQuil daze, shaken by raspy cough, breathless with congestion. I got an A-plus on that paper. I could not recall writing a single word of it. Go figure.
And so NyQuil says: This book is like a breath of fresh air, the gulp of fresh water from a mountain stream, a birdsong in the sunshine (damn birds, stop chirping, there are sick and grumpy people over here!!!).

It made me wish my future hypothetical daughter were real and present - so that we could bond over reading this book, loving its every page.
An important lesson: If you ever - EVER - decide to follow the white rabbit (Oh Neverfell, you should have paid more attention to Carroll's Alice and that Neo guy of the Matrix fame), just know that your life will be altered forever.

Especially if the frantic rabbit chase leads you out of (admittedly confining) security of childhood into the 'labyrinthine underground city of Caverna', where 'lies were an art and everybody was an artist, even young children,' where 'nothing [...] happened naturally or without planning,' where intrigues and scheming is the fabric of life. Caverna is the place where madness - of the Cartographers, believe it or not! - is dangerously contagious. Just remember this as you focus in surviving: "Trying to understand Caverna was an invitation to madness..."
'It draws you in. You twist your mind into new shapes. You start to understand Caverna... and you fall in love with her. Imagine the most beautiful woman in the world, but with tunnels as her long, tangled, snake-like hair. Her skin is dappled in trap-lantern gold and velvety black, like a tropical frog. Her eyes are cavern lagoons, bottomless and full of hunger. When she smiles, she has diamonds and sapphires for teeth, thousands of them, needle-thin.'

‘But that sounds like a monster!’

‘She is. Caverna is terrifying. This is love, not liking. You fear her, but she is all you can think about.’

Yes, Caverna has enough literal and figurative fascinating twists to make me desperately wish for a sequel set in this universe. It definitely provided me with enough fodder for those long vivid dreams you have when you are on the verge of just falling asleep or just waking up - and it's awesome.

Caverna is not a place for the faint-hearted. It's not a place that takes kindly to preserving innocence - scheming and casual murder are your weapons of choice if you'd like to keep on living. What else would you expect from a place governed by an always-awake leader with split personality, a place that produces exploding cheeses, mind-enslaving Perfumes, memory-wiping wine and captured birdsong in a bowl of jelly? It's the place that has to rely on Facesmiths to provide you with a set of carefully crafted facial expressions (according to your status and income, of course) to convey what you want to convey without ever revealing what you are actually thinking.
"The city grows, and not just through the effort of pick and shovel. She has been stretching, spreading and contorting to make room for us all, and I think that is why geography no longer makes sense."
And now take this place where children know to bolt the doors against the assassins and sniff people to detect a trace of mind-control Perfume - and drop smack into the middle of it an 'odd and terrible child', a maddeningly naive and innocent girl without an arsenal of carefully crafted Faces - a girl whose expressions let you see her innermost thoughts rendering her unable to lie in this cunning nest of snakes that passes for a society. See what happens when she storms through Caverna like a little tornado - just buckle up because it will be a bumpy ride.
He contemplated Neverfell for a few moments through his freckling eyes.

‘Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you’re sane? That you’ve always been sane? That perhaps you’re the sanest person in the city?’

‘I hope not,’ whispered Neverfell. ‘Because, if I’m sane, then there’s something wrong with Caverna, something horrible and sick, and nobody else has noticed. If I’m sane, then we shouldn’t be sitting around talking – we should all be clawing our way out as fast as we can.’

Neverfell, the girl with the titular 'face like glass', haunted by the secrets of her past that were forcibly removed from her, suffocating under well-intentioned constraints put on her for her safety and therefore insulated from the scheming on which Caverna society relies from the earliest years, is very ill-equipped for survival here. The only way she can play the never-ending Court games is by being used as a pawn - and there's no shortage of chessmasters wanting to use her just for that.
‘I lied to you and it was easy, because you believe everybody means what they say. Everyone’s lying to you, Neverfell. Everyone. And you can’t tell, because you’re just not very bright when it comes to people. Brighten up fast, or you’re done for.’
She is unrestrained, wide-eyed, excitable, naive and irritably innocent - even she can see that at times she's quite annoying.
"It was all very well being told that she could do nothing to make things better. Neverfell did not have the kind of mind that could take that quietly. She did not have the kind of mind that could be quiet at all.

In many respects, poor Neverfell’s overactive mind had coped with her lonely and cloistered life in the only way it could. It had gone a little mad to avoid going wholly mad. To break up the dreary repetition of the day it had learned to skip unpredictably, to invent and half-believe, to shuffle thoughts until they were surprising and unrecognizable."
And yet as we see her scrape her tender trusting soul on the rough edges of her world and grow some tougher protective scabs on her abraded sensitivity, as we see her learn and mature and take responsibility, we realize that the little overexcitable brat with Pippi Longstocking-like red pigtails and 'the attention span of a summer-addled gnat' did that very annoying things she's always been good at - managing to turn us into her friends.
‘What don’t I understand? I know you’ve been lying to me, probably about lots of things. And I know there are probably plans inside plans inside plans, and I’m just a pawn, and that’s all I ever was. Even back when we first met. And it doesn’t matter, because you’re my friend. You’re my friend and you’re in trouble. All this while you’ve been miserable, and I’ve been too stupid to notice.’

This book had a few concepts that, like the Cartography-induced madness, played with my brain, trying if not to break it, then at least bend it into new (perhaps, Caverna-like?) shapes - not that common in books clearly aimed at children. It broke a few tropes, too - a blond pretty rich girl may not necessarily be an embodiment of evil; a connection and warmth felt at the first glance may not lead to trust and friendship; a warm and genuine expression may hide a soul behind it so ugly that you cannot help but shudder; and overcoming being just a pawn in the games of others may lead you to an unpleasant surprise.
"For Neverfell, it is as if other people are part of her. When she believes they are in pain, it hurts her, like a wound in a pretend limb."
All I can say - I want more of Caverna, even without Neverfell. I want to see its madness again, I want to feel its soul, I want to look into the eyes of the Kleptomancer and see what looks back at me. In short, dear Frances Hardinge, if I'm really really (and I mean *really*) good this year, can I at some point expect a sequel in my Christmas stocking that I'm willing to hang up just for this occasion?
P.S.: Catie was the one who inspired me to read this lovely book - and here is the link to her lovely review that is truly a work of literary art.

Recommended by: Catie
Profile Image for A.G. Howard.
Author 18 books8,763 followers
March 6, 2018
Wow, I adored this! Miss Hardinge's writing and imagination are SUBLIME. Now, to go find everything on her back list. :)
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,127 reviews2,172 followers
February 11, 2013
Rating: 4.5 Stars

A Face Like Glass tells the tale of Caverna, an underground city, much like Alice's Wonderland. In Caverna, babies are born with the inability to show their emotions on their face and, as such, are taught how to mold their faces into expressions by wearing masks. If that wasn't strange enough, Caverna is a land of magic - although it is never seen as magical - for the wines can erase your memories, cheeses can help you see the future, and perfumes can command your thoughts. Into this world is thrown Neverfell, a girl whose every thought is shown visibly on her face. As such, she is a threat to those in Caverna who fear the honesty of her gaze but also seek to exploit her innocence. Neverfell is first apprenticed to Master Grandible, a renowned cheese-maker who hides away in tunnels to escape the ruthless politics of the Court. When Neverfell chases a white rabbit, with the original intent of bringing it back to her master, she stumbles into the world of Cavera and from there, her journey is every bit as crazy as can be imagined.

I hardly know where to start when it comes to Hardinge's spectacular novel. For one, let me assure you that it blew me away and, despite being a Middle Grade Fantasy novel, I found that it was every bit as thought-provoking and intelligent as YA and Adult reads, if not better because of its subtleties, cleverness, and surprising plot twists. Caverna is a city with secrets, a cavernous tunnel that changes ever-so-slowly and calmly watches over the people in her kingdom, all of whom are pawns in a giant game of politics. Whether it be the powerful families who make the delicacies of Caverna and battle amongst each other in a quest for power or the Grand Steward, the ruler himself who has transformed himself in such a way that one eye is always open, always watching for betrayal, Caverna is a land where no one is safe.

Into this world is thrown Neverfell, a naive and innocent child after having been sheltered by Master Grandible, away from the deceitful society of Caverna, all her life. At first, the people of Caverna are unsure whether to be terrified of the raw honesty in Neverfell's face or simply use her to exploit their own malicious intent. As such, as she passed around in this game of Court from powerful families to powerful leaders to powerful enemies. Although Neverfell is initially very trusting of everyone, including strangers she meets, her resolve, good will, and resilient nature make her an engaging heroine, not an irritating one. Furthermore, as the novel wears on, her growth is gradual, both as a person and as a player in the game she has been unwillingly thrown into.

While Neverfell remains the most fleshed-out of all the characters in this novel, nearly every character in this tale becomes well-developed with the progression of this tale and, best of all, the villains aren't all black-and-white, but rather multiple entities of grey. In fact, seeing this world through the eyes of Neverfell, it is difficult to be sure, at times, if friends are truly enemies and enemies are truly friends. In the midst of this political intrigue, Neverfell slowly comes to realize who she is. It is evident that she is not a citizen of Caverna but rather of the outside world where, rumor has it, the sun burns off your skin. As Neverfell has no memory of her childhood, of how she came to be in Caverna, this intriguing tale of political mystery is in equal parts a gentle story of growing up, of becoming the person you can be when circumstance forces you into dark corners. It seems like a very dark tale at times, but rest assured that Hardinge always keeps the silver lining just within reach.

Now, how else can I possibly express my love for this story? It does lag a bit in the middle as the climax of the story approaches, but either than that small flaw, it is very nearly perfect in every way. Once immersed into the world Hardinge has created, you won't want to come out and, when you do, you'll most likely realize that you've gone just a little mad while in Caverna yourself. A Face Like Glass is such a multi-faceted tale, forcing you, as the reader, to not only join in on a world full of lies, but also to question the lies in our own every-day lives. Even more than that, though, it is a tale of revolution and of flying free from control and power, whether it be in terms of social class or just escaping from the tight web of lies that this underground city runs on. Either way, you can read A Face Like Glass with one surefire thought - you will emerge from it changed, reflective, and itching for more of Hardinge's writing, even if it means walking into the children's section of your library.

Reviewer's Note: It should be known that I am absolutely terrible at writing reviews for books I love. I hardly know if what I've written here makes sense, so allow me to direct you to the review of one who constantly humbles me with her prose. Catie, at the Readventurer, convinced me to pick this up with her review and, without a doubt, she will convince the rest of you as well. I cannot recommend her review enough.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews228 followers
December 27, 2016
A wonderful middle-grade fantasy with an innocent protagonist let loose in a jaded stratified society like a ferret in a giant domino lineup.

Neverfell has been brought up secluded from the rest of the underground magical city of Caverna. She thinks the horror her craftmaster expresses when he sees her face is because she's ugly, but it's not. Her face has what no other face in Caverna has: unrehearsed expressions. With a Face like glass everyone can immediately see what she's thinking, when all other people have to learn a careful repertoire of Faces to express their emotions. This makes it impossible for her to lie, and as this city is built on every kind of lie, an honest person is a disaster.

This is younger than I normally read, and the stuff I do read from this age group tends to be the standouts (the Fairyland books by Catherynne M. Valente, Harry Potter, Un Lun Dun). I happily report that this book fits well into such company.

Neverfell's innocence makes her a wondeful character who can border on the annoying, but she's a "little bit mad", and that evens her out well. There's constant growth in her and her allies, even when you're not entirely sure they are allies.
Profile Image for nastya .
449 reviews288 followers
September 5, 2020
What an imagination. This book is about a sentient city and political intrigues and empathy and mysteries and double-crosses and triple-crosses and friendships. This book was so strange and atmospheric and creative. And the ending was just superb! It’s Neil Gaiman on steroids.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,634 followers
July 22, 2017
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/07/22/...

Now I really wish I had read this book sooner, because in a word, it’s amazing. Sitting in that much-needed place between Middle Grade and Young Adult, A Face Like Glass is a coming-of-age novel about a younger protagonist, but the challenges she must deal with are no less difficult or complex.

Our protagonist Neverfell was just a child when she was found practically half-drowned in a vat of curds by Master Grandible, Caverna’s foremost maker of fine, magical cheeses. But as soon as the cheesemaker cleaned off the little girl and looked at her face, he could tell something was seriously wrong. From that moment on, he has instructed Neverfell to always wear a mask in public, though he refuses to tell her the real reason why, letting her believe she is hideous and disfigured.
For years afterward, Neverfell trains with Grandible as his apprentice, learning all about the ways of Caverna and cheese-making since she herself has no memory of who she was or where she came from. Caverna, as its name would suggest, is a huge underground city made up of tunnels. Skilled craftsmen like Grandible create all sorts of things with fantastical properties to sell to the court, like cheeses that can bring on wondrous visions, perfumes that can influence the emotions of others, wines that can make you forget your worst memories, and much more.

Then there are also the special artisans called Facesmiths, for unlike the people who live in the world above, citizens of Caverna are born with blank faces and no natural instinct to form facial expressions. This is where a Facesmith comes in, developing and teaching new expressions to those who can afford his or her services. The richer you are the more facial expressions you can learn, while the poor, like the laborers and drudges, are only taught a few to get them through a life of servitude.

Because so much can be gleaned about your social status from the number of faces you can wear, this leads to much demand for Facesmiths among the court, and likewise, a Facesmith who can develop the most unique catalogues will also earn a lot of prestige. So when Madame Appeline, one of Caverna’s most prominent and skilled Facesmiths suddenly shows up at Master Grandible’s one day, Neverfell sees the visit as a chance to change her own fate. Appeline is in need of a favor from Grandible, but in spite of the cheesemaker’s initial refusal, Neverfell is convinced that she can make her master change his mind, unaware that she is meddling in dangerous matters she doesn’t understand.

Everything about this novel is pure imagination and magic, and needless to say, I loved every moment. While there is a strong emphasis on the whimsical, I thought it was applied in just the right amount, without becoming overly silly or distracting. Every page was filled with new and interesting ideas, from the oddly precise sleep cycles that citizens of Caverna must keep due to living in the tunnels to the absurd rules of etiquette that the city elites must follow. This is one strange world, where society is strongly shaped by the fact that its people are born with the inability to form facial expressions naturally. Considering the huge range of emotions that that can be expressed through facial cues, just thinking about how every single little facial movement has to be slowly and painfully measured and applied…well, the consequences of it are staggering. One tiny miscalculation or a sudden muscle tic can convey a different meaning and cause a scandal at best, or lead to persecution and even punishment by death at worst.

I was also completely taken with Frances Hardinge’s writing, which is so beautiful and clever. I imagine she faced a lot of challenges for a story like this—after all, how do you even begin to put yourself into the shoes of a character who has little understanding of the relationship between emotions and expressions? Somehow though, Hardinge made it work. Her descriptions are careful but also creative, utilizing unconventional methods to paint a picture of the way someone looks or to convey how they feel. The story is also fast-paced and addictive, and with surprises waiting at every turn, I can’t say there was ever a moment where I felt bored.

Perhaps most importantly, A Face Like Glass has something I don’t often find in a lot of YA and MG books—rich imagination and a shockingly original and unpredictable storyline, refreshingly light on cliché or stereotypes. Consider me a fan. This may be my first book by Frances Hardinge, but you can definitely count on me to read more!
Profile Image for Jill.
544 reviews801 followers
Want to read
August 21, 2017
DNF @34%

Idk why I haven't officially dnfed this book yet haha I decided I wasn't going to finish a few months ago... this book was just too weird and disturbing for me I have no interest in finishing it.
Profile Image for JenacideByBibliophile.
209 reviews131 followers
May 17, 2017
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, ABRAMS Kids, via NetGalley for an honest review.


WHEW! Listen up guys, because this is one book that NEEDS to be noted and fawned over.

“It draws you in. You twist your mind into new shapes. You start to understand Caverna…and you fall in love with her. Imagine the most beautiful woman in the world, but with tunnels as her long, tangled, snake-like hair. Her skin is dappled in traplantern gold and velvety black, like a tropical frog. Her eyes are cavern lagoons, bottomless and full of hunger. When she smiles, she has diamonds and sapphires for teeth, thousands of them, needle-thin.”

- The Kleptomancer, A Face Like Glass

Neverfell’s story begins at the young age of five, when she is found by Cheesemaker Grandible after falling into a vat of his curdling Neverfell milk. After rescuing her and taking one look at the young girl, Grandible notices the differences in the young child, covers her face with a mask, takes her in and appoints her as his apprentice. After some seven years later, Neverfell is accustomed to her life as a cheesemaker. But unable to remove her mask around other people or to leave the cheese tunnels, she finds herself fighting a curiosity about what lays beyond. Soon Neverfell’s opportunity to leave the tunnels presents itself, and she gets her first look at the world that she has been hidden from. But her freedom is short lived when her mask falls from her face, and what lies beneath is shown to the people of Caverna. Neverfell, unlike the residents of Caverna, is able to make expressions on her own without having to be taught. As word travels of Neverfell, she becomes sold to the highest bidder. Caverna is flushed with experts in dangerous and strange delicacies, and murder is just another game for the members of the court. Pushed into a world where Neverfell finds trust in the wrong people, she struggles to find a way to protect herself and to recover the memories that she feels may be lost forever. But most importantly, to find a way out of Caverna.

Caverna. Woah. This place is seriously vicious guys. Do you remember reading The Hunger Games and being introduced to the strange people in the capitol? These people were insane and followed bizarre fashion trends that made them both appealing and frightening. Trust me when I say, the capitol has NOTHING on the court in Caverna. These people are PSYCHOTIC. They create wines that have minds and temperaments of their own, cheeses that can explode upon a slight bump, and strange foods that have creatures trapped inside gelatin. Not only do they spend all of their free time trying to poison rival families or hire assassins, but they are unable to make facial expressions on their own. The higher up in society and the better-off you are, the more “Faces” you are able to buy for yourself. People of a lower faction usually are unable to have 1 to 3 faces, depending on their job titles.

How to prepare the perfect Cardlespray Wine:

“One hundred and three years…The grapes spoil if they are exposed to loud noises, so they are tended by a silent order of monks, and all the local birds are killed. The fruit can be harvested only at night during the new moon, and must be crushed by the feet of orphans. The barrels are stored deep in the earth, and only the softest, sweetest music is played to them, continually, for over a century. And after all this, the Wine is fit to be drunk…unless somebody throws it over a table.”

- The Grand Steward, A Face Like Glass

Neverfell finds herself caught right in the middle of the chaos that is Caverna. The people of the court are all trying to get her hands on her for personal benefit, she cannot remember her past, and there is a strange person labeled “the Kleptomancer” running around Caverna stealing incredible objects with no apparent motive. I felt so horrible for young Neverfell throughout this story, and it was honestly staring to feel like something out of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Her innocence started to become her downfall, and it was heartbreaking to see her trust in so many people that proved to be using her in a game much larger than her. Her character grows a great deal in this story however, and I really enjoyed who she becomes. She still has her morals and good intentions, but acquires a cunning and righteous personality by the end of the story. Not only does Neverfell work to help herself be free of Caverna, but she fights to free those who have no voice at all.

The writing in this story is AMAZING, and I can’t wait to start reading other books by Frances Hardinge. She writes with an amazing creative and descriptive style, and it almost feels like poetry after a while. She PERFECTLY set the scene for Caverna as being a dark and curious place, one that can both thrill and kill a person. I thought the entire idea for having a civilization underground was amazing, but one where the characters aren’t able to make their own facial expressions? GENIUS! I seriously couldn’t get enough of this story, and I am wishing it was a full-blown 20 book series. This is one of those stories you wish would make it to the big screen because of how dazzling it looks in your head, but one you fear they will completely ruin…like they usually do.

All in all, I LOVE this story! I have nothing negative to say, not one thing. I can’t help but give this book 5 stars, which I hope will lead to many of you going and purchasing this story RIGHT AWAY. It is the perfect amount of fantasy and science-fiction, and a great read that will twist your mind into two. This book is suitable for all ages, but the youngest I would say is Teens because the writing could get a little confusing for a younger audience.
Profile Image for Taylor.
767 reviews422 followers
February 7, 2017
This book was way weirder than I expected.
A Face Like Glass starts off in cheese tunnels (I kid you not) and it only gets more and more odd from there. With sentences like "the cheeses were Grandible's only friends and family, their scents and textures taking the place of conversation" and "The child was thriving on the perilous splendors of the cheese kingdom", I just couldn't take this book seriously. Maybe it's just me but I couldn't get through one page without laughing at something that was said. It felt like a small children's book about a mouse that loves cheese rather than a Young Adult book.
I've seen tons of 5 star reviews for this book so I'm probably the only one who doesn't love this book.
Honestly, this book just wasn't for me. I loved the synopsis but I just couldn't get past the weird cheese talk.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,006 followers
March 19, 2013
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

Ana’s Take:

Wowza, I don’t even know where to start with this review. There is so much that is so excellent about A Face Like Glass, I hope I won’t miss anything of importance as there is so much to unpack.

A Face Like Glass is just like Frances Hardinge’s Fly By Night and Twilight Robbery: sophisticated without being pretentious or boring, thought-provoking and smart without being any less engaging, fast-paced and just plain fun. It features a strong (read: well-developed) female protagonist who has a superb character developing arc, as well as other equally well-developed female characters (be them allies or foes).

In the underground city of Caverna craftsmen create wondrous things to those who can afford like cheeses that can you make you see the stars and wines that allow you to forget your worst memories. To those who can’t enjoy these marvelous things – a sure sign of their status – all that is left is a life of drudgery. More than anything else though what separates the rich and poor is the faces they wear. For the people of Caverna, unlike those from the above-world, are born with blank faces and must learn how to make expressions – the richer the person, the more expressions they are able to learn and afford. These facial expressions are taught by Facesmiths who develop catalogues like the the very famous Tragedy Range (with face of utter sadness and despair).

Its own tagline is unbeatable in terms of summarizing the plot: “a stand-alone tale of deception, cheese-making, betrayal and strategic amnesia”. And that’s basically what happens in the book but against the backdrop of an incredibly thought-out Dystopian world. With a self-assuredness that we so rarely see these days in Dystopian YA, the world that Frances Hardinge created is a meritocracy of money and good relations which has degenerated completely into backstabbing aristocrats that vie for keeping their power. The lower class, the laborers that truly make Caverna work and run are thought to be happy with their lot and surely they do not need to be taught more faces because why would they need them. Thus, of course labourers are only taught a handful of faces to begin with, all of their repertoire part of a range of servile facial expressions. This of course, shows the artificiality of this society: the more faces you are to make, the more lies you can tell. On the other hand, if you don’t have a huge range of faces, how can you express your unhappiness if no one thinks you are even able to feel enought to warrant them?

Enter Neverfell. A young girl who was found living alone and with no memories in the tunnels of one Caverna’s Cheesemakers and became his apprentice. All her life Neverfell was told to wear a mask when in public and she has believed that she had a horrible, disfigured face. But to her utter surprise she finds out – after becoming involved in a Cheese-sale gone awry – that her face is not disfigured at all. What she finds out is worse: her face is capable of fluid, natural expressions that show exactly how she feels. Neverfell wears her thoughts and feelings on her face and that, in Caverna is the most dangerous thing of all. But there are people that definitely finds such a thing to be useful and that’s how Neverfell ends up becoming a pawn in a dangerous game of power.

The progression of this story follows Neverfell in a character arc that shows realistic, slow growth. For the first part of A Face Like Glass Neverfell is nothing but a pawn being moved from side to side and things happen to her. But as she starts to interact with people and learn about the true facade of life in Caverna, the more she grows, changes and becomes an active participant not only of her story but of everybody else’s in Caverna. Just like in this author’s previously mentioned books, her heroine is truly revolutionary. And the best thing about it? She is allowed to be and to remain different. And her growth and all the happiness and unhappiness that come with it show on her face. There is an amazing scene toward the ending that gave me goosebumps: when Neverfell finally learns the truth of how she ended in Caverna. That was dark, heartbreaking and utterly devastating.

A plot to overthrow the government, a thief with impossibly difficult targets, mapmakers capable of driving anyone who speaks to them to insanity over things like the twisted twistness of Caverna are also part of this fantastic story. It is a work of art, this book. It is beautifully written, it is clever and fun, it has social commentary both in obvious and subtle ways and a heroine who is totally awesome.

Frances Hardinge’s books are definitely on a class of their own. A Face Like Glass is simply superb and come December, you will most definitely see it on my top 10 of the year.

Thea’s Take:

Everything that Ana said.

Unlike Ana, this is my first foray into the works of Frances Hardinge – but just like Ana’s experience with Fly by Night, I immediately fell head over heels in love with Hardinge’s work (and now I need to read ALL THE BOOKS from this fantastic author).

A Face Like Glass begins with whimsy, and, like a vein of deep blue green in the finest artisanal cheeses concocted by Master Grandible, this whimsy runs throughout the novel. Whimsy, with an undercurrent of the sinister and the dreadful. There’s something very Lewis Carroll-ian about this novel (complete with a white rabbit leading our heroine out of the cheesemaker’s home and into the strange world of Caverna), something similar in tone and skill to Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, something reminiscent of the darkness in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book. Like all of these truly spectacular, wonderful works of fiction for young readers, A Face Like Glass is written in unfalteringly whimsical style and tells a ridiculously imaginative story (free from cliches, message-making, or formulae). And like all of these works, beneath the charm there is something truly sinister and biting about A Face Like Glass – which we feel from the first time a character compares his granddaughter to a bottle of rare and powerful wine, as a tool to be used to protect the family.

In short, I loved A Face Like Glass. I loved it from the first, small human footprint left in a giant cheese, from the first mention of our heroine Neverfell and her great and terrible face that must be covered by a mask (though we aren’t told exactly why until much later in the book). I loved the world of Caverna, a subterranean empire where babies are born not knowing how to express emotions – these people must learn to craft “faces” and know when to adorn a face that matches the situation (and they will pay very, very well to learn such skill from facesmiths). In such a strange world, where every facial movement must be calculated and applied, the slightest misstep – sneezing, pointing accidentally with one’s pinky finger, looking into someone’s right or left eye, spilling a single drop of wine – means ostracism or death.

For young Neverfell, who is curious, guileless (because of her fluid face), and utterly different than those who have grown up in Caverna’s stilted – yes, even quite dystopian – society, these rules are incomprehensible and impossible to follow. So she gets into trouble. A whole lot of trouble. And she must figure out who she is, why she can’t remember her past, what her tenuous links to certain characters are, if she is ever to fully be herself and not just a little mad. Neverfell’s blend of naivete and steel (for there IS anger and frustration beneath her honest exterior) is fascinating, and, like Ana, I found myself amazed by not only Neverfell, but the other characters (particularly the female characters, like Zouelle and Madame Appeline).

Needless to say, I loved A Face Like Glass, and I’ve discovered a new fantastic, favorite author in Frances Hardinge. Absolutely recommended, and in the running for one of my top 10 books of the year, as well.
Profile Image for Nemo ☠️ (pagesandprozac).
879 reviews411 followers
April 16, 2018
(You know when I begin proper orthography in my reviews, specifically capitalisation, that I mean business.)

”Murder is like romance. It is only our first that overwhelms us.”

Some people may see that this book is middle grade, and immediately be put off.

Often, the genres of children’s lit, middle grade, and young adult are all grouped together under the umbrella of “children’s”, which can lead to some misconceptions, mainly that middle grade and young adult cannot have literary value equal to the adult genre.

Whereas the amount of excellent YA being produced over the past few years has led a lot of people in the book community to understand its potential, this is not so much the case with middle grade, because they are “written for a younger audience” and therefore assumed to be more simplistic.

Unfortunately, this is often the case, and I am often disappointed by much of middle grade.

Sometimes, people say the age range of middle grade is 8-12. I disagree. I firmly believe it is 8 plus, something that seems like a small distinction but actually makes a world of difference. Middle grade does have the potential to be as good as adult literature, unlike children’s literature (adults may enjoy The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but it is clearly not a literary work of art.)

His Dark Materials is an example of outstanding middle grade that is not only as good as adult literature, but better than the majority, and proof that MG is not a genre to be looked down upon.

So is A Face Like Glass.

Like His Dark Materials, this book is not only one of my favourite middle grade novels, but one of my favourite books of all time, and is proof that MG really can be stunning.

At first, it seems like a typical children’s or middle grade novel. It begins rather whimsically, with a girl falling into a vat of Neverfell cheese and being named accordingly. Neverfell is unique among the inhabitants of Caverna in that she cannot control her expressions, whereas Cavernians do not naturally have expressions and must be taught them.

This appears to be an unusual, but charming concept for a children’s novel.

But quite quickly, we learn that charming is not the correct adjective.

Neverfell is plunged into a world of intrigue, plots and assassinations. We immediately distrust everyone; we can see when Neverfell is being manipulated, even when she doesn’t, and we understand that everyone’s “kindly” expressions are a veneer for the cruelty that lies beneath.

This lulls us into thinking we know what’s going on. Oh, yes, she’s not trustworthy, and neither is he, he’s going to betray Neverfell, very obvious stuff.

And yet again, Hardinge throws us a huge curveball near the end of the novel, showing us that not only is everything not as it seems, everything that seems that it was not as it seems is also not as it seems.

Did that make sense?

Probably not, but it shows the twistiness of this novel, of the character’s motivations, of the plot.

Jesus Christ, the plot.

This is definitely one of the most taut, detailed, intelligent of plots I’ve ever read. You won’t see what’s coming, even if you think you do.

One of the greatest things about some middle grade, including this one, is the child protagonist. Neverfell is a child on the cusp of adolescence; a child full of innocence and wonder at the beginning, only to be confronted with the harsh realities of the world. Paradise lost.

”She had drunk deep of the Truth, and now it could not be flushed out of her system with bitter cordials, or washed from her skin, or picked out of her hair.”

But the best part is when that innocence is not altogether lost. When even in the face of all the shit that’s being thrown at them, all the dark revelations, the child retains a measure of their innocence, of their kindness, of their compassion and wonder.

Because growing up isn’t about discovering the world is shit.

It’s about discovering the world is shit, and being determined to do something about it.

And sometimes –

You succeed.

”Do you know how many courtiers have been willing to risk their lives for us?”
“No. How many?”
“One,” came the answer. “Precisely one in five hundred years.”

Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,537 reviews120 followers
February 3, 2013
First off, don't read too many reviews of this book. There are far too many here that tell you far too much about the book. C'mon, folks, we're not in fifth grade, we don't have to prove we've read the book by summarizing it.

Young adult or whatever? You can only tell by the absence of sex and gore. Certainly not from the characters or the complexity of the plot.

I had a little trouble with the basic premise of the plot, re masks and Faces, but I am always willing to give an author One Huge Made-It-Up as long as everything else flows logically from that - and here it does.

The author cleverly presents several cases of this-thing-does-that where we find 100 pages later that a sufficiently creative mind would eventually figure out that - hee, hee - it would also be very useful for doing something else.

There are some wonderfully imagined characters, especially the Grand Steward and the Kleptomancer - but even some of the lesser characters are interesting.

And there's quite a bit of things-are-not-what they-seemed, but all done in a way that makes you think, "well, of course, yes, I should have seen that."

Well imagined, well written, and a darned good read.
919 reviews255 followers
May 16, 2013

Wonderful ideas, beautiful settings, interesting plot, good writing. I think I would have loved this more if I was the actual age group this is aimed at, as I don't think it transcends age quite as well as other books I've read of the like. However it's still a lovely read, and I wouldn't be surprised if a children's film comes out in the future based on even a few of the ideas here. Pretty sure this will especially appeal to any lovers of Alice In Wonderland. My only real problem was that Neverfell was a bit annoying (though this gradually grew a little endearing) and Zouelle I simply did not like, even though I'm sure we were supposed to sympathise with her.
511 reviews211 followers
April 19, 2013
which speaks the truth
and which one lies?

That is the tagline on the other edition of this book. And I don't believe one has ever been so appropriate and fitting before.

Thus it also becomes the perfect prelude to one of the most expert account of a girl with a face like glass venturing out into the underground city of Caverna, wherein lies an art and everyone's an artist. And Everything is really something else in disguise.

Here babies are taught Faces, for unlike you and I, they don't have expressions. And when you learn a thousand or perhaps two or maybe only a couple faces, yours becomes a world of lies and deceit.
It is the city of Courtiers and drudges, city of lies and faces, city of pleasure and distrust.

There were many who called the Court a jungle, and with good reason. It had a jungle’s lush and glittering beauty. The people who dwelt in it, in their turn, were not unlike jungle creatures. Some were like iridescent birds and long-tailed butterflies dripping with colour, lavish, selfish and beautiful. Others laboured tirelessly, diligent and unnoticed, like great ants bearing hulking burdens across the leafy floor. Then there were bush babies and lemurs, hugging branches, their bulging night-eyes missing nothing. There are many dangers in the jungle, but perhaps the greatest is forgetting that one is not the only hunter, and that one is probably not the largest.

Neverfell, the apprentice of a secluded Master Craftsman, has never been out in this world, beyond the cheese tunnels she's been haunting for the last seven years, when she was discovered by Master Grandible, the Cheesemaker.

I can’t think straight. But why am I trying to do that anyway? Everybody else thinks straight. That’s why nobody expects me to think zigzag-hop. Which is what I do naturally.

Ergo, it's only to be expected that she's quite a bit mad. Then, the outside world of Caverna and her calculating playthings, the Cavernans, come about and help in molding this melody of a story that ever keeps changing its tune. It hops from frightening to heart-warming to shhh-shhh-ing and a motley collection of emotions, as though it's donning on and discarding one Face after the next.

Reading A Face Like Glass is eating one of those bubblegums of Willy Wonka with a range of meals stuffed into it. Wholesome and long-lasting. The side effects differ a bit I'm afraid. You don't turn into a human blueberry but you sure as hell become greedy and heart-burned.

It is one of the most original and complex(well, it was to me) stories I've come across. The premise was weird and fascinating and well-thought out to boot. The characters were vocal and colorful and lovable and inspiring, and the plot was way to intriguing for this book to have only about two hundred ratings on GR. Read it, folks! It's what all the cool kids are doing.

The plot and the story are actually like being suddenly dropped into a really freaky House of Mirror and all of these looking glasses show you the same thing but not before distorting it to their whims. Everywhere is the same thing, yet quite so different. Such is the atmosphere Frances Hardinge created.

But there is so much more! There is friendship and loyalty and mind-blowingness involved. It is sad and hopeful and like watching a butterfly fluttering against a gale and ultimately winning.

And it is so out of the norm and yet so homely.

It also reminds me this one line from a very awesome song:

Maybe if I fall asleep, I won't breathe right.

And man, the prose! If it'd not been already obvious by my attempts to sneak in so many quotes in this review, so as to compose a review of teasers, I love, love it with the intensity that a heron loves her beak and historians love bones and gold-diggers love expensive bars and Rihanna should hate Chris Brown with.

Silver caterpillars of excitement writhed round each other in her stomach.

And it doesn't even disgust me. I am fascinated.

Frances Hardinge writes these beautiful paragraphs employing such distinct and astute poetic devices and wonderful, creative, brilliant, elegant and lucid imagery. I am hysterical to the point of complete lunacy and incoherence and I've been driven insane by this book. I'd like dip to it in alcohol and squeeze every last word out of it and would very much do so had it not been for that picturesque cover. I make one fine raving lunatic, don't I? But how can I not, when faced with this kind of pure, unadulterated awesomeness?

Here is a piece that falls between the chapters, like a coin between paving stones. It is a slice of silence in the middle of the melody. It is a rough and ragged spot, like the frill of stubs where pages have been torn out. There is no point looking for them. They are gone.

Never did I find one thing to quarrel about with this book. And really, the message hidden in the unfortunately creased pages of this book, even if there hadn't been one[message], is extraordinary and nothing new but yet so... The subversiveness, along with symbolism, isn't lost on me either. It's all about corrupt politicians and us faceless drudges who don't do shit and how our beloved city will one day topple as well. And that would be perfect for everyone.

Even though this book I'd recommend to everyone, my especial focus would be berating the people who sulk about, who have seen far too much grime or are just naturally despondent, these people who have forgotten the joys to be had in staring up at the ever-expanding, never-changing and momentary miracle of a sky. 'Cause you're in a prison and you don't even know it.

Maybe that’s the worst kind of prison – not
knowing you’re in a prison. Because then you don’t fight to get out.

More not so emotional reviews on my blog.
Profile Image for Scarlet.
187 reviews1,169 followers
February 23, 2019
What a sheer delight it is to turn again – even temporarily – into a giddy, little girl adventuring through magical lands. And with a companion as wonderful as Neverfell!

"Zouelle had forgotten how tiring it was listening to Neverfell at full pace, like being bludgeoned with exclamation marks.”

I needed this book. I devoured it. I adored it.

Highly recommended for all adults who are weary of adulting and need a nice, big dose of wide-eyed fascination. And for children, of course :)
Profile Image for Ylenia.
1,073 reviews387 followers
September 5, 2018
2.5 stars

It wasn't the right book for me. I finished it but I was bored for the whole time, mainly because I didn't care about any of the characters.

The idea was great but the result wasn't anything interesting for me. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Rachel Neumeier.
Author 45 books499 followers
November 3, 2015
A FACE LIKE GLASS opens this way:

One dark season, Grandible became certain that there was something living in his domain within the cheese tunnels. To judge by the scuffles, it was larger than a rat, and smaller than a horse. On nights when hard rain beat the mountainside high above and filled Caverna’s vast labyrinth of tunnels with the music of ticks and trickles and drips, the intruding creature sang to itself, perhaps thinking that nobody could hear.

And I was hooked, despite being somewhat turned off by the book description. Ah, so people have a very limited number of expressions. Which they have to be taught. Uh huh.

But this book really worked for me, even the limited-expressions thing.

So, reasons to love A Face Like Glass. I can suggest three. Here they are:

1. I loved the setting, which is is wild and wacky, but not in a silly way. In a dark fairy tale kind of way. I’ve seen Francis Hardinge compared to Diana Wynne Jones, but I wouldn’t say this one reminded me too much of DWJ. It reminded me a little of the Jinx trilogy by Sage Blackwood and a little of Patricia McKillip and, I don’t know, a little of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making
The overall setting of Caverna is wonderful, but the detailing is *particularly* wonderful.

In Maxim Chidrensin’s laboratory, a sigil-covered white barrel of Smogwreath currently sighed in one corner, whilst in the centre of the room a set of concentric salt circles confined a restlessly creaking vat of Addlemeau. The two wines were not yet ready to blend. The Addlemeau still needed to develop its undertones of vanilla, and the Smogwreath had not overcome its fear of strangers. Both, if disturbed, were quite capable of tearing strips off a man’s soul like bark from a tree.

The wines, the cheeses, all the crazy things the craftsmasters of Caverna make. But beyond that, there’s all the details about messenger boys on unicycles and carnivorous glowing plants, and the pony carts, and on and on.

2. I loved the characters, starting with Neverfell and going on from there to Zouelle and Erstwhile and all the rest. Neverfell herself, raised, if that is the word, by Grandible in almost total isolation in the cheese tunnels, is the best kind of unreliable narrator. She is totally naïve about people. The reader can see *so much* that Neverfell misses. And then some of what the reader sees is completely wrong, so that’s entertaining. Thus Zouelle became one of my favorite characters, when I certainly didn’t expect.

And then there’s the double-minded Grand Steward and the Kleptomancer who steals whatever will cause the most uproar; the treacherous courtiers and the drudges and the palace servants and the putty girls. The Cartographers! It’s tough to beat the Cartographers.

But back to Neverfell. She’s naïve, ignorant, trusting, kind-hearted, forgiving, and ready to befriend practically anyone. All that is true, but it’s not complete.

“Do you want to know what I glimpsed in your face just now, for the briefest moment? Rage. I saw the same look flash through your expression this morning when you were filling the bowl with water. You’re shaking because you’re very, very angry.”

“But I’m not! I’m not angry! Am I?”

“Hmm. Well, somebody is.” Childrensin retreated into contemplation for a moment.

Neverfell is indeed very, very angry, and passionately outraged by injustice, of which there is plenty in Caverna, let me tell you.

3) I loved the writing, which is exquisite. The structure of the story is wonderful. The prologue works. If you’re thinking that prologues never work, well, of course they do occasionally, and this is a perfect example.

Once we’re out of the prologue, Neverfell pretty much feels like the only pov character, but she’s not. Hardinge slides seamlessly from one pov to another in a way that serves to build the story while never distracting the reader from the focus on Neverfell.

When, 85% of the way through the book, Hardinge clips a bit off the story and hides it, she does it so openly and blatantly that it doesn’t feel a bit like the author-is-cheating-by-hiding-stuff. It is funny and artistic and perfect. I can quote the whole thing, which stands alone on a page:

Here is a piece that falls between the chapters, like a coin between paving stones. It is a slice of silence in the middle of the melody.

It is a rough and ragged spot, like the frill of stubs where pages have been torn out. There is no point looking for them. They are gone.

You see that for this one second, the narrator is speaking directly to the reader. This never happens except here. It made me laugh because I couldn’t believe Hardinge could get away with this. But she does.

And once we’re done with the story? I *love* the epilogue.

And, of course, beyond the structure, the actual sentence-level writing is just lovely.

This makes the third of Hardinge's books that I've read. I can see I'll be picking up all of her other books over the next little while.
Profile Image for Jaanaki.
130 reviews41 followers
April 30, 2018
Frances Hardinge and Catherynne M.Valente have been in my list for a looong time.I thought I will begin reading Hardinge this year with her "A Face Like Glass " .
We have a twelve year old heroine Neverfell ,who is found lost by Cheesemaster Grandible in his tunnels in the underground kingdom of Caverna.Caverna is ruled with an irongrip by the 500 year old grandsteward who is like a spider weaving a web around the courtiers.The fact is that people in Caverna are unable to show natural emotions on their faces and can display only the faces they are trained to display.Every class has access to a certain group of faces .For example ,the drudges or workers are trained to have three faces -1.a face that shows obedience 2.a face happy to take orders and 3.a face that is sorry for mistakes .In addition,no one is allowed to escape to the over ground .The trouble is Neverfell's emotions are clearly expressed on her face at all times and this leads to her falling into a web of deceit.The story is how Neverfell chases her freedom and realises that disillusionment is a part of growing up.
I loved the fact that Hardinge's prose is crafty ,witty and wonderfully unique.The world building is exquisite and her characters are all weird and twisted in some way or the other (Anyway ,who isn't 😁😁).It is such a long time that I have read an author writing fairy tales, with an imagination vivid enough to name cheeses as Croakspeckle or Stackfalter Stunton or to include dishes that include jellies shaped like castles with musical birds inside.It brought back memories of Alice in Wonderland.Her description of faces is also amusing with a deep insight like Face 29 -Fawn trembling before Hound .Most of all,her greatest achievement is in showcasing the cruelty of society and how artificial and hypocritical people (that's why the faces )today really are through a fairytale.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
November 24, 2012
I'd never heard of Frances Hardinge before, and I have no idea how I came across this on the Kindle store, but I'm so very glad I did. It's an enchantment of a book -- I think I said something similar, recently, about Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and I can see the similarities there: the long games being played in both plots, the dazzling strangeness of the worldbuilding, the magic of it all. But at the same time, they're very different stories: it's just something about the flavour that's similar.

A Face Like Glass is marketed as YA, but I don't think you should see that as a discouragement. It's not one of those YA books that slots neatly into the ranks of the YA books that've come before: it's something wild and entirely itself. The same goes for the fact that I've tagged it as dystopia -- it doesn't follow the current dystopia tropes either. It felt like a breath of fresh air for me.

I got hooked on it from Amazon's preview, which is worth a look: it's a slowish start compared to the pace the book gets to near the end, but if you're intrigued by it, you're in for a wonderful ride. I loved every scrap of it, to the extent where I'm almost afraid to look for Frances Hardinge's other books in case they aren't as good. I love Neverfell and I love the bizarre details of the world and all the weird concepts like people being unable to perform expressions without learning them and...

Basically, it's a heck of a ride. Best impulse buy of my year, up to and including my big plush Moomin. Possibly excluding only the ticket I bought to the screening of Avengers Assemble that got me hooked.
Profile Image for Hirondelle.
954 reviews208 followers
June 28, 2014
It took me ages to actually get this read, and this after very eagerly waiting it. I think the reason I set it aside so many times in the beginning is that it was clear that for Neverfell to start her adventure something bad, presumably caused by her naïveté, would have to happen. Loving (of a kind) protective parental figures are plot hindrance in YA fiction.

But once I got going, oh this is so much fun. Fantastic worldbuilding and characters, a very nicely worked plot with twists and tricks. Maybe not my favorite Hardinge (because the competition is Twilight Robbery and Gullstruck Island but just competition is really that fierce), and not quite a perfect book (I sometimes felt Neverfell was kind of a plot tourist almost, to tour that universe, though I think the plot justifies that somewhat towards the ending), but giving it less than 5 stars would just be miserly to how much I enjoyed it.

Random observations:
- I keep thinking there is a lot of Plato references here, beyond the obvious, which are beyond my knowledge of Plato.
- it was inspired by one of my favorite local places, the fabulously weirdly fabulous, Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra (surprisingly mispelled de la instead of da. And I object to tempura as a paint as well!), a place I always think "oh come on, somebody would make a great novel about this". This is only partially inspired on it, but the first fiction I read which mentions it as inspiration, so there is that. And I must go there again soon, one of these days.
Profile Image for Rissa.
1,420 reviews47 followers
May 2, 2019
A face like glass⭐️

First few chapters I was like “what the heck am i reading?” The concept intrigued me and the sample audible gave me was good So i was confused on what was happening what i was listening to. but getting started and staying in the book was difficult.

Neverfell has been told since finding the cheese master that she is hideous and useless and needs to be covered. Her face so hideous that it needs to be covered whenever someone visits. She is never to leave the house only work on the cheese and become a master like the cheese master himself. But when a face master comes and asks a request (and gets denied) from the cheese master Neverfell is left hoping for a new face and an escape from the tunnels.

The description of the cheese was just too much and the description of everything really was just too much and overpowred the story. If the story had less details on things we dont care about or care to know that mich information it might have been really good. But since the details overpowered everything else it was hard to find the actual story, the plot, anything really.

The author must really love cheese 🧀
Profile Image for Linda.
464 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2016
4.5 stars.

This is the third book I've read by Hardinge and she has again captivated me with her vividly descriptive writing. The rating also reflects the highly imaginative world that has been created in this book - a city fully constructed from underground caves, live "trap" lanterns which serve as both lighting and breathable air, the multitude of delicacies that one could only dream of tasting and, of course, the social hierarchy and behind-the-scenes betrayals which serve to feed the action of the story.

Another Hardinge checked off my list, and once again looking forward to the next one.
Profile Image for Jimin'sRamenNoodles (Jinlo).
28 reviews27 followers
July 6, 2022
Guys this book NEVER disappoints:
It's like my 7th re-read and I love it just as much. She makes ME, a romance person, like FANTASY!!
If I'm being honest, it took me a really long time to read and understand the plot fully as it is so complicated as well as the writing is very metaphorical, but it was worth it. I am currently reading a couple of her other ones but this one is a strong recommend.
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,230 followers
June 12, 2017
Possibly the weirdest of a string of weird books I've read recently, and also possibly the best-executed weirdness I've read in years.
Review as part of my "trio of weird" here.
Profile Image for Ieva.
113 reviews7 followers
June 28, 2023
“Alisa Stebuklų šalyje” + “Metro 2033” + “Non Stop”

Trys savo laiku itin didelį įspūdį man padariusios ir visam gyvenimui įstrigusios knygos viename - tuo turbut viskas ir pasakyta.

Pradžia gal kiek užsitęsė, bet paskui knyga mane ne šiaip pagavo, o tiesiog apsėdo: skaičiau kaip vaikystėje - kiekvieną laisvą minutę. Tyrinėdama Požemės pasaulį jaučiausi labai panašiai kaip pirmą kartą skaitydama Hario Poterio knygas. Nesitikėjau, kad dar kada patirsiu tą magišką jausmą. Autorės fantazija neįtikėtina, kerinti, apžavinti, užburianti, stebinanti kiekviename puslapyje. Labai labai patiko!
Profile Image for Jersy.
807 reviews67 followers
July 11, 2023
An incredibly imaginative middle grade novel that offers enough complexity to be an amazing read for adults as well. The world building and characters are wild and the court intrigue element of the plot is extremely captivating. If you want to read something that feels very unique while sticking to a comfortable plot structure, I highly recommend this. Just note: It isn’t something that bothered me, but if you are easily annoyed by naïve characters, the protagonist of this book falls under that category.
Profile Image for gio.
1,036 reviews385 followers
February 14, 2015

"I can't think straight. But why am I trying to do that anyway? Everybody else thinks straight. That's why nobody expects me to think zigzag-hop.”

Well, I can't think straight too. So...sorry, but I'm going to write this review in italian and hopefully it will make sense.

A face like glass è uno di quei libri che meriterebbero di più di 900 voti su goodreads. Ha una buona trama, un'idea di base solida e un'autrice che sa chiaramente scrivere, cosa non esattamente scontata. Ma soprattutto A face like glass è uno di quei libri per "bambini" che hanno una caratteristica secondo me fondamentale: possono piacere a tutti, anche a chi bambino non lo è più. La struttura, i personaggi, rientrano nei canoni del genere; la trama piuttosto complessa e gli spunti di riflessione lo rendono un libro interessante per tutti.

Credo che l'idea di base sia ispirata ad Alice nel paese delle Meraviglie. Immaginatevi Alice, se fosse stata gettata di proposito nella tana del coniglio, senza alcuna memoria della sua vita. Immaginate Alice cresciuta nella tana, nascosta agli occhi di tutti, costretta a indossare una maschera per non mostrare il proprio volto. Neverfell è la nostra Alice, gettata nella tana, ingenua, senza ricordi, senza alcuna Faccia. Lei non è come gli altri bambini di Caverna, che sin da piccoli imparano un determinato numero di Facce, di espressioni da utilizzare come una seconda pelle, e per questo non può essere vista. La sua faccia infatti riflette le sue emozioni, senza filtri, senza possibilità di nasconderle. E quando Neverfell si troverà invischiata in qualcosa di più grande di lei, come farà a capire chi mente? E lei, che non indossa maschere, come farà a non cadere in trappola?

A essere onesta mi aspettavo qualcosa di completamente diverso. Non mi aspettavo un middle-grade, ma un fantasy con molto world-building. Sono rimasta sorpresa ma non negativamente. Certo, mi sarebbe piaciuto vedere più del mondo creato dalla Hardinge, e mi sarebbe piaciuto avere personaggi più maturi, eppure A face like glass funziona molto bene cosi. La trama è piuttosto complessa, e le implicazioni dell'idea di base mi sono piaciute molto. Una ragazzina incapace di nascondere le sue emozioni imprigionata in un mondo in cui nessuno dice la verità, ma indossa emozioni come una seconda pelle: intrigante. Ho trovato il tutto molto ben eseguito, dallo sviluppo dell'idea, fino allo stile dell'autrice.

Un retelling particolare, originale e piuttosto bizzarro. Consigliato a chi cerca qualcosa di diverso, una favola per bambini che può incantare anche gli adulti.
Profile Image for Scott.
292 reviews317 followers
March 15, 2023
Magic Cheese.

A large part of this book is concerned with Magic Cheese.

Cheese that can bring back memories. Cheese that can change your senses.

Cheese that can reach out of its vats and kill you.

I really like cheese. I wanted to eat all the cheeses in this book. Even the violently temperamental ones.

Especially the violently temperamental ones.

Maybe melted on nachos. Or grated over mashed potatoes. Some of the more pungent magical cheeses seem a little strong though. They might need a neutral base. They would probably work better on a cracker.

The main character, Neverfell, is an apprentice to a master cheesemaker named Grandible, in an underground city called Caverna.

Grandible is a grumpy, smelly old bugger, but he makes amazing cheese, so he's alright by me.

Neverfell is unusual. In a city where people are born stony-faced and have to be taught a set number of facial expressions, she has a face that shows all her emotions.

The locals find this shocking, and Neverfell's inability to hide her feelings makes her thoughts completely transparent, in a place where everyone else’s intentions are hidden.

For this reason Grandible has hidden her away.

Of course Neverfell eventually has to leave Grandible and go off on an adventure through the weird subterranean city around her.

The city is treacherous. There are wines of similar potency to the magic cheese, made by scheming, Machiavellian winemakers, and dangerous webs of deceit and murder to be traversed.

Cheese makes an appearance a few more times too. It really is a versatile food, especially the magical variety.

A Face Like Glass made me hungry for cheese, and by the end of the story, I was hungry for more Francis Hardinge novels. This is a tasty, pungent novel with a flavor all of its own that will linger long on your reading palate.

Four cave-aged, stinky-delicious wheels of mold and milkfat out of five.
Profile Image for Tom.
307 reviews68 followers
August 20, 2012
5++ Stars. This fantasy story was written so wonderfully and I was captivated within a couple pages. I was looking for a good fantasy book that wasn’t part of a series and WOW did it exceed my expectations. The heroine is a 13 year old girl and there is no love interest but if you are into fantasy and beautiful writing you should pick this one up, it was awesome!

This is the story of Neverfell and the city of Caverna. Caverna is an underground city comprised of the most skilled craftsmen that create wines that control memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate, perfumes that can help you control people. The underground city is sealed off of the overground to keep their secrets from the people who live there and make there delicacies more valuable. The people of Caverna are unique in that their expressions must be taught to them. They put on a face as the situation calls for but only have so many to choose from depending on how wealthy they are and where they were brought up. Neverfell’s face is so unique that her guardian has her wear a mask so that others do not see her face. Of course it is much more interesting than that and you will have to take my word for it because I don’t want to give away the story.

I started this and felt like I was thrown directly into the rabbit’s hole and was not sure if it was going to be too weird for me. I fell for Neverfell faster than the quarterback for a cheerleader in a YA novel. She is totally an insta-like character that although took me through a ton of emotions through the book mostly amused me. I am not usually into politics and although politics plays a big role in this fantasy, Neverfell is kind of the anti-politics heroine which made me love her even more. The writing was so awesome that it was a status waiting to happen.

I wish I could put into words how much I enjoyed this fantasy novel. Just when I thought it might slow(not stall) it took off down a different path and I found myself wanting to read every word. It never stalled for me which is something for me when it comes to fantasy. Unfortunately with fantasy novels it is hard to describe what sucked you in and kept you there without giving away the story. Again if you are into fantasy and you don’t need romance pick this one up it is a very different kind of story.
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