Monday, June 5, 2017

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Face Like Glass
A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. Harry N. Abrams, 2017. Hardcover, 489 pages.

*I received a copy of A Face Like Glass courtesy of NetGalley and Harry N. Abrams in exchange for an honest review.* 

Wow, was this a ride! If you're having Alice in Wonderland withdrawals or you need some major peculiarity and whimsy, then step right up because I've got a book for you. My favorite one-line description of this book comes from Catie's review over at the Readventurer, in which she says "What if Alice grew up down the rabbit hole, and she needed a little white rabbit to lead her…out? " I couldn't summarize it better than that.

A Face Like Glass is darkly magical in all of the best possible ways. The world-building so, so strong and the characters are beautifully quirky and just ever so slightly odd - or rather obviously odd at times.

I hesitate to provide any sort of summary or details regarding the content of this book because half of the fun for me was discovering what was happening in this world, what the norms of living were, and what would happen next. I will, however, mention the setting itself, Caverna, which is a vast underground city in which the characters of this book live. Neverfell, however, has never quite felt that she fit in. The people of Caverna are born without the knowledge of how to shape their faces to express emotions as we normally do, and are thus taught how to mold their faces into specific expression by Facesmiths. The wealthy and privileged have access to many more expressions and Faces than those of the lower classes, such as the Drudges.

Neverfell is one of the most strikingly complex characters that I have read in a while. Her transformation in this book is written expertly and her person development is done in such a subtle, realistic manner that I couldn't help but be captivated by her. I loved how her innocent character was made to come to grips with the reality of the world around her, and I truly appreciated how Hardinge guided Neverfell in such a way that she stayed true to her character.

In fact, all of the characters in this book are fleshed out extremely well. Just when you think you know someone or their personality, you suddenly realize you don't. Faces reveal many things about a person, and somehow a lack of facial expressions also does.

One of the most interesting aspects of this world is the work of craftsmen, who develop Wines that can make you forget certain memories, such as forgetting a memory of a book so that you can re-read it for the first time over and over again, Cheeses that can make you feel wonderful things and literally see stars, and Perfumes that can befuddle the senses of those around you. One of my favorite things in books like this is the sheer attention to detail and the ways in which elements such as those just described are brought to life and so much fun to read (this is also something that I loved about Heartless).

There were so many wonderful themes bouncing around this book, and I feel like there is something for everyone in here. Although this book is marketed for younger readers, I think that there are some darker truths hidden within these words that older readers/adults can also pick out and learn from.

A Face Like Glass is full of adventure, excitements, and plenty of twists along the way. Things seemed to slow ever-so-slightly at about the three-fourths mark, and I worried that the rest of the book was going to continue moving downhill, but fortunately it picked back up as we neared the final portion.

Overall, I've given A Face Like Glass four stars!

You might also like:
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Impyrium by Henry H. Neff
Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen


  1. ooh, what A great review. I like the sound of this one. Major peculiarity and whimsy - sign me up!

    1. I hope you get a chance to read it - it is such a fun journey!