Face Like Glass
By Frances Hardinge
Publication Date: May 10, 2017
Bang Bang Rating: 3/4
Seven years ago Neverfell was discovered hiding in the cheese tunnels of Master Cheesemaker Grandible. Grandible knew she was different simply by looking at her face and he decides to keep her hidden from the rest of the citizens in Caverna but one day, Neverfell gets out.
While wandering through the underground city in her mask Grandible makes her wear, Neverfell meets Zouelle and decides that Zouelle is her best friend. Zouelle sees a gullible little girl and uses Neverfell to infiltrate the house of the Facesmith only be caught without her mask–OH NO, WHAT DOES SHE LOOK LIKE? IS SHE AS UGLY AS SHE THINKS? Nope, Neverfell just has a face like you and me-she has a variety of expressions while Cavernans have to learn different facial expressions.
Neverfell is immediately arrested and becomes the subject of suspicion because her face is like glass or you can see true feeling by looking at her. Neverfell doesn’t remember where she came from but someone does and they are trying to kill her. A master winesmith adopts Neverfell to save her and gives her wine to hopefully job her memory but it doesn’t work.
Meanwhile, there’s the Klemptomancer who steals important items thus pissing off the Grand Stewart-the king. Neverfell gets herself into another jam, she has to survive a series of tests, and she ultimately becomes the Grand Stewarts taste tester because everyone is trying to kill everyone in Caverna. As Neverfell works for the Grand Stewart, she become curious about her background and begins to do research which often lands her into some sticky situations.
Face Like Glass is all about world building and the underground world of Caverna is fascinating. Babies are born without facial expressions; the Court will do anything to gain favor of the Grand Stewart; there are Cartographers who will make anyone insane if you talk to them longer than five minutes; and on and on. All of the characters were great in their own way, it had moments of humor, and I really craved cheese and wine while reading it. There were no tropes or silly romances. The world building is by far the best thing about the book and the reason for the rating. The plot on the other hand…
This book jumps all over the place. I thought I had it figured out at least five times and every time I was wrong. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it was frustrating. The reason for the low rating is Neverfell and the length. Neverfell was a good character but she lived in isolation in a cave for seven years yet she’s smart enough to beat everyone at their own game? She does spend her time reading and she’s quite the engineer but COME ON! My biggest problem was the 488 page number. Hardinge tends to take pages to make one simple point thus making this book 100 pages too long.
The Lie Tree was by far Hardinge’s best book and I realize it’s because it’s her latest book meaning that she’s either grown or has hired a better editor. If it’s the latter, for the love of rainbows please keep this editor because A Face Like Glass needed someone to tighten it up.
If you like an acid-trippy fantasy with a lot of colorful characters and a vivid world building, then pick this up today.