An amnesiac girl named Neverfell is thrust into court politics she can’t begin to understand in this complex, claustrophobic, and deeply compelling novel, originally published in the U.K. in 2012. The citizens of the mazelike underground city of Caverna have turned the production of food and other goods into decadent art, with “wines that rewrote the subtle book of memory, cheeses that brought visions... perfumes that ensnared the mind, and balms that slowed ageing to a crawl.” Additionally, no one born in Caverna has the ability to show natural facial expressions, so Facesmiths teach citizens artificial ones with names like “In Contemplation of Verdigris” or “An Ode to Peppermint.” Neverfell’s face, however, reveals true, unguarded emotion—something terrifyingly alien in Caverna. Hardinge (The Lie Tree) has created a world of great affectation and pretense, as well as visceral danger; poisonings and blithely ordered executions are persistent threats. Hardinge’s characteristically lush and sophisticated language will entrance readers, and she makes wonderful use of her singular setting and wildly eccentric cast to pose haunting questions about reality, artifice, and the things we attempt to conceal. Ages 14–up. (May)
"To identify any aspect of this book is necessarily to sing its praises. The characters are engrossing, their relationships moving and lovely; Neverfell's innocence and capacity for love and kindness carry her through enormous social upheavals, while the mystery of her lost memory burns hot and furious and hidden inside her. But above anything else what astonished me about A Face Like Glass was its construction, its pure perfect pace, the mechanical gravity of its plot moving through its beat with meticulously crafted finesse... A Face Like Glass is everything like magic."
"Hardinge’s imagination here is—as ever—ebullient, lavish, and original. Whether she’s anatomizing expression as fashion accessory, describing the effects of certain wines, or likening human maturation to that of cheeses, she needles into some of our dearest desires and foibles with sharp psychological insight. Her enthusiasm for language play brightens dark Caverna with the sparkle of wit; but most notably, she suggests how fundamental to human interaction our facial expressions are."
**STARRED REVIEW** "Frances Hardinge writes at full throttle, with luscious language, viscerally evocative descriptions and more plot twists and turns than the Minotaur's labyrinth... the wily storyline and gorgeous writing that will leave readers longing for a new Face to express their devotion to the author."
**STARRED REVIEW** "Using beautiful prose, Hardinge builds a richly imagined world that twists as much as the carefully orchestrated plot. Readers will eagerly follow noble Neverfell through its tunnels, marveling at the extraordinary sights and catching their breath at her daring escapades."
Gr 5 Up—Neverfell didn't mean to cause a stir when she left Cheesemaster Grandible's tunnels for the first time, nor could she have known that she would become a darling of the court, the target of assassins, a captive of the Kleptomancer, a pawn of the powerbrokers, or a leader of an uprising. She is just a girl trying to figure out who she is and where she came from. Neverfell is an outsider with no memories of her past, living in the underground city of Caverna, which includes an extensive labyrinth of tunnels and is overseen by a decadent and rotting 500-year-old Grand Steward and an equally corrupt and conniving group of ruling families who make up his court. They are led by master craftsmen who supply the upper crust and the outside world with exotic, expensive, and sometimes explosive delicacies. Why would anyone look twice at a young, guileless cheese-maker's apprentice? In a world where nothing is taken at face value and everything is for sale, including facial expressions that various courtiers pay top dollar to acquire, Neverfell's dynamic and always shifting gaze stops people in their tracks and makes her more than an oddity but rather a force to be reckoned with. Hardinge is at the top of her game with this entrancing and action-packed adventure. Her voluptuous prose is full of sensory details and wildly imaginative descriptions, yet the world-building is controlled and gradually revealed. Readers will learn about this caustic and claustrophobic society right along with the protagonist and be highly invested in her struggle. VERDICT A compelling and triumphant follow-up to The Lie Tree for those who love to become immersed in a good story.—Luann Toth, School Library Journal
A new-old book from Hardinge (published in the U.K. in 2012 but only now arriving stateside) balancing wit and wonder with a dose of big thoughts. In an underground world where wines control memories and perfumes ensnare minds, babies don't smile. Expressions are taught; for drudges, only a few Faces, none angry; for members of the Court, hundreds, designed to convey nuanced emotions and hide the truth, taught by celebrated Facesmiths. But 12-year-old Neverfell, white, freckled, red-haired, and taller than almost everyone, is different: her titular face shows her every emotion, uncontrollably, meaning she alone cannot lie. When she runs away from Cheesemaster Grandible, she becomes the pawn of various schemers among the Court and eventually the face of a revolution. Hardinge excels at wordplay and worldbuilding; witty but not trite, her utterly original setting and chaotic, fidgety protagonist anchor a cracking good story that raises important ideas surrounding the nature of friendship, the value of honesty, and the danger of too much, whether luxury, ambition, power, or desire. Each character, however minor, however exaggerated and absurd, leaps fully realized from the page (witness the Kleptomancer, whose thievery is part of a plan he has hidden even from himself). Madcap, mysterious, magical, and meaty: like Grandible's cheeses, this may cause visions—or just make your head explode (with delight). Don't miss it. (Fantasy. 10-adult)