A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge

In order to get to Book Expo America, I had to take a train, and then lots of subway rides of some length, and so obviously I needed to take a book with me, one that would be strong enough so that even after I was distracted by the shinny and the new I would see it through to the end and be glad to have read it.

I chose well, and A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan, 2013 in the UK, ages 11-15ish) was my "what I am reading while at BEA" book (literally read at BEA, in snatched introverted down time, as well as in transit).  It was actually Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile who chose well for me, because my copy was a gift from her, received long ago and put in the "clearly I will like this book lots so there is no hurry to read it" pile; a pile I find really obnoxious but hard to do anything about, other than to travel.....

A Face Like Glass take place inside a mountain burrowed through with caverns and tunnels and chambers providing enough space for a whole strange society to live in.   There is magic to the craft work of  those in power, that brings wealth to the world of Caverna; cheese that explodes, mind-manipulative perfumes and wines, and other wonders,  and there's also magic in Caverna herself; the tunnels don't all obey natural laws, and her cartographers all go mad....And the people of Caverna are strange as well, with faces that are still and expressionless as dolls.  Smiles and frowns must be taught, and cost money.

Into the world of Caverna, where the craft families have excessive wealth and claw at each other for power, and the drudges in the deep chambers starve, comes a little girl who is different.  Neverfell has no memory of her life before she's brought to the tunnels of a master cheesemaker.  She has no idea why her face shows what she thinks and feels, making her not just a freak and oddity, but a potential pawn in various political machinations.  She has no idea there are people who want to kill her...

But gradually the threads of her past and present untangle into a purpose, one she can't let show on her face...

It is both simple and complicated, and a really nice one to give to the smart older middle grade reader who wants more from their fantasy than straight up adventure.  It is a twisty one, with a lovely, fascinating, horrible setting, and a satisfying mystery (although I feel I could have guessed).   Sometimes Hardinge seems to appreciate her descriptions a smidge too much (which is to say, more than I did), but apart from that I can't in honesty say it should be any tighter or more compressed. 

I myself have appreciated, but not personally loved, the other books I've read by Hardinge, but this one was truly enjoyable.  Possibly because Neverfell is a very likeable character, and since everything is seen through her eyes, the experience of it all was likable by association....

Here is Brandy's own review; she loved it (which is why she was kind enough to send a copy my way--thank you Brandy!)

It doesn't seem to be out in the US yet...but it is well worth ordering from the UK! 


  1. This sounds like a very creative story! I've been having trouble lately finding middle grade that really hooks me...maybe this one will do the trick.

  2. Wow... this sounds like a great book! Definitely going on my TBR list!

  3. Oh I forgot this wasn't yet out in the US! Is that true? I thought it must be, because Cuckoo Song is out in the US now, and that one's newer than this one, I think. Have, oh, have you read Cuckoo Song yet? It's awfully good!


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