Macmillan Children’s Books, h/b, £12.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
This is a children’s book. I’m not a child. However, I loved this book! There, I said it, now we can move on to the rest of the review…
Seriously, though, I know a lot of us ‘adults’ turn off the moment we realise a book is for children (or secretly go searching for the version with the adult cover!) This annoys me somewhat because if you are seriously into reading and stories, the only issue that should matter is whether the story is good or not; and this is.
Anyway, back to A Face Like Glass: it’s a sweet little onion of a story – layer on layer of plot, and characters, and realisations – about Neverfell, a girl who turned up out of nowhere in Master Grandible’s cheese tunnels in Caverna seven years ago, and who has to wear a mask because of her ‘face like glass’.
Caverna – the location in which Neverfell arrives – is, as its name suggests, a series of caves underground. In this alien environment the residents don’t develop in the same way people in the ‘overground’ would do: they are unable to respond naturally through their facial expressions but instead wear learned faces that they choose from their available repertoire, thus having the ability to mask their genuine responses. Neverfell breaks through all this with her ability to show everything in her face, giving a window onto her feelings and thoughts that is alien to, and distresses, the Cavernans.
Neverfell’s biggest problem – at least to begin with – is that she doesn’t have any memory of who she is or where she came from, and this is what gives rise to the enticing, intriguing and beautifully written layers of the story, as Neverfell gradually gains knowledge and understanding of herself and the world around her.
Neverfell is a very engaging character – it’s very easy to read her, in every sense of the phrase – and it is so refreshing to have a female protagonist who is really the centre of everything.
I’m not going to tell you any more about the plot or characters because I found that one of the best things about the book is that you experience Caverna and the story through Neverfell. Hardinge creates a fascinating world for her wonderfully nuanced characters; her writing is like a mix of Neil Gaiman and Jeanne DuPrau. I can absolutely imagine the story and characters continuing into sequels as Hardinge has clearly put in the groundwork in establishing every aspect of this world.
I would genuinely struggle to find any negative criticisms about this book, and I’ll be seeking out Frances Hardinge’s previous works to add to my shelves very soon.