A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

I remember being fascinated by The Lost Conspiracy a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to read more of Frances Hardinge’s novels since then. But you know how it goes, you get distracted by other books in the TBR pile and you forget your intentions to read books by a certain author. Fortunately, I was attracted by the pretty cover of A Face Like Glass when I saw it in one of the bookstores here. I’ve been hearing good things about this book so I was pretty excited to read it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A Face Like GlassIn the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare – wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear – at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

At a little less than 500 pages, A Face Like Glass is quite lengthy compared to some of the other YA novels that I’ve been reading lately. Which is why it kept me captivated for several days. Towards the end of the book, I decided to stay up late one night to finish it, I was so curious about where the story would go. I can’t even remember the last time I did that, probably not since I moved from Manila to Singapore last year. I found A Face Like Glass engaging for several reasons:

– I found the idea of wearing Faces like most people wear clothes intriguing. You can never know what a person is feeling based on just the expression that they’re wearing because they can choose which Face to use at any given moment. I’m fascinated by characters who are unreadable because they can surprise you in so many ways. In this book, most of the characters are like that because you can’t even use facial expressions to gauge what they’re thinking of.

– I enjoy reading about how complicated court intrigue is. I love how subtle court movements are and how the smallest of things can be significant because everything means something. There are complicated rules that courtiers follow and it requires a highly intelligent person to navigate the tricky waters of court. I liked how the craftsmen are divided into mafia-like families that compete against each other.

โ€œIt is terribly bad form to admit to being terrified for oneโ€™s life, but nobody in their right mind would go to a Court banquet without making preparations. One must have the right costume, the right Faces, and at least eighty-two ways of avoiding assassination.โ€

– I’m a big fan of cheese so I found Neverfell’s apprenticeship with Cheesemaster Grandible interesting. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to take care of cheese that has its own personality – they can explode and harm people if not handled properly. The same goes for wine and everything else that Caverna excels at making, here’s a passage that I really liked:

“They were masters of memory, its loss and recovery. They could brew Wine that would make you remember the face of your dead love so clearly you could count her eyelashes, or that would make you forget specific chapters of a book so that you could read them again with pleasure.”

– The underground setting because I’ve lived in tropical countries all my life and I can’t imagine living in a dreary world below ground with no sunlight. I would probably feel claustrophobic and suffocated most of the time. It was interesting how Caverna’s inhabitants functioned underground and how they were willing to suffer the consequences just to keep the secrets of their craftsmen.

– There’s a mysterious thief in this novel called the Kleptomancer. As you well know, sneaky thieves in fiction have a special place in my heart. So when bits and pieces about the Kleptomancer started showing up in this book, I was immediately curious. I wanted to know more about him and his reasons for stealing.

– Of course, Neverfell is also another intriguing character. She’s a bright and curious individual and has such a good heart. She genuinely cares for other people, even if she had an isolated childhood. She’s always interested in helping out whenever she can.

With all the reasons listed, I think it’s pretty obvious that I loved reading A Face Like Glass. This beautiful book will definitely make it to my best of 2013 list. Highly recommended for MG/YA fans of fantasy, political intrigue, class conflict and unique world-building. I look forward to reading the rest of Frances Hardinge’s books, I have a copy of Fly By Night waiting for me back home in Manila.

A Face Like Glass paperback

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Readventurer

18 thoughts on “A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

      • Actually – this is really shameful – I’ve had Fly By Night on my bookshelf for about 4 years O.O. After this I will certainly read it soon!

      • LOL no need to be ashamed! I’ve had my copy of Fly By Night for several years as well but I haven’t had a chance to read it either. There are just way too many books out there and not enough time to read them.

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Frances Hardinge, but I think I need to start after seeing your awesome review of this book. I love that you pointed out elements (like that sneaky thief, and the court intrigue and even the interesting concept of faces) that would really appeal to me, and I’m definitely going to have to give this book a try. I’m adding it on Goodreads now!

    • Alexa, you could read either A Face Like Glass or The Lost Conspiracy as your first Frances Hardinge novel. Both are standalones and both are amazing. But seeing as you liked some of the aspects of A Face Like Glass mentioned in my review, maybe you should go with this first. ๐Ÿ™‚ Although The Lost Conspiracy reminded me a bit of our home country so maybe that will persuade you as well.

  2. I am so incredibly intrigued by this book! I have a soft spot for any retellings/reimaginings of classic stories so I like that it’s reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. And of course all the reviews I’ve read are overwhelmingly positive. The idea that people do learn facial expressions and wear them like clothes. What a crazy premise! And, like you, I love court intrigue. It’s part of the reason I love historical fiction so much. Your review solidified my belief that I really do need to read this book soon!

    • I think I saw a review somewhere mention that this book is like Alice in Wonderland but in reverse – she’s already in Wonderland. I bought a copy of this because I had a feeling I’d love it based on all the glowing reviews that I’ve seen, I’m glad I was right about that. I love historical fiction and fantasy also because of court intrigue, I enjoy reading about how complicated it is. I fell in love with some of my favorite novels because they have really good depictions of court intrigue. I hope you get to read this one soon! ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Yep, the concept of wearing Faces and the court intrigue has sold me. Plus I loved The Lost Conspiracy, and I haven’t read anything else by Hardinge yet. I like how this is more YA, because it seems she writes a lot of MG. Seems like a good choice. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I remember you were one of the people who convinced me to read The Lost Conspiracy and also that I read it because of MWT’s feedback. You should really read this, Holly. You’ll probably like it just as much as the first Frances Hardinge novel that you’ve read. I remember we talked about whether this is MG or YA and you said it’s classified as YA, right?

  4. Yay! I’m so happy I was FINALLY able to sit down and read your reaction to A Face Like Glass. I’m so glad you loved this one as much as I did. I’m always shocked at how her books are not only long, but really dense. They take time to get through! I loved this world though, the cheesemaker and other crafts, the faces, the Kleptomancer, I ended up loving it even more than Lost Conspiracy (though that’s quite close). I’m curious, was The Lost Conspiracy, since it took place in a tropical setting, really fun for you? I know that sounds odd, I just know I love books that take place in settings I really KNOW, and The Lost Conspiracy was so intriguing to me because I’d never read a tropical set fantasy before. Glad you want to read Fly By Night soon, Chachic! So do I. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • I’m glad I was able to sit down and write my review for it! I’m always behind on reviews nowadays. Thanks again for recommending this one, it was good that it lived up to my expectations. You’re absolutely right, Heidi, Frances Hardinge’s novels are not just long but also very dense. I loved this one a little more than The Lost Conspiracy too. You know what’s great about those two novels? They’re both standalones instead of part of a series, which is rare nowadays.

      Yep, I think that part of the reason why I loved The Lost Conspiracy was because it had a tropical setting that reminded me of the Philippines. I mentioned that in my review. Hmm now that you mention it, I’m not sure if I’ve read any other fantasy set in a tropical place aside from that. Hey, if I manage to get my copy the next time I go home, maybe we can do a read along of Fly By Night. ๐Ÿ˜€

      • That would be wonderful!

        I also love these for being stand alones, I get ridiculously excited over stand alone fantasy novels these days, they are just so rare.

      • I try to make a note of standalone fantasy novels as well because they’re not that common. I’ll let you know whenever I come across anything that’s good!

  5. Pingback: Top Ten Favorite Book Covers Of Books I’ve Read | Chachic's Book Nook

  6. Pingback: 2013 ArmchairBEA Introduction | Chachic's Book Nook

  7. Pingback: Want Books: Medair | Chachic's Book Nook

  8. Pingback: Top Ten Underrated Authors in Epic Fantasy | Chachic's Book Nook

Comments are like chocolate. :) Maraming salamat / thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.