A Face Like Glass
by Frances Hardinge
Cover Artist: Vincent Chong
Review by Mel Jacob
Amulet Books Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: 9781419724848
Date: 09 May 2017
A fascinating story about a young teen whose every emotion shows on her face in a place where people wear masks to show a limited range of emotions. She becomes a pawn in a power struggle to rule Caverna, an underground civilization. With her life in danger, she must solve the puzzle of Caverna and why she is different before her enemies kill her.
Neverfell, an orphan with only scattered memories of her past, has spent the last seven years of her life as an apprentice to a gruff cheese maker who lives in isolation from the rest of society and makes "True Cheeses", the epitome of cheeses and sought after by the elite. She is clever and good with mechanical things. A facemaker tries to gain access to a very special cheese to be unveiled at a banquet and attempts to bribe Neverfell, but fails.
Ever curious, Neverfell discovers a rabbit and follows it out of the cave complex. She encounters three other girls and is drafted into a plot to steal faces. The designs of facemakers allow users to show a limited range of emotions. The leader of the trio comes from one of the foremost families in Caverna.
When disaster strikes and the Grand Steward dies, suspicion falls on Neverfell as his food taster. Arrested, she is saved by a wealthy man, the uncle of the young girl Neverfell met when she left the cheesemaker's cave. His family grows taller than most Caverna residents and they are also smarter. The uncle has ambitions to increase his family's wealth and influence.
Caught between competing powers, Neverfell wants only to go outside, an ambition frightening to most Caverna inhabitants. She has dim memories but lacks understanding of what they mean.
Relying on herself and her best friend Erstwhile, a drudge (member of the servant class), she must solve the mystery of her origins and the Grand Steward's death.
Harding depicts a strange and somewhat warped society. Neverfell is a fascinating character whose innocence is both a strength and a weakness. At times the novel is almost humorous as Neverfell tries to understand this world she believes is not hers. The exercise of naked power and political manipulation drives a number of the characters. Harding provides a thought proving story highly appropriate to our current world.