Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Book Review: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
In 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 trigger hallucinations and perfumes that can seduce you into trust and devotion, even in a world that's anything but. Above all are the Facesmiths, craftsmen who teach the blank-faced people of Caverna to show emotions of joy, despair or fear. Into this dark and carefully constructed 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. And having a face like glass can prove to be very dangerous indeed.
What attracted me to this book in the first place was its magical and intriguing world. I mean, a dangerous city where the inhabitants have to be taught to display emotions? The very idea of emotions having to be bought and learned is something I've never encountered in any books in the past, and it's undeniably magical, the way Ms. Hardinge brings to life such a unique world that just sucks you in. I loved how the more generic concept of people living underground was taken up ten notches with the intricacy of the different craftsmen, and the descriptions throughout the novel of sleeping live birds encased in quivering jelly and short-tempered cheeses add so much to the magical quality of the novel. If anything, you must read the novel for the many fantastic and whimsical ideas that Ms. Hardinge concocts with her evocative language.
I have to admit that I was a teeny tiny bit iffy at first when I realized that the protagonist would be a twelve-year-old girl. Maybe it's because I've been reading mostly YA books with teenaged characters so much the past few years, but when I see a child as a protagonist, I immediately and subconsciously assume that the book will be a little more childish. But I was wrong. Sure, there weren't mentions of hotties or anything, but Neverfell is a cute and incredibly likable heroine to follow throughout "A Face Like Glass". Despite her extremely chippy personality and unfailing optimism, Neverfell grows and develops as a character as she learns about herself and the twisted world she lives in, and there's some simple magic in the face that a small, freckled twelve-year-old girl can change so much. The other characters in the novel only add to the great cast of characters, from the grumpy yet lovable Master Grandible, the complex Zouelle, the loyal and clever Erstwhile, and the incredibly unique Grand Stewards (both the Left and the Right)...and so many more!
There was, however, something that didn't have me flipping through the pages in Road Runner-speed, and that would most likely be the storyline. The plot of "A Face Like Glass" is without a doubt interesting, but at times I felt like there were too many details and unnecessary scenes that made me lose interest in the storyline. I think if Ms. Hardinge had tightened up the story a little here and there, it would've made for a more flowing and compelling plot. Overall, though, Neverfell's adventure is exciting throughout, especially the big reveal toward the end!
All in all, "A Face Like Glass" by Frances Hardinge is a magical novel with a unique, whimsical world, a lovable cast of characters, and an interesting storyline. It is truly a beautifully written story, something I haven't really found in a while, and it's an incredibly fulfilling feeling finishing the book.