Book Review: A Face Like Glass

A Face Like Glass
Hardinge, Francis
3 stars = Pretty Good

There's something wrong with Neverfell's face. In Caverna, where people live underground, people's facial expressions never change, unless they want them to. But Neverfell's face is horrifying, and so her caretaker Master Grandible, cheesemaker extraordinaire, makes her wear a mask at all times. Confined to Grandible's chambers, Neverfell gloms on to all visitors, until one day she meets a special visitor, escapes Grandible's corridors and truly starts to experience the horrors of Caverna - all of which are more terrible than her face.

First, this is not a horror book. I went into it thinking that it was (I mean, look at that cover - it's creepy!), and I think that expectation hampered my enjoyment of the read a bit.

By all rights, I should have loved this book. It has the ingredients of a book I would love: a strong(ish) female heroine, intricate worldbuilding, court intrigue, unreliable characters and a few fun twists. Unfortunately, I was never able to really connect with the characters, aside from Neverfell. Neverfell, and to a lesser extent her friend Zouelle, are the only characters to really get much development, and unfortunately, Neverfell spent most of the book annoying me. The first part of the book is also short on an overarching plot - I kept wondering where we were going (aside from, potentially, outside). Neverfell spends the middle 200 pages or so making silly, avoidable mistakes and almost getting herself or her friends killed. Which makes sense, given her sheltered upbringing, but it wasn't super fun to read, and despite a strong beginning, the middle of the book seemed to drag on. However, the last 100 pages or so, once our protagonist has a larger objective, were delightful. There's a reveal in the epilogue that I didn't see coming, and I loved it.

While the book wasn't perfect, the worldbuilding was amazing, and I definitely want to read author's other book, The Lie Tree (which apparently is horror), now. A very solid middle grade read. 3 stars - I liked it.

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