Manual Face of Glass

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A Face Like Glass is an astonishing and imaginative novel from the Costa Award- winning author of The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge. In the underground city of.
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But of course this cannot last! In a nod to Lewis Carroll, Neverfell chases a rabbit out of her tunnels and into the main thoroughfares of Caverna. She ends up falling in with a group of her peers who are going to be tested to see if they can join the entourage of well-known Facesmith Madame Vesperta Appeline. This is where is all starts to go south not that Caverna actually has a south.


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Neverfell is exposed. Turned in to the authorities, she's on the verge of being sentenced to death. Indeed, an unknown assailant tries to kill her even while she's in prison. Finally a savior appears in the form of Caverna's leading vintner, Maxim Childersin, who effectively buys Neverfell. He seems perfectly fine, but there's a disturbing undercurrent of potential malice about him. When he introduces Neverfell at court, she feels hopelessly hog-tied by its endless nit-picking rules of etiquette and conduct.

She feels like she would be much more at home on the separated island of Caverna's Cartographer guests - all of them insane from trying to map Caverna's deranged tunnel system. Zouelle, Neverfell's peer from the vintner family explains that their madness is contagious; anyone who talks to them will also go mad rather quickly.

A Face Like Glass

You run off to be a Cartographer and, next thing you know, you're bat-squeaking. Neverfell purposefully spills her own wine to hide the waiter's spill, and save him, and suddenly her world explodes. The family which "adopted" her is now ruined, and their in-fighting provides Neverfell a chance to escape with Zouelle in tow. Neverfell feels obligated to rescued her to prevent her paying for Neverfell's inexcusable faux pas. In true heroic fashion, she decides that the only way to fix this disaster is to visit the Grand Steward himself in his palace and to take full responsibility for everything which happened at the banquet.

So Neverfell is called before the Grand Steward, who turned out to be yet another in the feast of novelties which is this novel. He's ancient and bored out of his gourd having lived so long, which is why Neverfell is of interest.

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He's also quite literally in two minds about everything. His left brain never knows what his right brain is doing - not hardly. Neverfell meets the left side first, and makes sufficient impression that she's hired as a food taster to replace the one who died recently, but her first real experience with him is with the right side. She must accompany "Mr Right" as he seeks to discern who the Kleptomancer is, and with Neverfell's help, he finally lays a trap.

A Face Like Glass (Literature) - TV Tropes

The idea is that the Kleptomancer will be unable to resist an open challenge to steal the Grand Steward's latest wonder from his cabinet of curiosities, which happens to be a stuffed giraffe, but the way the challenge is worded, I'm convinced that the Kleptomancer will consider the grand Steward's latest treasure to be Neverfell herself who, it turns out, interrupted the Kleptomancer's theft of the banquet cheese, the Stackfalter Sturton, by her spilling of the wine, resulting in the cheese being called to the table earlier than it ought to have been.

Once ensconced in the royal food taster's quarters, Neverfell, of course, wishes to be out and about, so she goes out to explore the palace environs outside of the taster's quarters, and barely escapes being taken prisoner by one of the court hangers on. Having learned more of Madame Appeline, Neverfell summons Zouelle to court to ask her some questions about her discoveries, and we learn that Zouelle, acting for her uncle, also has machinations in play which directly involve Neverfell. Is there no one on her side? Apparently not, because I was right about the Kleptomancer. Oddly enough he kidnaps her on the same night an assassin tries to exterminate her, thereby saving her life.

Given her secluded upbringing, and Master Grandible's reticence about his reasons for leaving Court and hiding himself away, it's unsurprising that Neverfell has difficulty coping with all the new situations in which she finds herself, let alone understanding the corruption of Caverna's social structure.

Her instincts are always to care for others, regardless of their status, but when she finds herself in the Drudgery, the part of Caverna where the drudges live and work, she stares in fascination at workers doing hard, dangerous labor, and thinks that it's difficult to feel anything for them, "so dogged, placid and docile, a hundred heads all with the same Face" p. As she watches, however, a young girl drops something and is sent to pick it up, falling to her death in the process:. And then, quite suddenly, everything changed before [Neverfell's] eyes.

The figures on the wall ceased to be ants and became people. Suddenly she could imagine the strain on their shoulders, their broken nails, the chill of spray, the stomach-twisting awareness of the hungry drop below. How had she been stupid enough to think that these people were not grief-stricken, or cold, or weary, or angry? They just did not have the Faces to show any of these things.

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They had always been denied such expressions, and now, at last, Neverfell was starting to understand why. The cost of seeing painful realities is shown through Neverfell, whose devastated understanding is displayed, like everything she feels, on her face, causing those who view her as a tool to see her as "broken. This is a flexible type of political fiction, as the drudges can be seen as analogous to the faceless masses of many societies in the past. Alternatively, they can be interpreted as a more immediate social commentary, and I'm probably not alone in hearing echoes of the rhetoric used today by so many political figures as they go after one underprivileged group or another.

She's completely unable to remain quiet and unnoticed while the infants are taught docile Faces, however, and she teaches them to pull a basic playground face, which she admits makes you look like "a deformed frog" p. And the virtue of the face-pulling is that anyone can teach it, and anyone can learn it.

Power to the people of the simplest sort. Yet again I think Hardinge has achieved something quite remarkable here, as she shows the heartbreaking effects of evil behavior, yet does it with humor and lightness of touch. When Neverfell's revolution begins, the drudges storming the palace gate are all pulling the face, and the image of hundreds of people looking like distorted frogs but collectively forming "the Face of revolution" p.

Finally, there's the plot itself. On my first read of the book, it felt a bit of a breathless rush from crisis to disaster to discovery to crisis. However, when I reread, and even more, worked on this review, I came to see it as differently plotted rather than in any way plotless. Which is what I do naturally" p.

The book itself moves zigzag-hop as it playfully, joyfully shows us new perspectives. This continues right through to the very moving ending, which has such a lovely description of just the sky, the open air, that you feel as if you too are seeing them anew. Even at this length, I haven't the space to do justice to many highly successful elements of the novel, that could each be given a full paragraph or two.

Or stalwart, cranky Erstwhile, the errand boy who always has Neverfell's back, giving out to her for her rashness all the while. Or the Facesmith whose belief that her art is sufficient justification for anything she may do to others is chillingly relevant to our world. There's also the theme of traps, which runs through the book, starting with the seemingly innocuous trap-lanterns that give light and oxygen to the inhabitants of Caverna, until Neverfell realizes that Caverna itself or is that herself?

Returning to Martin Lewis's review of Twilight Robbery , there is just one part where I part company from him completely, and that's when he says that reading a book by Frances Hardinge makes him want to read an adult novel by her.

A Face Like Glass

What I can say without hesitation is that A Face Like Glass leaves me wanting only more Frances Hardinge, as long as it's anything like this good. Hallie O'Donovan lives in County Dublin with two daughters, two dogs, and a precarious stack of books at the end of the bed which will almost definitely take just one or two more.

It is pretty much perfect so I certainly wouldn't complain if Hardinge keeps writing books rather than ever writing a book for adults. You must log in to post a comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


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