A Face Like Glass
Goodreads ratings
4.18 / 5

"A Face Like Glass" Summary

By Frances Hardinge

fantasy | 496 pages | Published in NaN

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone's an artist...In the underground city of Caverna the world's most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare. They create 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. 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...


Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young girl with a remarkable ability for facial expressions navigates a world of deception and intrigue.


In the enchanting world of "A Face Like Glass" by Frances Hardinge, readers are transported to the underground city of Caverna, where faces are blank slates and emotions are a carefully curated art form. This captivating and thought-provoking novel takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, rebellion, and the power of true emotions. With its richly imaginative setting and complex characters, "A Face Like Glass" is a must-read for fans of fantasy and adventure.

Brief Synopsis

Set in the city of Caverna, which lies deep underground, "A Face Like Glass" tells the story of Neverfell, a young girl with a face that cannot hide her emotions. In Caverna, where people are born with blank expressions and must learn to wear their emotions like masks, Neverfell is an anomaly. She is unable to control her expressions, which makes her a target for those who would exploit her unique ability.

As Neverfell navigates the intricate world of Caverna, she discovers dark secrets and hidden agendas. With the help of her friends, including the eccentric cheese maker Grandible and the enigmatic courtier Cabbagehead, Neverfell embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind her existence and the mysteries of Caverna.

Main Characters

NeverfellA young girl with an expressive face, she is curious, brave, and determined to uncover the truth about her existence.
GrandibleThe cheese maker who becomes a mentor and guardian to Neverfell. He is wise, kind, and harbors his own secrets.
CabbageheadA mysterious and secretive courtier who helps Neverfell navigate the treacherous world of Caverna.
ZouelleA powerful and manipulative member of the Court, who seeks to control the secrets of Caverna for her own gain.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1: The Girl with No Face

In the opening chapter, readers are introduced to Neverfell, a young girl with an expressive face, who lives in the underground city of Caverna. Neverfell is taken in by Grandible, a cheese maker, who becomes her guardian. Grandible teaches Neverfell about the intricacies of Caverna and the art of wearing emotions like masks.

Chapter 2: The Court of the Court

Neverfell attends a gathering at the Court of the Court, where she meets Cabbagehead, a mysterious courtier who becomes her guide and confidant. Neverfell begins to uncover the dark secrets and hidden agendas of Caverna's ruling class.

Chapter 3: The Masked Ball

Neverfell attends a masked ball at the Court, where she encounters Zouelle, a powerful and manipulative member of the Court. Zouelle recognizes Neverfell's unique ability to show true emotions and seeks to control her for her own gain.

Chapter 4: The Rebellion Begins

Neverfell joins forces with a group of rebels who are plotting to overthrow the ruling class of Caverna. Together, they uncover the truth about the city's origins and the role of emotions in Caverna's society.

Chapter 5: The Final Battle

Neverfell and her allies confront Zouelle and the ruling class in a final battle for control of Caverna. Neverfell's true emotions become a catalyst for change, as she inspires others to question the status quo and embrace their own individuality.

Main Events

  1. Neverfell is taken in by Grandible, who becomes her guardian.
  2. Neverfell meets Cabbagehead, who becomes her guide and confidant.
  3. Neverfell attends a masked ball at the Court and encounters Zouelle.
  4. Neverfell joins forces with a group of rebels and uncovers the truth about Caverna.
  5. Neverfell and her allies confront Zouelle and the ruling class in a final battle for control of Caverna.

Themes and Insights

The Power of True Emotions

One of the central themes in "A Face Like Glass" is the power of true emotions and the importance of authenticity. In Caverna, emotions are carefully controlled and manipulated, but Neverfell's inability to hide her feelings becomes a catalyst for change. Through her journey, readers are reminded of the value of embracing one's true emotions and the freedom that comes with genuine expression.

The Dangers of Manipulation

Another theme explored in the novel is the dangers of manipulation and the control that those in power can exert over others. Characters like Zouelle use their influence to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain. "A Face Like Glass" serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the need to question authority and resist manipulation.

Identity and Self-Discovery

Throughout the story, Neverfell grapples with questions of identity and self-discovery. As she uncovers the truth about her existence and the secrets of Caverna, she learns more about herself and the power she possesses. The novel encourages readers to embrace their own individuality and to embark on a journey of self-discovery.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Face Like Glass" is a captivating and imaginative tale that explores the power of true emotions, the dangers of manipulation, and the journey of self-discovery. It reminds readers of the importance of authenticity, questioning authority, and embracing one's true identity. With its richly developed characters and intricate world-building, this novel is sure to leave readers reflecting on the themes long after the final page.


Frances Hardinge's "A Face Like Glass" takes readers on a thrilling journey through the underground city of Caverna, where emotions are masked and secrets abound. Through the eyes of the expressive protagonist, Neverfell, readers are immersed in a world of intrigue, rebellion, and self-discovery. With its thought-provoking themes and engaging storytelling, "A Face Like Glass" is a must-read for fans of fantasy and adventure.

A Face Like Glass FAQ

  1. What is 'A Face Like Glass' about?

    A Face Like Glass is a fantasy novel set in the underground city of Caverna, where faces are blank slates and people have to learn how to show expressions. The story follows a girl named Neverfell who has a face that naturally reflects her emotions, and her journey to uncover the secrets of Caverna.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Face Like Glass'?

    The author of 'A Face Like Glass' is Frances Hardinge.

  3. What genre does 'A Face Like Glass' belong to?

    'A Face Like Glass' is a fantasy novel.

  4. Is 'A Face Like Glass' part of a series?

    No, 'A Face Like Glass' is a standalone novel.

  5. What age group is 'A Face Like Glass' suitable for?

    'A Face Like Glass' is suitable for young adult readers, typically ages 12 and up.

  6. Are there any reviews available for 'A Face Like Glass'?

    Yes, you can find reviews for 'A Face Like Glass' on various book review websites or by searching online.

  7. Is 'A Face Like Glass' available in e-book format?

    Yes, 'A Face Like Glass' is available in e-book format.

  8. Where can I purchase a copy of 'A Face Like Glass'?

    You can purchase a copy of 'A Face Like Glass' from online retailers such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or from local bookstores.

  9. How long is 'A Face Like Glass'?

    'A Face Like Glass' has approximately 480 pages.

  10. Does 'A Face Like Glass' have any illustrations?

    No, 'A Face Like Glass' does not contain illustrations.