17320735 A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

This is a big, epic book involving an complex, involving thriller and whodunnit. I came to this book after reading Frances Hardinge’s brilliant, if terrifying, Cuckoo Song, and I was cautious that this one might be equally chilling. When I first read the cover blurb I had no idea what th expect…

In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen create delicacies beyond compare: cheeses that can show you the future adn perfumes that convice you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat.

…I simply had no idea what to expect but it sounded intriguing. What I got was pageturning joy of a read involving wise men who were fools, friends who are enemies, madmen, and thieves who are friends. It’s hard to talk about this book without giving away spoilers.

This is a fantasy adventure, clearly, with the population of people who live underground, but it needn’t be a fantasy. Yes there are cheeses that can show you the future, perfumes that deceive you, and wines that give and take memories from you, and of course faces that you can learn for every occasion, but you can read this as a story set in the real world. The scary idea of Facesmiths (remember those scary doll-eating dolls in Cuckoo Song) just makes you really think about the very human condition of people who are two-faced or like our heroine Neverfell, a face can betray nothing but the truth.

This is a book that will keep you guessing to the very last page, and it all makes absolute, perfect sense. For a first book to read in 2015, all that follow have got some topping.