* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: January 28th 2016
Summary (from Goodreads):
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 — 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, and 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 …
I really loved this book. It’s bizarre and imaginative and more than a little bonkers and that makes for a great read.
The book has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, which is always a good thing in my book as I love anything Wonderland related. It feels similar in its bizarre logic, crazy ruler and other kooky characters, but it’s not really based on it as a story or anything (in case that was going to put you off).
Our main character, Neverfell, is different from the other inhabitants of Caverna as she is unable to control her facial expressions: while everyone else has set Faces which they learn, she shows all her emotions on her face as you or I might, and that is terrifying to everyone around her. After years of keeping her face hidden, she finds herself playing the dangerous games of the court, getting caught up in the antics of the Kleptomancer and leading a revolution.
I found the ideas in this book all fascinating, from delicacies that can affect memories or make you taste songs, to the mad Cartographers and the topsy-turvy world of Caverna, but I especially loved the Faces: their names, the limited Faces available to the lower classes and the way it made it impossible to know who was trustworthy and who was lying. It just sparked my curiosity and imagination and I loved it.
Neverfell has a kind of tragic character progression which we see through the changes in her face: from wide-eyed wonderer, full of innocence and able to marvel at the world of Caverna, to the heart breaking disillusionment as the darkness of the world is revealed to her.
Hardinge’s writing is truly magical and her imagination is just incredible. This is the first book I’ve read by her, but I know now that I want to read a lot more. If you’re a fan of fantasy and adventure and are looking for something completely different and new to read then this is for you.