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Borderline (The Arcadia Project) Paperback – March 1, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Millie Roper has been at the Leishman Psychiatric Center in Los Angeles for more than six months, having checked herself in after a failed suicide attempt that resulted in the loss of her right leg. She's visited by a woman who wants to recruit her for something called the Arcadia Project, which she describes as a nonprofit employment project partially funded by the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, but refuses to provide any more details unless Millie meets her the following day. Intrigued, Millie packs up her belongings (wheelchair, crutches, cane, prosthetic limb, and suitcase) and takes a cab to the designated location. Thus begins a roller-coaster ride through Los Angeles and environs, as Millie is tasked with locating a missing actor. What she doesn't realize until she's well into the case is that fairies and other magical creatures live among the residents of her reality and that one needs only a special pair of sunglasses to be able to see them. Millie is a delight—outspoken to the point of rudeness, with a wry wit and (despite her history) a healthy sense of self-preservation. The supporting characters are a motley crew, all with physical or mental issues of some kind and of varying ethnic backgrounds, and the story is an entertaining mix of fantasy and mystery noir. VERDICT Most comparable to Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files," this should appeal to his fans as well as followers of Charles de Lint and MaryJanice Davidson.—Marlyn K. Beebe, Los Alamitos, CA --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Borderline is worldbuilding at its most original...I loved this book." (Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of DEAD UNTIL DARK)
"Smart, snappy, fast, fantastic. You will not be sorry you read this." (Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye series)
"A fast-paced story of high costs laced with humor that goes from light-hearted to scathing with the flip of a coin...navigates the borderlands of friendship and enmity, trust and betrayal, with shrewd and unrelenting grace." (NPR)
* "Fully articulated, flawed, and fascinating characters combine with masterly urban fantasy storytelling in Baker’s debut novel... [a] beautifully written story that is one part mystery, one part fantasy, and wholly engrossing." (Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW)
* "Baker’s debut takes gritty urban fantasy in a new direction with flawed characters, painful life lessons, and not a small amount of humor." (Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW)
"An enjoyable fantasy mystery that tackles physical disability and mental illness without sacrificing diverting, fast-paced storytelling." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Baker’s consistent, caring integration of the realities of disability into the narrative, makes Borderline one of the most purely respectful portrayals of people with disabilities that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and that in turn makes it an excellent launch to a very promising urban fantasy series." (Publishers Weekly STAFF PICK)
"Baker has crafted a swift, delightful, and complex beginning to your next favorite urban fantasy series, very nearly redefining the genre along the way...an unabashed pleasure cruise, filled to the brim with snappy dialogue, smart character choices, behind-the-scenes Hollywood shenanigans, and delightful fish-out-of-water moments." (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog)
"Mishell Baker’s new Arcadia Project series is off to a thrilling and glamorous start with Borderline...Baker has given her audience urban fantasy at its finest—visceral and real in its sense of space, and dancing on the uncanny edges of our vision...Borderline is dark and creeping and smart as a whip." (Tor.com)
"Borderline [is] a strange, fast-paced, and surprisingly dark tale about magic, madness and mystique...Despite the engaging plot, Millie’s character, and the complexities in the characters around her made the book a real page-turner for me...Immensely riveting, with unexpected influxes of depth." (MuggleNet.com)
"Urban fantasy series often live of die on the strength of their protagonist, and by that measure, Mishell Baker has written one of the greats...Baker spins a fast-moving fantasy yarn while crafting fully formed characters, showing great compassion in her depiction of mental illness and alienation." (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog, Bookseller picks for March)
"Boasting a truly unique heroine whose flaws only make her more compelling, Baker’s debut is an exciting entry into an imaginative new world" (Booklist)
"A smart, witty, and engrossing book that made me laugh-out-loud and hold my breath as I fell under its spell...Baker is on par with Elmore Leonard when it comes to mastery in the art of dialogue." (SF Signal)
"An absolutely incredible, engaging, fun piece of speculative fiction." (The Book Smugglers on Kirkus Reviews)
"A quick-paced, engrossing read with a surprisingly genuine and realistic portrayal of mental illness and physical disability...successfully balances darkness, humor and wit, set against a creatively imagined world...Readers will be left excited for more." (Romantic Times Book Reviews)
"Shrewd, sharp and full of fiercely graceful writing." (NPR)
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Top customer reviews
Living voluntarily in a psychiatric treatment facility after recovering from her fall, Millie is startled when a well-dressed stranger, Caryl Vallo, visits and offers her an ill-defined form of employment if she will leave the facility and move into a residence run by the mysterious Arcadia Project. Millie chances accepting Caryl’s offer and soon learns that the Project’s job is attempting to manage relations between the Fey (as it is spelled here) and the human world, which some of the fairy folk choose to live in for extended periods—in this case, the section of that world that comprises Hollywood. (That would explain a lot about the movie capital.) She also learns that the Project likes to employ mentally ill people as its human agents, so it’s no surprise that the other five dwellers in the residence are as screwed up as she is.
I particularly liked two things about this book. The first was the characters; Millie, Caryl, Teo, and the others are complex, interesting, and appealing. The second was the steady way in which the author fed in a great deal of information about complicated subjects such as the nature of borderline personality disorder (not likely to be as familiar to most readers as, say, bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder), the rules governing the relations between Fey and humans, and the care and operation of prosthetic legs. I can’t judge the accuracy of the information, but it was consistent and “felt right.” The writing was well handled, too. For instance, Millie (who narrates the book) says:
“Most Borderlines are virtually incapable of a sincere apology. Tell a Borderline she has hurt you and she responds with a list of ways you’ve hurt her worse. Why? Because in a ‘split’ world, someone has to wear the black hat, and for a person with suicidal tendencies, avoiding guilt is quite literally a matter of life and death.”
I was glad to see signs that the author is planning further books about the Arcadia Project, and some threads were left dangling in preparation for that, but the story in this book was well wrapped up, which is not always the case when sequels are in the works. I will look forward to reading the sequels when they appear.
The novel takes place in a contemporary fantasy version of America. Written like an independently produced film, it makes free use of the language of the cinematic world, and frames scenes as though they were part of a movie, giving this story’s decidedly non-epic scale a sense of epical quality nonetheless. It includes a mystery to be solved, with Millicent acting out the role of Sherlock Holmes while rolling in her wheelchair or seeing what’s afoot on her prostheses, and this keeps the plot moving while the author smoothly shares world building information with the reader in a painless fashion.
All the characters in the story behave bizarrely. Some, like Millie, have mental diseases that cause this; some are Fey, and Fey have non-human standards of conduct that appear outré to us; and some are just humans displaying flawed behavior out of insecurity. This makes for interesting exchanges. And since the story is told in the first person, Millie’s mental state makes the reader the first person to sense the unconventional perspective presented in the book. It’s as though we have always been Fey-ked out by the reality we see. But make no mistake; there is nothing fake about how good this book is. It’s comfortably uncomfortable: tragic and humorous, gritty and glossy, starkly human and maddeningly glamorous.
I loved this book. I had just about given up on Urban Fantasy as a genre, finding the same formulaic heroines, following the same formulaic patterns, frankly boring. This book was recommended to me by someone who has never liked urban fantasy at all. He told me that the heroine was disabled and suffered from a mental health disorder and I had to at least check it out. I've read plenty of 'damaged' heroine urban fantasy and was not expecting much but I was in for a welcome surprise. There is no damaged heroine stereotype at play here. While the realities of the heroine's physical and mental challenges are not downplayed, neither are they played on for drama or for sentiment.
Of course, their is magic, and (gasp!) Fey! But these things didn't ruin the gritty realism of the novel at all. The book is far more of a mystery novel with Millie as an up and coming hard boiled detective in the LA film industry than with only a pleasing veneer of magical dressings. The best moments in the book are where Millie faces down someone who has placed her in a box because of her disability.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves urban fantasy but has been looking for some revitalization of the genre. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
Most recent customer reviews
Looking forward to the rest of the series. Definitely not your average "Urban Fantasy" book.
Grab it and see.