Borderline by Mishell Baker | Review

The Arcardia Project #1 (out of three books)

Pages: 390

Genre: Urban fantasy, fae, mental health & disability, bisexual main character

Synopsis

A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure. 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

It’s difficult to review this book fairly, because I respect and admire the setup of it, thinking it had so much promise. Then something happened in the middle, I’m still unsure of exactly what, that made it go downhill. And the ending just highlighted those bad choices.

I’ve looked at other reviews enough to realize almost no one have the same issues with this book as me. The writing flows really good, and it made it seem to much shorter than nearly four hundred pages. I can’t say anything about the accuracy of the portrayal of the borderline main character, but I’ve seen others saying it was well done, and the author draws from own experiences. It’s obvious that the main character does certain things because of her mental illness, and the narration makes that very clear in a way I like, referring to borderline people as it happens. But then there’s enough undiscussed things that makes the character unlikable; like Millie casually thinking and saying racist things out of the blue and having a meltdown and yelling at all the people she’s come to known. It’s even mentioned by another character in the story:

“I don’t mind people being crazy,” he said. “I understand rage and depres- sion and saying stuff you regret. But when I do it, I’m just a dumb dog snap- ping his teeth. What I don’t like about you is that even when you’re being nice, even when things are good, you’re checking out people’s weaknesses, storing things up to hurt them with later. You can’t be trusted. Not ever.”

I really liked how “simple” of a urban fantasy plot this book had, because it was done so well and given new dimensions to explore with each character’s background and small elements it brought, like if they were up to do magic or not depending on how in control of their mental state they were. And I didn’t need to like Millie. But when the side characters starts to feel very one-dimensional and stereotypical – through her eyes – you kind of have lost the ability to cheer for anyone in this book, and then lost interest in how it ends. I don’t know if this is purposefully unreliable narration or not, but it doesn’t really matter because it creates the same issue. Maybe if it had happened earlier in this book, I could’ve reconnected with the characters, but I realize it’s not easy to write a book like this.

There were a lot of awesome small things as well; the bonding happening when someone found their soulmate, the setting of the magical bar. I especially love the quirky dialogue, like when a fae asks if Millie would like to come in for “sex and oranges”. How mental health and disability was such a part of the story, but at the same time not defining. Millie’s part of the story made sense, she was someone who was well-equipped and drew the story forward. Caryl, the young leader, was definitely someone who grew on you as you learned the reasons behind her behaviour, and I really felt connected to her. It just bothers me how it all falls together towards the end – I think it would’ve been better if it was just Millie being allowed to create chaos, but instead the story needs her to wrap it up and win, meaning her mental illness gets the best of her and before having any time to regroup she’s back to clean up and take on the bad guys. Which sounds awesome, but really didn’t work for this story that started out so realistic (despite the magical elements).

I will definitely read the next book. And I recommend this one; it’s worth a shot and a lot of people loved it.