Review: Borderline by Mishell Baker

Borderline by Mishell Baker (The Arcadia Project #1)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Saga Press on March 1, 2016

Source: Library

A cynical, paraplegic screenwriter with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland in the first book of a new urban fantasy series from debut author Mishell Baker.

  

Darkly funny, atmospheric, and diverse, Mishell Baker’s BORDERLINE is the first in a whip-smart urban fantasy series set in Los Angeles. And the best part? There’s only one book out so far, so there’s not too much to catch up on! To say that I liked this would be a massive understatement — it’s easily one of the best UF debuts I’ve ever read. Word to the wise, though: this book is dark and self-harm and suicidal ideation are prevalent, so if that’s a problem for you I’d steer clear.

Mille Roper has hit rock bottom: struggling with borderline personality disorder, she attempted suicide…and only succeeded in losing both her legs and her fledgling career in the film industry. Given her somewhat spectacular way of burning bridges, there doesn’t seem like much hope of reviving her career even six months after the attempt, which is why Mille’s justifiably shocked when she’s offered a job working in the industry again. Recruited by the Arcadia Project, a shadowy organization that works in the back rooms of Hollywood, Millie begins living and working with a rag-tag group of the Project’s employees. Together they wrangle film stars and directors, and Millie sees the chance to give directing another go. But when Millie learns that the Project’s clients are all fae, or the humans who work with them, she’s thrown for a loop. She’s not crazy enough to believe that…is she?

Joining the Project is like getting a second chance at life for Millie, but it’s hardly smooth sailing. It turns out that living in a communal residence full of similarly mentally ill and often erratic people isn’t a walk in the park — particularly for a woman who occasionally needs a wheelchair. Add to that chasing down a missing fae Viscount (long story), dealing with the chronic pain of her physical disability, and grappling with the realities of her borderline personality disorder, and Millie’s in for quite the wild ride. The lack of straight answers about the fae and their abilities combined with the practically indecipherable world of fae politics may be frustrating for Millie, but the slow reveal of layer upon layer of the world in BORDERLINE makes for very satisfying reading.

If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t always like Millie. Baker does an amazing job representing a serious case of borderline personality disorder, which means that we see Millie at her absolute worst. BPD impacts mood, resulting in erratic behaviour, instability, and unpredictable self-image. It’s also characterized by impulsive behaviour and unhealthy personal relationships, all of which we see with Millie. One moment she’s all sparkling wit and charm and smoothness, the next she’s blatantly manipulative and exploitative. One moment she’s someone’s best friend, the next she’s trying to bash their head in with her cane. Yet somehow despite, or maybe because of, all this, Millie’s an easy character to fall for. There’s something very raw and exposed about her, and her unpredictable nature makes for a very compelling protagonist. Millie has been through the ringer but she keeps getting back up — even if she needs prosthetics, a cane, and a wheelchair to do it.

With a compelling protagonist, a diverse cast of characters, and a distinctly unique take on urban fantasy, Mishell Baker’s BORDERLINE is well worth the read. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017!

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  • Lol, well I do like that there are not 50 books to catch up on

  • Wow. Not on my radar but it is now. TO GOODREADS!

  • I loved this book too! And I’m starting the sequel very soon. I’m curious to see where the story is going next. I just loved Millie so much and I’m anxious to jump back into her life again:-)

    • OMG, I am dying to hear your thoughts on it Tammy! Your glowing review is what convinced me to pick this one up in the first place, so hopefully the second one is just as enjoyable for you!

  • This sounds interesting and definitely original and the fact there is no long series to catch up on is always good in my books. I’ll have to try and give it a read when I can. I mean, it sounded interesting anyway but to have a MC who is both likable and unlikable is interesting and to see her dealing with a disability and borderline personality disorder. I’ll have to add another book to the buy list. It’s getting a bit long now but oh well.

    • Whenever I hear about an intriguing new book and it turns out to be book 3 or 4 in a series I get so discouraged. I barely have time to read the books already on my TBR, for crying out loud! That’s what makes this one so great.

      Millie is such an interesting protagonist: you can’t look away from her even when she makes you uncomfortable. I’d never read about an amputee protagonist or someone with BPD before, and this was a fascinating addition to both.

      Project #TBRMountain continues!

      • Yeah, it is disheartening to see a book I want to read is part of a series I probably don’t have time to catch up on. I live in this deluded world where I think one day I will catch up on my TBR though.

        And TBR mountain has become TBR mountain range. There are the peaks of Kindle mountain which overlook Mt Physical TBR. It’s a growing problem.

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    I noticed this book some time ago but since it was before I started compiling a list of the titles I want to read, it fell between the cracks of my imperfect memory. So, thank you very much for this intriguing review and for reminding me of a great title I *need* to read! 🙂

    • Oh wow, what did we even do before we kept TBR lists? Think of all the potentially amazing books that just slid right off our radars. Woe! Hahaha. Knowing your love of complex characters I think you’re going to really enjoy this one, Maddalena!

  • I don’t think I’ve ever read
    urban fantasy featuring a disabled main character. Not that I’ve read a lot.
    The only book that comes to mind is Crimson Bound though it’s fantasy. This
    book sounds so deliciously dark and diverse. I wish it had romance in it. I
    know, I know, but I’m a hopeless romantic.

    • Neither had I, Ksenia! In fact, this is the first adult fantasy novel I’ve ever read featuring a disabled protagonist. Which is kind of shocking, when you think about it! This one is perfectly dark and diverse but you’re right: not much romance. Millie’s not in a place mentally where that’s something she can really pursue…yet! Maybe in the sequel. 🙂

      • While I prefer books with
        romance in them, I think there are way too many fantasy stories with needless
        romance in them, or worse a love –triangle. Fantasy series authors are especially
        guilty of it. I can appreciate when the author doesn’t throw into the story
        romance that is out of place and forced. I’ll wait when you read a sequel then,
        whenever it comes.

  • Lauren

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one so much – I loved this one too!

    • Wasn’t it fantastic?! I’m so mad at myself for not reading it sooner. Mishell Baker is one to watch, for sure.

  • Ooh, this sounds really cool! I love stories with complicated protagonists.

    Also:
    > There’s only one book out so far

    That really is a huge motivating factor since it means I’m not automatically a million books behind everyone else, hahahahaha!

    • Complicated characters are the best! Who doesn’t love a slightly unreliable narrator, right? Hahahaha yes, series with only one book released so far are the best! 🙂

  • This was such a great book! A refreshing change of pace when it comes to UF, and I’m really looking forward to diving into the sequel.

    • Mishell Baker has completely revived my love of UF! I should’ve known she’d be great after a glowing blurb from Seanan McGuire, haha. Can’t wait to read more from her!

  • Lynn Williams

    I’ve read such positive reviews for this one – I will definitely pick it up eventually.
    Great review.
    Lynn 😀

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Oh yay! So glad you read this one. I put it off because I was afraid it would be depressing, but it wasnt at all. I’m really looking forward to Phantom Pains.

    • You know, despite the extremely dark subject matter and several extremely grim scenes, this was as far from depressing as you can get. I actually found it quite hopeful, in an odd way!

  • OMG SO GLAD YOU LOVED IT <3333 I'm moving this high up on my TBR!! I wish I'd added this to my read-a-thon TBR! (Not that it would have done much good considering I pretty much failed in my own Read-A-Thon) 😛 But yay! glad you found a new favourite <3

    • The readathon was such a blessing, I’m so glad you put it together Uma! While I may have failed at my challenges (lol…ugh), I found a ton of really cool books that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise, so that’s a win as far as I’m concerned!

      • Oh yay Danya! <3 i'm so happy to hear that! I'm planning on making it a regular thing? A couple of times every year to help us all conquer our TBRs and pick up diverse novels!! 🙂

  • Greg Hill

    Borderline personality and fae in Hollywood? That sounds pretty awesome actually! And pretty unique as far as the premise goes. I could get into this I think… nice review Danya!

    • Such an unusual combination of characteristics, but Baker totally pulls it off! Borderline features one of the most unique protagonists I’ve ever come across, that’s for certain. I think you’d like this one too, Greg! 🙂

  • Wow a five star urban fantasy, is right up my alley. I think the genre has been taken over by so many bad titles I’m usually skeptical! But this will immediately be on my TBR great Review!

    • I know, right?! It’s been ages since I’ve read such a good UF debut (this might actually be the strongest one I’ve ever read), and the best part about this one is that it’s *so* diverse. Thanks Tori, I hope you get a chance to pick it up soon!

  • This is on my “to read this year” list, so I’m glad to hear it’s so good! And the MC sounds really realistically and well-written. Really looking forward to this one!

    • This one took me by surprise with how great it was, so I hope you enjoy it too Kristen! The disability rep was on point.

  • I have this on my list to read so I read the first part of your review to make sure you thought it was GOOD — which YAY — And then skimmed the rest. You have me so excited for this!

    • Yay, that’s what I like to hear! 🙂 I absolutely loved this, and I’m hoping that the second book (coming out soon) is just as good.

  • Hey, why can’t I find how to subscribe to your blog through email? ;_;

    • Oh no, i’m not sure why! After checking it out on the mobile version I think it might be a problem there. Are you browsing on your phone? I’ll investigate and see if I can get it working, thanks for the heads up!

  • This sounds pretty stinking great! It is an impressive feat of writing to create a character who is both difficult and easy to like. Millie seems like I someone I definitely want to read about!