In a debut novel that promises to be the first volume of an engaging urban fantasy series, Baker introduces a hard-edged but appealing heroine and a version of Los Angeles that pairs Hollywood with a magical parallel world.
Millicent Roper lost both her legs and her aspirations for a career in film after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She installs herself in a psychiatric facility in Los Angeles, fading under the burden of borderline personality disorder and a surfeit of associated unhappiness, until a mysterious stranger offers her a job at the Arcadia Project. Jerked out of her self-imposed inertia, Millie discovers that magic—real, world-warping magic—exists and that her prospective employers are part of a shady organization charged with regulating traffic between the human and fairy worlds. Her introduction to this strange reality offers the reader plenty of comforting entertainment, despite the fact that the Arcadia Project is staffed by former psychiatric patients, often troubled and unpredictable. Millie meets a host of appealing, oddball characters and finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy with elements of Hollywood glamour, gritty mystery, and lavish fairy-tale magic. The plot trundles along at a pleasant clip, and the story is easy to keep reading, though it sometimes layers so many unlikely incidents that it strains credibility even in a world stuffed with the fantastical. Millie, brash and volatile, crashes through and pulls everything along in her wake. Though often waylaid by the troubles of her mind and difficulties of her body, Millie’s stubborn insistence on survival and frequent matter-of-fact dissections of her problems manage to provoke fondness instead of pity. She faces catastrophic damage and carries on with the verve, sarcasm, and decency that bode well for a developing series.
An enjoyable fantasy mystery that tackles physical disability and mental illness without sacrificing diverting, fast-paced storytelling.