In the third book of The Arcadia Project series, Baker (Phantom Pains, 2017, etc.) raises the stakes for an engaging heroine, who wrestles with physical disability and mental illness.
We return to Millie Roper and the covert organization she works for in the middle of a crisis. The Arcadia Project monitors and controls the interactions between the human world and the magical parallel reality of the fey. These interactions have fueled human inspiration and progress throughout history, so when the Arcadia Project splinters into an internal war, with Millie’s Los Angeles office rebelling against the brutal policies of the Project’s London headquarters, it puts both worlds in danger. The pressure crushes everyone on the Los Angeles team, with Millie in particular ruthlessly battered by her borderline personality disorder, but when London HQ tries to frame her partner for murder, she comes up with a dangerous plan to both save him and break London’s worldwide control. The plan is quickly entangled with conflicts among fey royalty, a movement to free enslaved spirits, and complicated love. The action rarely takes a breath as the characters dash from one predicament to another in worlds that are so saturated with magic and conflict that the high-speed drama feels pleasurably inevitable. There’s a cinematic joy in the brisk revelations and switchbacks of the plot, but even more impressive are Baker’s sympathetic and difficult characters. Millie’s physical struggles as a double amputee are a seamless part of the character, important and sensitively portrayed, but never a stunt. Her BPD is treated with similar frankness, grace, and even humor. Each of Baker’s characters acts in ways that are sometimes better and sometimes much worse than you expect, but their complications give the novel’s magical elements the heft of reality.
An entertaining novel of magical heists driven by deeply appealing characters.