Hollywood is the land of dreams, where the line between what is real and what is possible is hard and difficult enough to judge without the added complications of a parallel reality in which fairies are not only real but also feed into and out of every creative process we know of. This is exactly what Millie starts to learn when she is co-opted to work for the Arcadia Project, the secret organization that polices the comings and goings of fairies between the two realms and regulates the relationships between Echoes—the close-knit, life-changing, bond-forming, soul-mating, not-necessarily-romantic connection between a human and a fairy that enables that team to create beautiful works of art.
Borderline starts one year after Millie lost her legs, her self-esteem, and a promising filmmaking career in Hollywood after a failed suicide attempt. The Arcadia Project is a prospective life-saving job and a great opportunity to test skills Millie did not know she had (as well as those she does) but also a mad, bad, and potentially life-threatening career for someone with borderline personality disorder who is not even given all the information that is needed to order to do the job well.
It doesn’t help that her first task is to help investigating the disappearance of a fae noble whose Echo is one of Millie’s favourite filmmakers. Partnered up with a guy whose animosity is off-putting and wanting to bond with Caryl, her mysterious young boss, Millie will have to learn how to navigate the complicated threads involving humans and fairies, the fraught relationship with her co-workers, as well as dealing with her own personal problems.
There are several mysteries here: what’s happening with the missing fae? Who is working against the Arcadia Project? Why was Millie invited to work for Arcadia anyway? Does Millie have an echo? When are Millie and Caryl going to hook up (well, this last one is less of an in-book mystery and more of an optimistic anticipation of mine).
Borderline is Mishell Baker’s debut and the first in a new Urban Fantasy series. It’s an absolutely incredible, engaging, fun piece of speculative fiction. The mysteries roll out one after the other, keep the reader guessing until its mind-blowing climax where nothing even remotely predicable happens.
Millie’s narrative voice is perfectly deployed—when she talks about her mental health in a matter-of-fact way, when she walks into danger like a proper UF heroine is bound to do, or when she is close to an emotional breakdown, her voice is there guiding us through those moments with aplomb—the emotional rollercoaster this novel offer is vast and unflinching. I, for one, cannot wait to see where this series leads me.
In Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10.
Thea James and Ana Grilo are The Book Smugglers, a website for speculative fiction and YA. You can also find them on Twitter.