Guest Blog: Borderline by Mishell Baker

I’m super excited today!  Reads & Reels welcomes Ryan Elainska, author of Her True Name.  Today he swaps roles and becomes the reviewer!

Book Review

Borderline by Mishell Baker-Guest Blogger-Ryan Elainska-Reads & Reels

Smart fantasy/mystery with raw, sympathetic characters: The Men in Black, but for mythical creatures!

I found Borderline on a list of Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels that “treat mental illness with compassion,” and the premise of the story just sounded too good to pass up. It didn’t disappoint—within minutes, I was hooked!

The Story…

When Millie woke up with no legs after throwing herself off a seven-story building, she thought her burgeoning career as a film director was over. But just as her inheritance is about to run out and leave her on the street, a strangely deadpan woman appears at Millie’s rehab center to offer her a position at The Arcadia Project, an organization that offers people with disabilities a chance at meaningful work in the movie business in exchange for performing a job that “strains credulity.” After arranging to meet Millie across town in Santa Monica the next day, the stranger literally vanishes.

Soon Millie finds herself living in Arcardia Project housing with an array of housemates who range from cloying to bewildering to downright scary and back again. Partnered with the unkempt and irascible Teo, who has bipolar disorder, Millie begins tracking down a missing actor who is, more importantly, a member of the faerie nobility. Millie discovers—bit by bit, as her strange housemates decide to reveal it to her—that The Arcadia Project has appointed itself the guardian of the border between the human world and the world of the Seelie and the Unseelie: the faeries, fauns, dragons, vampires, and monsters of legend (and more). The Men in Black—but instead of aliens, they’re policing mythical creatures!

Together, Millie and Teo follow the movements of Viscount Rivenholt and his human Echo and gradually uncover a plot that threatens to bring down the wrath of the Seelie Queen upon all of humanity.

What I Thought…

Borderline lands squarely in the fantasy genre, but it takes the structure of a mystery. I don’t usually choose mysteries to read, but the setting and characters of this book carried me along for the ride anyway. The relationships between Millie and the other members of The Arcadia Project flood otherwise procedural scenes with human drama, and the author has clearly done her worldbuilding homework. The interconnectedness of the two realms and the creatures that cross between them feel true and believable and fleshed-out, while still leaving plenty of mystery and space for further exploration in what I hope will be many sequels.

A word about the treatment of mental illness: I do not know much about this subject, although I’m always trying to learn. Millie, in addition to using a wheelchair and prosthetics as a result of losing her legs, has Borderline Personality Disorder, and all her housemates at The Arcardia Project also have a mental illness of some kind. All I can say about how the author treats the subjects of mental health and disability is that she seems well-researched, and none of the characters struck me as just a walking diagnosis. People who have more experience with these matters might disagree, though. I’d love to hear from anyone who has more insight to offer.

Beyond that, Borderline struck a great balance between teasing me with a trickle of information about the world of the fey (as the creatures from the other side are collectively known) and gradually revealing the compelling personalities and backstories of the Arcadia Project team. It is obviously intended to be the first in a series of faerie-law-enforcement stories, and even though I’m not a huge fan of mysteries, the characters will definitely keep me coming back for more!

My Rating… A

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Ryan Elainska is the author of the Her True Name series. You can find him at:

hertruename.com

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