Last year, I read and reviewed the first book in Mishell Baker’s “Arcadia Project” series, Borderline, and I was so pleased when Saga Press sent me the followup, Phantom Pains! Baker continues the series with more intricate and world- and mythology-building, and of course, Millie Roper’s bluntness and indomitable character.
Millie Roper is back, and she’s got a new job, haircut, and otherworldly mystery to solve. Though she officially left the Arcadia Project after she lost her partner, they manage to suck her back in after Caryl, one of the people Millie is closest to, is suspected of killing another member of the Project.
So the indomitable, snarky Millie finds herself once again pulled into the circle of the Arcadia Project, and working with all manner of people and creatures as she does whatever she can to prove Caryl’s innocence, and preserve both the world in which she lives, and also Arcadia.
This proves especially difficult as Millie still lives with the trauma of losing her partner Teo. However, Millie seems to have grown personally since the first book in the series, and manages her Borderline Personality Disorder through therapy and self-reflection. Millie’s self-awareness and ability to reflect rivals that of people not living with mental illness or a personality disorder. Millie is a truly great example of what it is like to live with mental illness, with a stress on the word “LIVE.”
I saw a definite difference between Borderline and Phantom Pains in that Millie knows herself better now, and this allows her to know and understand other people better as well—and she uses that new wealth of knowledge to her advantage. Knowing herself doesn’t keep her from making some mistakes she wishes she hadn’t, but Millie still manages to uncover an arcane Arcadian history that has eluded those even in the highest echelons of the Arcadia Project, and solve a centuries-old mystery.
I appreciated Baker’s continued world-building ability. She established Arcadia and the mirroring fantastical elements in Los Angeles in Borderline, and in Phantom Pains she adds more layers, characters, tensions, and, of course, fun.
The end of Phantom Pains seems to wrap things up neatly, but I do hope Baker continues the series—I love spending time with Millie, and in Arcadia and Los Angeles.
Mishell Baker is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede.
Her urban fantasy series The Arcadia Project is being released by Simon & Schuster’s Saga imprint beginning with Borderline in March 2016. The series is narrated by Millicent Roper, a snarky double-amputee and suicide survivor who works with a ragtag collection of society’s least-wanted, keeping the world safe from the chaotic whims of supernatural beasties.
When Mishell isn’t convention-hopping or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two changelings. When her offspring are older, she will probably remember what her hobbies are. In the meantime, she enjoys sending and receiving old-fashioned handwritten paper letters. You can visit her website for her address, or visit her on Twitter!
In this sequel to the Nebula Award–nominated and Tiptree Award Honor Book that New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire called “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted,” Millie unwillingly returns to the Arcadia Project when an impossible and deadly situation pulls her back in.
Four months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project after losing her partner Teo to the lethal magic of an Unseelie fey countess. Now, in a final visit to the scene of the crime, Millie and her former boss Caryl encounter Teo’s tormented ghost. But there’s one problem: according to Caryl, ghosts don’t exist.
Millie has a new life, a stressful job, and no time to get pulled back into the Project, but she agrees to tell her side of the ghost story to the agents from the Project’s National Headquarters. During her visit though, tragedy strikes when one of the agents is gruesomely murdered in a way only Caryl could have achieved. Millie knows Caryl is innocent, but the only way to save her from the Project’s severe, off-the-books justice is to find the mysterious culprits that can only be seen when they want to be seen. Millie must solve the mystery not only to save Caryl, but also to foil an insidious, arcane terrorist plot that would leave two worlds in ruins.