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A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she's sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she'll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble's disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

390 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2016

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About the author

Mishell Baker

13 books217 followers
Author of Nebula finalist/Tiptree Honor Book BORDERLINE. Repped by Russell Galen. Mother, language nerd, MH advocate, Guardian of Liberty.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 891 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,701 followers
March 15, 2017
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

4.5 stars

I've been book funky . . . for like . . . WEEKS. I've binge-watched: Gotham , The Flash , and the first three seasons of Suits . I've decimated my Secret Garden coloring book.

And on the day I read BORDERLINE by Mishell Baker, I tried to read four different books. FOUR. This is the only one that stuck.

Millicent (Millie) Roper is a most unlikely urban fantasy heroine.

She has two prosthetic legs. And I'm not talking futuristic bionic limbs that give her superhero-like speed or strength. NOPE. Just the usual kind. Not that I'm saying people with prostheses can't be heroes, it's just not the standard in fiction.

She lost her legs when she landed feet first from a seven story jump, and, YES, I do mean jump--it was a suicide attempt.

A suicide attempt that took place after a failed romance with one of her professors . . . Millie also has BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

Basically . . . she's a HOT MESS.

She's also one of the most compelling characters I've read in recent memory.

When we meet Millie, she's languishing in some kind of a rehabilitation/recovery facility. With shrinks. She's been there for six months, and while it seems like her stay hasn't done her much good, as the story progresses, we see that it really, really has.

She's learned terms that help her identify her behaviors. She's learned coping mechanisms. And we learn more about her disease than I ever thought was possible without falling asleep.

But as it turns out, people "marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships," . . . NOT boring. Especially when they get recruited by a government-funded agency to liaise between the humans and the fey . . . Recruited with a bunch of other crazies . . . Who all live in the same house.

So that's awesome.

Also awesome is Baker's writing. I have so many highlights, so many ridiculously good examples of Baker's awesome that it almost physically hurts not to be able to use them all. SO. After careful consideration, I limited it to three:

“I’m Gloria,” she said.
“I, uh.” My brain felt like a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam.
“You’ve never met a little person before.” She giggled, in that cute way Southern women do instead of punching you in the teeth.

I know that giggle. I may have even used it a few times myself.

Then there's Millie's painful honesty. Like when she discovers Caryl has separated her more volatile emotions into a familiar:

I had a sudden desperate urge to talk to Dr. Davis. This woman, her former patient no less, had torn her mind in half. Her Emotion Mind was perched on my shoulder while her Reason Mind drove the car and told me it didn’t matter. It was fascinating and horrible, and I was deeply, sickeningly envious.

*rubs fist over heart*

But where Baker really excelled was in her throwaway descriptions:

Union Station is the sort of place that looks like it ought to have ghosts. And it does, if you count the dead-eyed people shuffling through the cavernous main terminal or perched in uncomfortable chairs, watching rows of demonic red numbers.

That shit is EVERYWHERE.

BORDERLINE by Mishell Baker is that rare something new, something different, something GOOD that we're all silently hoping for every time we pick up a new book. Baker puts her own unique spin on the fey, while maintaining their basic integrity. Her writing is bloody fantastic. Her characters are real, and I straight-up love Millie--she is deeply flawed, possesses an honesty that is alternately painful and hilarious, and manically likable. Any fan of urban fantasy should check this one out. Highly recommended.

Jessica Signature
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
February 26, 2017
This was an unexpectedly good Urban Fantasy novel with Fae and a differently-damaged protagonist that sets it apart from most by dealing with mental illness.

What? Mental illness? What kind? BORDERLINE Personality Disorder. :) Just think unstable and you've pretty much got it. It makes for hell on all her personal relationships, her professional relationships, and to make things worse, her suicide attempt took her legs from her.

Woah. She's got problems. It should make for some rather interesting reading in any normal circumstances, I'm sure, but it looks like she's just been selected for an untraditional work-therapy program... with Fae. :) It helps that this UF ties creative abilities with the Fae and we're in LA. I mean, everyone's fairly close to the borderline anyway and I'm sure no one would blink an eyelash when they were told that Hollywood is run by the Unselee Court. (OR some variation.) :)

The rest of the novel picks her up as an investigator which is pretty boilerplate but I didn't care in the slightest because of all the interesting twists and turns. Is it primarily a character-driven novel? Absolutely. Is it fresh? Absolutely. Did it renew my faith in UF? Absolutely. :)

The fact that the author took on a topic that is difficult and disturbing and wasn't afraid to let me actively dislike the main character while simultaneously making me search and find things to love about her is definitely a big bonus. :)

May 11, 2021
The rating? We start at 5 stars:
+1 star: I totally love the setting with all the Echo thing and norium and turning into wizards and... Lovely!
+1 star: A tortured heroine (Ironbones!) going through the phase of learning to live in the aftermath of her suicide attempt, while struggling with bipolar disorder and prostetic legs and deep scarring about everywhere. Gosh!
+1 star: lovely techniques Millie uses throughout the book to keep her sanity in check.
+1 star: quirky dialogues, multidimentional settings
+1 star: Engaging premise what's with all the fey plotlines.
What's not to love about it? 5+ stars!

Suicide is not a way of ending pain; it’s just a way of redistributing it. (c)
That’s her—that’s the thoughtless girl who broke a dozen perfectly good branches on her way to the pavement. (c)
One of the fun bits about BPD is a phenomenon shrinks like to call “splitting.” When under stress, Borderlines forget the existence of gray. Life is a beautiful miracle, or a cesspool of despair. The film you’re making is a Best Picture candidate, or it’s garbage. People are either saints, or they’re scheming to destroy you. (c)
“Is there something that makes you think I can function?”
“The twenty-five years of your life that elapsed before you did something colossally stupid.” (c)
Aside from wardrobe color, she fit the Man in Black profile perfectly, and I didn’t have much to lose by sounding crazy. (c)
“Not in the way you mean,” she said without asking what I meant. (c)
At this point I was not very far along in my dialectical behavior therapy, and unmanaged Borderlines have a partially deserved reputation for manipulating others. I knew how to make Dr. Davis feel she was doing well, and I had learned which of my tangents fascinated her enough to keep her off the topics I didn’t want to discuss. (c)
I knew Caryl hadn’t been a hallucination, but Dr. Davis hadn’t seen her, and I didn’t have a great theory to counter “Millie’s last marble finally rolled under the fridge somewhere.“ (c)
At the time I had more money than sense, and so I had been languishing at the Leishman Psychiatric Center in Silver Lake for just over six months. (c)
I hated optimism; it served only to remind me how inconceivable the depth of my failure was to normal people. (c)
Any emotion, good or bad, lasts only a few moments unless we feed it. (c)
“No,” she said, like a snuffer on a candle. Not the no of ignorance, the no of don’t even think about it. (c)
But that’s a weird side effect of BPD; your perception of truth shifts so often in the normal course of daily life that crazy talk doesn’t automatically trigger your bullshit reflex. (с)
Sunlight poured across the one-and-a-half-story octagonal room like honey, illuminating the emptiness of the freshly refinished floor. Five of the eight walls were mostly glass; the bamboo Roman shades had been rolled all the way up, flooding the room with afternoon sun.
I don’t know how to describe the feeling that overtook me except to call it love. It had the same bouquet: electric top notes of want, smoky warmth at the heart, and a bitter base note of unworthiness. (c)
My imagination ignited so powerfully that I felt nostalgic, as though I were remembering a past rather than planning a future.... Months’ if not years’ worth of compressed longings unpacked themselves to fill the empty space. (c)
It had been a long time since I had been awakened by a sunrise, and I’m one of those rare people who adores it. I love a day I haven’t screwed up yet. (c)
... there had to be some reason that particular elephant was shuffling unmolested around the room. (c)
It hadn’t occurred to me until the sun started going down that the same windows that let in light could let in a lot of darkness, too. (c)
“What happened to your old partner?”
“Killed herself, just like the first one.”...
“This—seems a less than ideal job for me.”
“It’s not the job... Caryl just gives me the craziest ones.”
“And how sane are you?”
“I’m the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Bipolar.” (c)
“Am I invisible?... Or is this a subtle joke about the fact that I don’t exist?” ...
“He’s being melodramatic... He means he has no legal identification; his mother didn’t register his birth.”
“Or my existence, really, except for the occasional attempt at an exorcism. (c)
I snatched up my cane; I’m not sure whether I intended to prove him wrong or just awkwardly flounce out of the room. Either way, I thought better of it and focused instead on the chill smoothness of the aluminum against my palms. As Dr. Davis had taught me, I filled my mind with the object’s shape and temperature, color and texture. Be one-mindful. Empty your thoughts of the asshole on the other couch. (c)
People throw around the term “self-loathing” without really knowing what it means. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. (c)
Once you reach the main entrance, all pretense of conservatism is promptly defenestrated. (c)
Not all fey are sunshine and rainbows. (c)
When it comes to drama, I am both amplifier and sponge. You want to keep drama as far away from me as possible. (c)
“Doesn’t it seem like a terrible idea to you, hiring a bunch of crazy people and penning them up together?” (c)
... I guess we’re open-minded ’cause we’ve got no illusions that life makes any sense. (c)
“There are reasons besides snobbery that someone might not like to be touched.”
“Either way, when we find him, my boot is going to touch his ass.” (c)
“What if one attacks me?”
“Then you take the beating. Smiling optional.” (c)
To them, our way of reasoning and organizing is the most amazing thing ever. (c)
I love people randomly and suddenly, and it’s a curse most of the time. When it isn’t, it’s a lifesaver. (c)
When you’re Borderline, by the time you get a diagnosis you’ve done so many vicious things and blamed so many other people for them that the guilt of facing even one truth sets off a mental landslide. You start to wonder which of the evils done to you were real, and which were just reflections of the evil in you. ...
Most Borderlines are virtually incapable of a sincere apology. Tell a Borderline she has hurt you and she responds with a list of ways you’ve hurt her worse. Why? Because in a “split” world, someone has to wear the black hat, and for a person with suicidal tendencies, avoiding guilt is quite literally a ­matter of life and death. ...
nothing pisses off a Borderline quite like the truth. (c)
a construct: a recursive arcano-­linguistic lie bound to itself by pure logic. (c)
“Do you have no feelings at all?”
“Not when I am at work.”
“Wow. Must be nice to be able to just switch them off.”
“It is.” (c)
“Have you noticed that you’re impossible to have a normal conversation with?”
“I am not inclined to elect you arbiter of normal.” (c)
I hadn’t just burned my bridges; I’d nuked them from orbit. (c)
“If my boss has crippling mommy issues, I feel like it’s pretty damned relevant.” (c)
Why is some accident of uncontrolled neurochemistry the ‘real me,’ and a carefully reasoned system of priorities somehow false? I have lived more of my life without emotions than with them. (c)
This woman, her former patient no less, had torn her mind in half. Her Emotion Mind was perched on my shoulder while her Reason Mind drove the car and told me it didn’t matter. It was fascinating and horrible, and I was deeply, sickeningly envious. (c)
“Shall I walk you to the porch and kiss you good night?”
The fact that I found the idea vaguely appealing was evidence of the severity of my social famine. (c)
How would you even know?”
“Because I pay attention to shit besides myself. Try it sometime. (c)
Without even meaning to, I catapulted headfirst into one of the distress tolerance skills Dr. Davis had taught me, namely, comparing your problems to someone else’s larger ones. It pisses you off if it’s forced on you, but if you do it on your own, it’s like a hit of refined sanity straight to the veins. (c)
Caryl will be collecting all the sharp objects from your room later today. So if you want to slit your wrists, I suggest you do it in the next couple of hours.” (c)
... Hollywood people always sound like you’re just the person they’ve been dying to see. (c)
I could feel a Borderline paradigm shift. Without a stable sense of identity—something most people have mastered by the age of four—it becomes very easy for other people to tell you who you are just by the way they treat you. As I stood there, in my own mind I was becoming what he saw: a crazy and slightly scary woman with delusions of importance. (c)
“I don’t ask my clients a lot of unnecessary questions in this economy.” I loved dropping “in this economy” into conversation; it was like a get-out-of-logic-free card, especially if you were talking to people who couldn’t remember the last time they had to pick up their own dry cleaning. (c)
There were about eight things wrong with that plan, but I had no time to argue. (c)
... mostly I’m stumbling around in the dark. No one tells me the rules until I break them, which seems like a horrible way to run an organi­zation. (c)
You’re a mess, but you’re my kind of mess. (c)
I was working! ... I can’t help it if I make it look fabulous. (c)
What a terrifying honor! Would you like to come in for sex and oranges? (c)
... you need to know I have so much steel holding my bones together I get hit on by robots. (c)
Dilated pupils are what make eyes seem to sparkle. People respond to this sign of joy on an unconscious level, warming to you without really knowing why. An old sales trick. (c)
“I need a washcloth, a sink, a plastic trash bag, and some fresh clothes,” I said in a brisk director voice... (c)
Profile Image for carol..
1,533 reviews7,861 followers
December 20, 2022

One of my friends once called me 'The Anti-Drama.' It was one of those moments of startling clarity, when one thinks, "wow; that could be the truest thing I've heard." I've found myself shying away from people that seem to enjoy confrontations, outbursts, reversals, confessions, and living life on a roller-coaster of emotion. All of this is to explain that it isn't Mishell Baker's book as much as it is her protagonist, Millie, of the borderline personality disorder and recent suicide attempt, that prevented me from enjoying Borderline.

Well, maybe the writing has something to do with it. Baker drops us into Millie's world without background, almost exactly like meeting a new person in real life. We don't know her childhood, although there's clues dropped that her mother was absent and her father abusive/distant. We learn she was a prodigy in the film world, with a shot at winning Sundance, but have very little of the in between. These hints come about as she talks with other people, or as she thinks about her coping skills. The advantage to this is avoiding awkward explanatory backstory; however, it does little to mitigate the perception of impulsive, selfish behavior. Millie's own habit of stating "borderlines do this..." and "of course, mood swings are borderline..." etc. contributed to the outsider effect.

Equally difficult was her inability to demonstrate compassion or softness with others. She seemed to value other people in terms of usefulness or in response to sudden affection (characteristic of borderline, of course, not just your average 20 year old who recently left an isolated environment). She has little empathy for their own struggles, even after learning everyone at the house that serious issues. For me, it was a barrier to connecting Millie as she continually sabotaged her moments of possible connection and success. On the plus side, there were a couple of moments where she was able to coach herself through ('borderline,' of course) situations (because who else over-reacts?). It ended up not really being enough to connect with her, or actually care particularly when she was so quick to abandon the group (again, 'borderline,' not an impulsive young person). It was a little like watching a mouse run a maze. Would she navigate it? Did I care?


The setting was a split-world fairyland/real world set-up, centered in Los Angeles, California, movieland. Baker's spin on the two worlds is that many people have an emotional fae twin on the other side, and allowing the human and fae to meet would allow the human to express new heights of artistry. The plotting focused equally on Millie's development in this new world and a missing Fae. There's a lot of sarcastic/dry humor, mostly from Millie, so it can be amusing.

My last mental association is unfortunate, because I never really cared for Madonna. I'm sure younger readers won't have this problem.

I read this with somewhat high expectations, after GR buzz, knowing it won a World Fantasy Award and a Nebula Award nomination (shocking), and a very enthusiastic podcast where someone called it the "best urban fantasy I've ever read." You might be more successful if you start from a more moderate place.

I'd like to introduce him to A Madness of Angels and Kate Griffin.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,260 reviews222 followers
August 18, 2016
A fairly ordinary urban fantasy plot and setting made stellar by a brilliant protagonist and a fascinating cast.

This is basically Men in Black with Fey and magic instead of aliens, which sounds cool but it's been done before. What takes it into brilliance territory is Millicent Roper, a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder who is recovering from an extremely serious suicide attempt that's left her a double amputee, physically scarred and with some brain damage on top of her existing BPD. Very much not your typical uber-competent UF protagonist, but perfect for a position with the Arcadia Project.

The Arcadia Project is the Men in Black organization. It's staffed primarily with people with significant mental health issues who live in group housing (so they can be warded against hostile fey). I'm not sure I quite buy that, but it makes for some really interesting household/workplace dynamics. Milli's first case looks to be trivial, but it turns out to be anything but, and she turns her formidable intelligence and creativity to getting to the bottom of the situation.

The fey, the missing persons, the magic, the portals and the bad guys, all of this is pretty standard urban fantasy material and it's done well here. Great world-building, action-packed plot, interesting bad guys with a diabolical scheme. All good. And nothing to do with why I'm giving this five stars.

No, why it deserves five stars is that it's really opened my eyes to a whole lot of issues regarding the treatment and competency of the mentally ill (and to a lesser extent, disability). One thing I remarked on early in the book is how the people that Milli lives and works with give almost no consideration of her issues. When walking they don't wait for her (she's a double amputee with a below-the-knee prosthetic on one leg and an above-the-knee prosthetic on the other). The share house she's in doesn't allow any form of drugs (most leg amputees deal with significant stump pain when they use a prosthetic). An assault by her early on, that has some provocation, nearly gets her kicked out. And for a lot of the book I have no idea if these people are being assholes or actually being pretty wonderful.

Another thing about this is the nature of this employment for people with these issues. There are several reasons why people with mental health issues are perfect for this job. One of the reasons that you realize fairly early on: they're expendable. Another is that jobs with this group may be just about the best jobs people like this can get, so the Arcadia Project has enormous power over these employees and can enforce some pretty strict rules. I'm really not sure if I'm ok with any of that, but it probably extrapolates well to all sorts of employment situations that exploit people like this.

It's all really eye-opening, but there's positive messages here too. Milli's strengths, her near obsessive drive (actually potentially part of her BPD), her creativity (again, common with BPD) and her acknowledgement of her condition and the various coping strategies she utilizes, all of these end up allowing her to save the day. And I think that's something really positive to read about when people like this are often demonized.

Loved it. You should read it.

Profile Image for Philip.
498 reviews672 followers
February 9, 2017
4.5ish stars.

This is a 400-page book that feels short. I honestly could have read 100 more pages and not complained. I was that into this. The setting, plot, sequence of events are pretty straightforward and not particularly deep. But I couldn't put it down.

The Hollywood aspect of the story is glitzy and fun. The connections to real-world stars and savants and the alternate reality sources of their inspiration through fey Echoes is pretty awesome.

"So we can get inspiration from fey and vice versa. Anybody who's anybody has an Echo."

"All of them? You're saying Martin Scorsese hangs out with fairies?"

"Yup. Not all fey are sunshine and rainbows."

"Kubrick, Eastwood, Coppola?"

"Kubrick's before my time, but probably. Eastwood and Coppola, yeah."


"He doesn't need one; he's a wizard."

Let's talk about the characters. They elevate this story so far beyond what it would otherwise have been. Our non-heroine, Millie, as well as an incredible supporting cast, are such awful, cringe-worthy, despicable people and I could not get enough of them. In a lot of ways, this book reminds me of The Magicians which is one of my favorites. You kind of hate everyone at some point and love them at others. Baker doesn't hold any punches by trying to make these people likable or relatable or excuse them in any way. By so doing, if anything, she's created characters that are relatable just by their nature of being human (except the ones who aren't human, I guess.)

Although as Millie explains BPD and its effects, she kind of sounds like she's quoting a WebMD article, her actions seem to transcend the symptoms checklist and paint a legitimate portrait of someone living with the disorder. This isn't the sanitized, PC version of mental unwellness, this is real and I love it.

Can't wait to go deeper into this world.

Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,028 reviews2,606 followers
August 16, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/07/08/...

I’m so glad I finally got the chance to read Borderline. I admit I haven’t been trying out a lot of new urban fantasy lately, since after a while so many of the common themes start to run together until I can’t keep the different stories straight in my head anymore. Borderline, though, is special. Very special. It’s completely invigorating and just what I needed to rekindle my excitement for the genre.

The story, which I originally thought would be darker and grimmer in tone due to what I read in the publisher description, actually turned out to be a lot of fun. The book stars Millie Roper, a young woman with borderline personality disorder who is in recovery for a failed suicide attempt a year before. The incident caused her to lose her legs and her promising filmmaking career, but just as Millie has decided to resign herself to her new reality, a strange woman called Caryl Vallo shows up in her room at the psychiatric center, claiming to represent a group called the Arcadia Project.

And what is the Arcadia Project? Now that’s where things get interesting. Imagine something like Men in Black, but replace the aliens with faeries. Arcadia is the name given to the “other” realm, where the Fey and other mythical creatures reside. They frequently come visiting in our mundane world, and some even make it their home. It’s the mission of certain secret branches of the government working with the Arcadia Project to track these Fey visitors and make sure they don’t stir up too much trouble on this side of reality. What that also means is when the Fey break the rules or go off radar, agents have to be sent in to investigate. That’s where the Arcadia Project comes in, and now Caryl is asking Millie to be their newest recruit.

Wow, where do I start? First of all, Millie is an incredible protagonist. Yes, she’s a complex, fully-realized character. And no, she’s not always likeable. Her borderline personality disorder sometimes makes her emotions volatile, and her behavior unpredictable. But paradoxically, I also found her very genuine despite her moods and thoughts constantly swinging in different directions. I find that unreliable narrators are commonly used in stories about characters with mental illness or behavioral disorders, but Millie also somehow breaks that mold, coming across to me as an exceptional and very different kind of protagonist. She can’t help what she feels in the moment, but she will always tell you straight. She has her dark and low moments, but when she’s not experiencing symptoms she can also be a very humorous, energetic and upbeat person. I loved her unique voice and wouldn’t have wanted anyone else at the helm of this wonderful story.

Speaking of story, on the whole Borderline features a rather conventional urban fantasy plot, but the joy of it is in the details. The book takes place in Hollywood, amidst sprawling film studio lots and glitzy celebrities. Millie herself was a former film student and an indie director before her suicide attempt. Both the character’s background and the setting are woven tightly into the story, so we also get to have some quirky twists involving the movie making industry. For example, almost every successful filmmaker and actor or actress in the past century has had some connections to Arcadia. Central to the plot is the really cool concept of Echoes. The idea suggests that every creative genius in our world will have a muse, or Echo, in Arcadia. And when they meet, it’s like the faerie-touched version of finding your soulmate—you just know. Once a person and their Fey Echo are joined, their talents can reach their full potential, unleashing even more creativity into their work and furthering their success. It’s a lovely idea, and I find it works especially well in this world Mishell Baker created.

I really don’t have many complaints. Perhaps the only thing that tripped me up is the way the author sometimes portrayed Millie’s BPD. I used to work in the therapy and rehabilitation field, and spent a great deal of time working with clients with mental illness, personality and behavioral disorders, as well as acquired brain injury. Millie’s “checklist” style of discussing her BPD at times felt exactly the way I’d described—often it felt like she was reading out of a copy of the DSM and ticking off all the major points like “Borderlines do this because” or “I am like that because” it’s what the info on the disorder says she should feel or do. It hasn’t really been like that in my experience; every individual is different and rarely does the full gamut of symptoms come neatly described and packaged together like that with any one person. It didn’t greatly affect my overall enjoyment of the novel though, and I appreciate the fact that Baker is trying to shine a light on mental health issues and the personal struggles of people who live with them.

I really wish I had read Borderline sooner, as it was such an extraordinary, refreshing novel. It’s exactly what I want in an urban fantasy: entertaining, original, and even meaningful. The fantastic cast simply further highlighted this read for me, from protagonist Millie Roper to my personal favorite character Caryl Vallo. Everything about this book was a delight, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books8,105 followers
November 7, 2017
Okay, this was an astonishing example of how diversity revolutionises genre. The story here is pretty standard urban fantasy: young woman introduced to magical world, meets ragtag gang of misfits, solves crime. It's perfectly good urban fantasy, well written and niftily handled, just nothing to set the world on fire. What makes this an astounding read is that the protagonist/narrator has borderline personality disorder, and this is not window dressing or treated lightly. It informs every aspect of the plot, her motivation, her behaviour, reactions of others. This wouldn't be anything like the same story with a neurotypical narrator. (I stress this point because there are so many tiresome people who like to bleat about diversity being "shoehorned" into books, as if different perspectives and experiences didn't lead to completely different output, or as if you can slot in white cis able men to any plot without making a difference.)

As it happens the narrator is also a double amputee after a failed suicide attempt. That isn't gratuitous, and the consideration or lack thereof for her physical difficulties and pain is an ongoing thread, but it's not plot crucial; the ways her disability intersects with the plot could have been handled by other means if need be. (That's not a criticism, rather the opposite: as with all divrse rep, we need more disability rep in books that isn't plot related, because people aren't always plot hooks.) Whereas her BPD informs *everything*, for good or ill, mostly ill, and becomes a hugely compelling aspect.

I can't comment on the accuracy of the depiction, or on how Borderliners might feel about reading this. I will say that, if you have/had an untreated Borderliner in your life, you may find the narrator's behaviour hits home at points; I had to put the book down a few times because it brought back some very raw feelings. BPD is depicted with enormous clearsightedness here in my (entirely uninformed) opinion: we come to empathise with Millie, and desperately wish her success, but the book doesn't make excuses or seek to minimise the consequences of her words and deeds on others.

Startlingly good and I really want a sequel.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,399 reviews11.7k followers
February 16, 2019
Updated 2/16/19

Bumping up to 4 stars.

Is it possible I am a little less shallow, because my opinion on not-enough-romance completely changed? Plus, why didn’t I mention how great the concept of Echo (a fairy soul mate) is? And how heartbreaking Millie’s situation is in that respect? Compensates greatly for the lack of smut.

Original review

3.5 stars

A solid urban fantasy novel. The fae lore is not entirely new here, but the characters are. MC is a double amputee with a border personality disorder, for instance. Movie-centric Hollywood setting is not bad either.

I would have liked it even more if there was more fodder to ship somebody. Basically, the story needed some romance in it, not just a few hints at a possibility of a romance. But this is how I like my UF. I am shallow like that.
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
January 2, 2021
fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task #21: Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non) <--- one day too late, but who's counting?

put more like this in front of me, and i could easily become an urban fantasy fan.

review to come.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews309 followers
March 23, 2016
Borderline is an amazing book in every way. While the story is fairly straightforward, Mishell Baker has made it something special in the telling.

Borderline is fillied with deeply flawed characters, but Baker lets them be who they are without any apologies and the story is that much richer for it. Her writing is fresh and visual and feels intensely personal throughout. This book is going on my favourites shelf for 2016; it is a clear standout.

Baker has established herself as a talent to watch and I will definitely be picking up any other book she writes.
Profile Image for Beth.
911 reviews102 followers
June 5, 2022
I read Borderline for the "Dozen Roses" challenge on SFFBC. (it was one of the books I submitted for it, actually)

Up-and-coming film school student (and first-person narrator) Millie was doing well at UCLA and had even directed a film project, when a suicide attempt horribly injured her and put her into a mental hospital. While at the hospital, she's approached by a supervisor of the Arcadia Project, an intermediary between the human world and that of the Seelie court. Despite Millie's being enmeshed in investigating various disappearances and kidnappings as a probationary member of the Project, the film world won't leave her behind.

The best thing bar none about this book is our main character, Millie. Along with having to deal with physical disabilities, such as a pair of prosthetic partial legs, she has to deal with borderline personality disorder wedging itself between her and other people, and between her and herself. She frequently has to manage emotional and physical outbursts, not always successfully. And when she does act out, true contrition is much further out of reach than recriminating the person that she's wronged is.

At times Millie is hard to like, especially in the several scenes where she acts out. She is especially harsh on her partner, Teo, but just about everybody in Project Residence Four has a moment where Millie goes after their psychological soft spots with brutal abandon.

The fae aspect of the story is pretty lightly sketched in, and in many cases doesn't distinguish itself from other stories that are based on that mythology. We've got the Seelie and Unseelie courts, and magic that has largely to do with manipulation of the senses, and changelings, and fairy portals, and all that. What was more distinctive to me was the idea of Echoes: an artist on Earth having a kind of soul mate or Muse in the fae world who magically enhances their art. An aging Hollywood director and his Echo are the center of the mystery plot in this volume, and Millie's Project partner Teo has an obsession with finding his Echo that sometimes leads him astray. A nice detail is that the various --a passive ability (in game terms) that helps her out, but doesn't make her an overpowered heroine.

I've been living not-too-far from Los Angeles for a while, and there are quite a few familiar places in the book like Union Station and (more broadly) Santa Barbara. There are also small details that are all too familiar, like those big rectangular patches of beige paint where the city came through and painted over graffiti on the side of a business, or sitting in traffic on PCH when all you wanted was to see some nice scenery. I liked the hints about the filmmaker's life, and visits to film sets that we see now and then, also.

The whole thing came together for me with its great sense of humor. I mean, as always, humor is subjective, and a recommendation for you could well be a caveat for me, and vice versa. I can easily see some readers being put off when Millie interjects humor into situations where it's not that appropriate. It's quite possible that she keeps the more inappropriate quips to herself, though that wasn't something I was specifically keeping track of as I read.

Borderline's usually brisk pace fumbled here and there, notably in scenes where it was a little too obvious that a scene was there only to get us from point A to point B. The big battle at the end slogged a bit, too, though that could just be me not being a fan of physical violence as a default story climax. There were a few too many characters and not all of them were characterized early enough or deeply enough for me to care much when the bodies started falling. I never quite "got" . I think I could see the intention with these characters, but they never got their hooks into me like Millie did.

Still, on the whole this was great! It was quick-moving, and emotional at points. At the beginning, I thought I wouldn't like Millie at all, or had a pitying outlook on her, but as I got to know and understand her, that distant attitude gradually melted away and by the end I was rooting for her (while also not forgetting that she did some unforgivable things). I also appreciated that the ending was equivocal in places, that there weren't a bunch of reversals of some of the events to happily-ever-after it up.

Three and a half stars, rounded up. I'm not a huge fan of UF, but I'll be reading the rest of these.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
April 22, 2017
My decision not to finish this Nebula Award nominated book has more to do with me and my reading preferences than the book itself. I actually really liked it in the first 50 pages. The writing is fine, and Mishell Baker has interesting characters and memorable settings (that house!)... but as soon as it got to the first mention of fey it was like my brain shut down. I try to like urban fantasy but just have a hard time connecting to it. I really like it in TV form but not books, so sue me. So if you are a fan of urban fantasy I can recommend this book to you wholeheartedly, while maintaining that it is just not for me.
Profile Image for Gergana.
227 reviews391 followers
Shelved as 'zzz-books-not-for-me'
September 1, 2016
It's one of those books that I truly appreciate on a technical level, but fail to connect to on an emotional level. I can write a whole essay about the complexity of the characters, the originality of the plot, the beautiful description and detailed world-building and I definitely recommend Borderline to anyone who is looking for something unique! However, despite it's countless strengths, I kept finding myself looking at the number of minutes I still had left of the audiobook (the narrator was pretty awesome by the way).
I'm still curious enough to check the sequel one day.
Profile Image for Sunil.
932 reviews118 followers
March 5, 2016
So a queer double-amputee with borderline personality disorder walks into an urban fantasy novel about Hollywood and fairies...

Borderline, Mishell Baker's debut novel, begins with an awesome first line: "It was midmorning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats." It perfectly sets the tone for a neo-noirish urban fantasy narrated with endearing flair. We first meet Millicent Roper in a psychiatric center, recovering from a suicide attempt that cost her her legs. A woman recruits her for the mysterious Arcadia Project, ostensibly because of her filmmaking background and her borderline personality disorder. Soon she's trying to find a missing person alongside similarly mentally ill colleagues all caught up in the fey underbelly of Hollywood.

How much do I love Borderline? Let me count the ways. Let's start at the top level, the premise that posits a connection between Hollywood and the fey, injecting a magical element into the history of filmmaking. Urban fantasy is full of fairies, but I love how very specific this take on them is, the idea that they would be so drawn to films, our fantasies, though they're not the only things that tie them to our world. Baker carefully reveals the details of this worldbuilding as we learn how it all works along with Millie, piece by piece, so that it feels organic; moreover, often the way a particular element is revealed doubles as a plot point.

Let's talk racial diversity, because although Millie is white, most everyone else in the book is not, which is reflective of, you know, the actual racial diversity of Los Angeles. Yes, there is an appearance by a Latina housekeeper, but she is not the only Latina in the book and she doesn't speak in broken English. Baker is so savvy that she makes Millie herself a bit dodgy at times, which allows POC to continually call her out if she fucks up. No one in the book is a stereotype, and by the end of the book, they all have a surprising amount of depth to them. They have histories, traumas, specific reactions to Millie.

And Millie, hoo boy. As a person who is able of body and mind, I can make no real judgment on how accurate Baker's portrayal of physical and mental disabilities are, but the details about Millie's use of prostheses and wheelchair seemed well researched to me, and Baker shares a diagnosis with her protagonist, which makes this an important #ownvoices book. The book is called Borderline, so clearly Millie's BPD figures heavily, and she constantly lets the reader in on why she is reacting to things in way a neurotypical person would not. It helps that she's self-aware about it, as it allows us to see her struggle and empathize, but this is not a book about how terrible it is to have BPD. She manages it, it's part of who she is, and she still gets the job done. (Same with the fact that she's missing a couple legs.) It's so rare to see a positive portrayal of a disabled character, especially a protagonist, and of course there's so much more to her than her disabilities. As is pretty standard in urban fantasy narrators, she's snarky, but the wry humor only comes out occasionally; she's not a joke machine. Hell, sometimes she's an actual asshole. The book deals with some heavy issues, but there's enough lightness to balance it out that it feels true to life.

And what about the writing itself? Unlike the writing in this review, nearly every word, every sentence, every paragraph in Borderline is perfect. I don't mean it's gorgeously written, I mean it's expertly written, with a sense of what words matter and when, everything flowing smoothly, with metaphors that come from Millie's filmmaking eye and cutting lines that reveal deep human truths. And it doesn't just flow on a micro level: this book fucking moves, and I don't mean it's a fast-paced thriller, I mean that it continually pushes forward, with diabolical chapter cliffhangers, with plot twist after plot twist that peel apart our perceptions of who people are (fitting for this noir-tinged environment). I was not bored for one fucking second.

Borderline is fun and complex, with layered characters who give you unexpected feelings, with a well-crafted mystery about a cleverly devised world. It's full of the kinds of people you don't normally see in novels, and they get to be the good guys, though they're flawed good guys. Even the bad guys, menacing as they may be, have their virtues. This book does so much right it's unfair. It deserves a far better review than I have given it, so pretend that's what you read.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books696 followers
April 8, 2022
Whew! This book walked a lot of lines, but it did it mostly successfully, I think. A complex, fairly grim look at life under a stigma for mental illness and physical disabilities. But also quite a bit of humor!


Things to love:

-Prominent disability. Nothing glamorous or inspirational here, just a lot of people with brains that lie and bodies that cannot fit into what society considers "standard."

-The mystery. Who doesn't like a little urban fantasy PI romp time? I eat this stuff up, and this one was extra cool. I've liked the tie in of magic and art, and this feels like a great addition to that side of the mythos.

-Relatable. There's humor and spirals and loneliness and fear of judgment and pride in success and all sorts of things that I think are common even without severe mental or physical disability.

Things that weren't my favorite:

-That relatableness. Okay, YES I love it, but I love it the way you can't stop itching that healing scrape. It hits a bit too close to home in a lot of ways and it doesn't pull its punches. When you have a mental illness, regulating it and gauging how it's impacting folks around you is just something you spend all day doing. And when you have something like that, and someone else in your life also has something like that, the friction between generosity for yourself and for them, and the need to protect yourself and them is a delicate and demanding balance. This book captures a lot of that, and yeah...this must have been either very freeing or very hard for the author to write so openly about the sorts of daily interactions that can happen and will keep you up at night 10 years down the road. Just a lot.

-The things it did to fit in. Where it lost me was when we tried to make this Yet Another Oughties UF. Mackin' coworkers, petty girl fights, that stuff. Why add in the trash part of the trope?

-Some inconsistencies. There were a few times when things happened that I don't think made sense.

-The end. Very abrupt.

I'd definitely be down to read more though, provided I can give myself the mental push to watch unregulated people with mental illness go off into triggering situations. The most fun I've ever had watching someone's trauma happen.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
February 20, 2020
Borderline is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy following Millie, a bisexual amputee with borderline personality disorder who, at the beginning of this book, starts investigating the case of a missing Seelie noble.

I've read a lot of books with diverse casts, but even in them, disability is almost always an afterthought. Not here: Borderline has a mostly-disabled/mentally ill cast, with a heroine who is a wheelchair user (lost her legs in a suicide attempt) and side characters who are dealing with trauma, side characters with dwarfism, side characters who have bipolar disorder.
I really appreciated how this book made the characters' disabilities relevant to the plot while not becoming in any way an issue book - it's a fun and sometimes dark urban fantasy mystery, just more diverse than average.

What I liked the most about this book is Millie. I've never read about a main character quite like her - she's a liar, she has a certain amount of charisma, and she's emotional, unreliable, manipulative and the book allows her to be horrible at times. She faces consequences for what she does, but at the same time you understand her and for the most part still like her. Female characters usually aren't allowed to be any of these things without being flattened to unpleasant stereotypes, and she isn't. She's a mess, and the book doesn't shy away from the fact that sometimes living with mental illnesses is just ugly, but she isn't portrayed that way for shock value, and you can feel that. [the portrayal of BPD is ownvoices.]
How Millie talked about her own behavior and sometimes explained "this [lashing out] made me feel less terribly in that moment but it was definitely not a victory, don't try this at home" - I understand that more than I'd like to, and her narration made everything feel so real.

However, I can't say the same about the side characters. I never really got to know them - maybe because Millie doesn't either, at least in this book? - and didn't care about certain deaths I was probably supposed to care about.

The plot itself revolved around the role of the fae in the entertainment industry. I thought there were a lot of interesting ideas in the set up, as this book plays with the concept of "muse" with its idea of the "echo", but as I don't care that much about filmmaking and as Millie's narration didn't manage to make me care about it either, I didn't feel strongly about most of the plot.
I also thought that for a book set in Los Angeles with a main character who was once a director, there was surprisingly little sense of setting or atmosphere.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,589 reviews191 followers
July 26, 2017
4.5 stars. I loved this fast-paced story of Millie Roper and how she gets involved with the Arcadia Project. Millie, with her borderline personality disorder and her missing legs thanks to a suicide attempt off a building, is often her own worst enemy, saying and doing things that push others away and leave herself bereft of support.
The Arcadia project and all the hints of the other world are fascinating, and I found the author's use of mental illness in the characters made for a fractious but interesting mix of characters. I found myself caring a lot about them, and look forward to more Millie.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,231 reviews169 followers
April 27, 2017

"From across the room, I’ll admit death looks like a real babe. But I’ve been close enough to see what’s under her makeup, and no thanks. Really.”

A few people whose opinion I value recommended this urban fantasy. So pleased I listened :O)

Baker first of all offers us a protagonist with a difference. Millie is truly fascinating and the main compelling element of the book. Having a character who is not only a double amputee but also suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (and other various effects from her suicide attempt) is refreshing and captivating. To say that she is flawed is beyond the point. Millie both attracts and repels, and the author succeeds in giving her a voice that reflects all of this, with a good dose of snark. The rest of the cast is drawn from the same psychological strokes. Again, pretty interesting choice.

And then there is the setting and plot. I loved how Baker mixed the crazy world of Hollywood with the fey, how these 'cultures' interact and what rules they have to obey.

Have I forgotten to say that it is also a 'whodunnit'? Yep, and I do like my mysteries :O)
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
March 20, 2016
I don't have enough time to write a solid review, but this is book is one of those extremely fun ones that grabs you by the jugular and never lets go. Anchored by an incredible protagonist, the fairly ordinary urban fantasy story takes flight. (How's that for mixing metaphors?)
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
722 reviews1,406 followers
August 17, 2017

I discovered Borderline through some explosive rave reviews when it came out in March, and a lot of those reviews focused on how well Baker portrays mental illness and physical disability. I had never read an SFF book with a disabled protagonist before (I don't suppose Miles Vorkosigan counts? Probably not, though there are plenty of stories around his damaged body and his clone twin Mark's mental trauma).

So let me say first that I wish I had read Borderline much sooner than I did! Because it was an excellent and fun book. Because of its subject matter and character, I had expected the book to be much darker than it really was.

The main character Milly is a former film student and director who attempted suicide and survived. She's now a double amputee with mild brain damage from head trauma and she has Borderline Personality Disorder. She's asked to join The Arcadia Project, which she agrees to without knowing what it is: a group that manages the Fey that come into our world and their human Echoes. A Fey, Viscount Ravenholt, goes missing, and Milly and her new partner Teo have to find him.

It was very interesting to read about an effective character with real agency who has to struggle with her own body and mind. Walking and transportation are difficult. Sometimes she is abruptly confused or forgets what just happened. Her mood can shift dramatically during a conversation; she can become extremely emotional or violent. She has to consciously call up coping mechanisms when she becomes aware of her personality disorder affecting her. And that's something I could actually relate to. A couple of times a week I'm reminded I have anxiety, I need to do some breathing exercises, or I need to calm myself by realistically analyzing my irrational worries. I loved reading about Milly, who is damaged and hurting, but also coping and healing, and who is and has always been a person.

Borderline is also written in a very engaging, fast-paced manner that makes the story fly. I'm not the biggest fan of urban fantasy, so the setting and the plot were quite OK, but the characters and writing were mightily impressive. I'm already excited for the next book!

Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews186 followers
December 4, 2015

Millie Millie Millie. Sharply written, fully realized Millie. Her voice, her vulnerability, her biting sarcasm. Alternatingly lovable and terrible, and often both simultaneously. Millie is the main strength and focus of this novel, and as much as this will definitely appeal generally to fans of urban fantasy, it will also find an audience with readers who simply love great character-driven books. The other Arcadia Project agents are also fully fleshed out and boy, does my heart hurt.

Not to mention, I'm such a sucker for stuff with the fey and Baker has written a WONDERFULLY refreshing take on it.

Several parts of the book hit me personally Millie's comments about BPD and her reactions to other people's comments about her BPD (and her prostheses) are incredibly nuanced. The reactions to her prostheses are something I related to pretty deeply, as I grew up with a (terrible-looking) prosthetic eye. Finding a balance between self-deprecation, defensiveness, and angry comebacks, being comfortable with some people's comments and not others', etc etc.

Anyways, a wonderful book. I'm happy to finally be hooked on another urban fantasy series!

And thanks so much to Edelweiss and Saga Press for the e-arc!
Profile Image for Ivan.
365 reviews57 followers
March 19, 2016
Borderline je urbana fantastika koja prevazilazi samonametnuta ograničenja ovog žanra. Baveći se osobama sa raznim psihofizičkim poteškoćama, Mišel Bejker je načinila korak unazad i postrance u odnosu na savremene žanrovske tokove, potpuno izbegavajući BAMF protagonistkinju i power creep tako imanentan u urbanoj fantastici (videti romane Lorel Hamilton i Ilone Endrjuz), tako da je Borderline u neku ruku povratak korenima urbane fantastike, oličenim pre svega u romanima Mercedes Leki iz devedesetih godina (SERRAted Edge series), gde se manje bavimo besmislenom akcijom i specijalnim efektima, a više međuljudskim odnosima i unutrašnjim razvojem protagoniste, te psihološkim problemima s kojima se svako od nas suočava pri interakciji sa spoljnim svetom.

Mišel Bejker skoruje mejdžor brauni points zbog potpuno originalnog tretmana vilenjaka i vilinskog sveta, što nije lako postići u savremenom UF okruženju, gde se razni faeries/fey/seelee eksploatišu preko svake mere, baš kao vampiri tokom prethodne dve decenije.

Ne bih se usudio tvrditi da je Borderline žanrovski klasik u najavi, ali svakako jeste impresivan prvenac i prvi roman ma kakve fantastike, posle "Pandemonijuma" i "Đavoljeg alfabeta" Darila Gregorija, koji uopšte pokušava da se bavi psihom i telom iz ugla osoba sa takvim invaliditetima. Premda Bejker ne piše ni izbliza dobro kao Gregori, njen jezik je više nego pristojan, sasvim odmeren, a uvid koji pruža u život osoba s raznim poremećajima je dubok, iskren i očito zasnovan na temeljnom proučavanju.

Ključna stvar je da je sve to postignuto na prilično zabavan i pismen način, što me - nažalost - navodi na pretpostavku da je ovaj roman jednostavno previše dobar za većinu publike i da će biti zapostavljen u knjižarama.

Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews125k followers
February 10, 2017
I’ve always been a fan of books where a hidden world of fantasy lurks under normal city life, but the past few years I’ve had trouble finding ones that could surprise me. Borderline is the answer to my prayers. Millie was a promising young director and film student until a failed suicide attempt. A year later, she is a double amputee struggling to cope with her Borderline Personality Disorder. When a mysterious woman shows up offering a job and a new start, Millie takes the chance. The plot is delightfully unpredictable, mixing fey intrigue with the drama of cut-throat Hollywood. But what really puts this book over the top is Millie. The exploration of her past and her mental health is as unflinching as it is beautifully written. Millie’s symptoms are explained without clinical distance or personal shame, even when they are hard to look at. I sped through this and am so happy this is just the first of the series.

– Amy Diegelman

from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 167 books37.5k followers
February 10, 2017
Mishell Baker lays the well-worn elements (the fey, or Seelie and Unseelie Courts) in palimpsest over Hollywood, managing to make them fresh again. It helps that her fey are not the sentimentalized, emotional sixteen year olds that I've read in too many previous stories. They are seriously weird, and one of them is very scary indeed.

Even more interesting when up against people with serious mental health issues, recruited into a secret organization to monitor an always volatile situation.

Baker's first person narrator is a double amputee with borderline personality disorder. She's smart, abrasive, damaged in body and spirit, making horrible choices and then trying to fight her way back. I really liked how grounded Baker is with respect to therapy, and how the storyline not only raises questions about how mentally ill people are employed, but about a lot of serious issues--including making art.

The glimpses of L.A. and the film industry are spot on, the emotions a roller coaster with very scant sentimentality. Altogether a bravura first novel, wow.
Profile Image for Tammy.
833 reviews138 followers
March 25, 2016

The nitty-gritty: A delightful blend of fantasy, the modern-day film industry, and quirky characters that will make you smile.

It was midmorning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats.

I’ve been salivating over this amazing cover for months now, and I was so excited to be able to read Mishell Baker’s debut. I thought I was going to get one type of story, but ultimately Borderline blew me away with its odd—but somehow workable—combination of elements. First, the setting is Los Angeles, Baker’s hometown, and sunny Tinseltown turns out to be the perfect setting. The story revolves around a famous film director whose “muse” has gone missing. It turns out that every creative person on Earth has a muse from a parallel world called Arcadia, where the Seelie and Unseelie Courts are real, and the fey are not just the stuff of movies.

And then there is Millie. Millie is definitely a new favorite character, and despite her rough edges I dare you not to fall in love with her. Baker has given her a double whammy of disabilities. First, she has borderline personality disorder (which I didn’t know anything about before I read this book) and she’s been institutionalized for the past six months after a suicide attempt, during which she lost both her legs. So not only is she mentally ill, but she’s a double amputee as well. I wasn’t sure how Baker was going to pull that off, but she did it with grace and plenty of surprises as well.

The story is a tangled net of fey magic and intricate plotting, but I’ll give you the basic rundown of the plot. Millie is happily hanging out at the Leishman Psychiatric Center in Silver Lake when she receives a visit from an odd woman named Caryl. Caryl invites her to join something called the Arcadia Project, where she’ll be taken from the psychiatric center and go to live in a large house with other members of the team. Once there, she’ll be tested to see if she can perform certain skills, in the hopes of staying on with the Project. It’s all very vague, and Caryl doesn’t tell her much, but Millie decides why not? and leaves the hospital.

Once they arrive at Millie’s new home, Caryl explains that the Arcadia Project manages and guards the doorways between the human and fey worlds, and that at the moment, their main concern is a missing viscount of the Seelie Court named Rivenholt, who also just happens to be a famous actor. Millie is tasked with joining the investigation (she has a background in the film industry so she’s already got the job qualifications), and she doesn’t waste time tracking down Rivenholt’s muse on Earth, famous director Berenbaum, for an interview. But Berenbaum is shocked that Rivenholt is missing, and the mystery thickens as Millie and Caryn follow thread after thread, each one revealing a horrible plot that could have consequences for those on both sides of the doors.

One of my favorite parts of this story, other than Millie, who is simply a fabulous character (more about her later!) was Baker’s worldbuilding. With so many cool and creative ideas, it's hard to know what to talk about and what to keep under my hat—I don’t want to spoil too much for you—but I will mention a couple of my favorite things. When Millie arrives at the house where she’ll be staying, she’s given a pair of sunglasses that reveal the hidden fey—who wear disguises in the human world. With the glasses, Millie can see traces of magic and the true nature of people who look normal, but are most definitely not. I also loved Caryl’s familiar, a small dragon-like creature named Elliot who can only been seen through the fey lenses, a “construct” that Caryl created to house all her emotions. (The idea being that Caryl wants to keep those emotions in check.)

I particularly loved the LA setting, because it’s always fun reading about the place you live, and Baker, who also lives in the area, gets so many details just right. I loved the juxtaposition of sunny Los Angeles against the mysterious world of Arcadia—which we barely get to see in this first installment, by the way—and Baker uses the LA setting to her advantage by paring famous directors, actors and other creative minds in the film industry together as “human and fey muses” combos. One scene where Millie meets Berenbaum on the Warner Bros. lot was especially fun for me, because Warner Bros. is one of my clients, and I’ve been on that lot before, and it’s just as confusing as Baker describes it!

But despite all these wonderful elements, Borderline wouldn’t be the same without its characters, in particular Millie. You would think a girl who has tried (and failed) to commit suicide, lost both her legs in said suicide attempt, and who has a tricky mental illness would be all kinds of depressed. But no, Millie is quite the trooper, which is one reason I loved her so much. She’s certainly not perfect, and she has plenty of character flaws, but her upbeat attitude and her outrageous sense of humor were quite wonderful, and I applaud the author for going against the grain and creating someone so unexpected. I also appreciated how Baker doesn’t shy away from the details of being a double amputee. She describes Millie’s struggles with wearing prosthetics, and her daily issues with her borderline personality disorder, but doesn’t make them into “issues.” They are simply part of who Millie is.

The rest of the cast is nearly as much fun. Millie stays in a rambling Queen Anne with a slew of quirky characters, who each have issues of their own, but who all have been called into service by Caryl. There’s Teo, who is most certainly not attracted to Millie (as he says more than once), a little person named Gloria with a huge personality, and the house “mother,” a woman named Song who wears her baby in a sling sans diapers (!)

This is the first in a trilogy, and as I mentioned before, most of the action takes place in the human realm. But I fervently hope that when next we meet Millie and her friends, we’ll get the chance to venture into Arcadia. I was intrigued and charmed by the quick glimpses of the fey, and I definitely want more! If you’re looking for a story that’s refreshingly different, full of page-turning action, with wonderfully drawn characters, then Borderline is a must read.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy

Profile Image for Michael.
Author 110 books92.6k followers
Want to read
October 4, 2016
Recommended came from Mishell Baker Here's what she said about it:

"I'm not sure whether this will be to your taste, but I thought it was quite well done, and fairly unique in the genre. The story is set in an urban fantasy world with a superpowers theme sprinkled with mojo and a dollop of fae. The protagonist might be classified as an antihero were she more focused. Unfortunately, she suffers from borderline personality disorder, and is on the wrong end of a suicide attempt when we meet her. In my experience, that's a prime recipe for a character who whines so much all you really want to do is slap her silly, but Mishell Baker managed to skirt that. She created a main character that I actually rather like. That's one unusual point in this story's favor. The second is that the protagonist's superpower is negation. She cancels out the effects of other characters powers. So, basically, she's a foil. That's her function. And remarkably by just being there -- being a thorn in everyone's side -- tossing a monkey wrench in the works -- she manages to be a hero, not that she much cares. This is a well plotted, skillfully written, clever little book."

Piqued my interest - so I'll be checking it out.
Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
January 11, 2018
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Millie has borderline personality disorder which means she has a pattern of unstable intense relationships where she fears abandonment, holds a distorted self-image, and is prone to extreme emotions and impulsiveness. So it is no surprise that after a failed affair she attempted suicide and lost a promising career as a film director. Now a double amputee survivor she has accepted her new reality and pursues a spot at the Arcadia Project working with Caryl, the strange woman who chose her.

The short review...

The cover really captured the fusion nature of the story... there is a little Hollywood California, a little fae creature along with the orange flush of living imperfectly. I wasn't blown away by it but it's heads and shoulders better than a cartoon elf on the cover. The title captures the main motivator for Millie... it speaks of introductions and world building.

I really loved this book, it was entertaining and a great fusion of fey and diversity by way of mental illness and physical disability. It did not sugar coat a second of Millie's life or her choices, nor did it make her current situation with the Arcadia Project a perfect fit for her to grow. I'd call this realistic urban fantasy or urban fantasy realism and for urban fantasy fans it is a must read! Millie is certainly an anti-hero and not always likable but you understand that she is under very real pressure from herself to succeed after her failed suicide attempt...

The beginning was a little slow... there was too much solo investigating and not enough fey world or partnership with Teo. I felt like the villain was obvious with Millie's blind spot a mile wide to clue us in... it was just a matter of how she puts it together and I wasn't blown away by that in the end. It wasn't bad so much as a bit of a mess. I was worried this would be depressing... that is one deal breaker that I can't read through... my writing partner read this before me and she assure me it wasn't... and she was right! It's actually a hopeful book despite the way Millie burns bridges. The book is good, solid and really a must read but it isn't spot on perfect satisfaction either.

What I enjoyed and why you would enjoy it too...

This is why I read the book! I thought it well done... we get to witness her putting her prosthetics on early in the book so we understand how they work and the troubles they cause her. This physical limitation was a consequence of her choices and so it played a much different role than something that a character doesn't choose. So we didn't have to listen to her whine why me?! all day every day... she knows why and had to spend each day dealing with it!

Borderline personality disorder...
Mental illness is a love of mine... this is a crazy disorder in that it reminds me of OCD disorder. OCD and OCD disorder are very different. OCD is compulsive and they really don't care how crazy it makes them look while OCD disorder is what most people mean when they say "I'm a little OCD." The disorder version is a shadow of real OCD. I feel like borderline personality disorder is something we all have where out emotions are high and we impulsively do something we know we shouldn't. I couldn't tell the difference between Millie having the OCD version of borderline PD and the OCD disorder version. The development was just not quite hitting it for me. It made her feel contrived at times which shouldn't be since Millie has borderline PD and that is motivation enough to go off half cocked sometimes.

Fae modern world fusion...
This part was crazy good and well thought out. I wish there were more of the fae elements... but I loved everything that there was. There are three types of magic: charm, enchantment and ward. And they were all touched on in some way... The drawings were a crazy cool aspect that your consciousness isn't quite aware is a fae element but that totally was. Her ability due to the iron content in her body was super cool and rather a benefit or a drawback depending how you look at it... that is exactly what an ability should be!! The portals and the idea of an echo between the worlds was quite a strong concept and executed well! I'd certainly want my creativity boosted due to meeting my fae soulmate... Also there is this very really connection to the entertainment business as Hollywood is right there. The Arcadia workers could work the lots in their human job as well as police for their fae job! Plus Hollywood is a creative center so it makes sense echo pairs would congregate in such places... Caryl provided a whole much of world building that was pretty incredible to me. Her powers, her back history and Elliot! I love her constructs but especially a little flying dragon!!

Arcadia Project...
I really loved the concept of this... an organization that works with the government to police these fae visitors and make sure they don't break any of the secret rules. And using those with mental illness makes hell of a sense. Caryl was by far my favorite co-worker of Millie's and I actually would have loved to follow her POV! Gloria was by far the one I hated the most. I hate it when people use their diversity to be given special treatment. Not fair treatment but SPECIAL treatment above what everyone else is receiving. And I'm not sure Millie would have stood for it as a borderline. I felt like there could have been more creative ways for her to deal with being threatened with death but that were avoided because of the end. Teo was a non-start for me... he was supposed to be this point of conflict where Millie could have made it work but didn't and instead I found him boring and lame. No matter HOW I REACTED to the group working for the Arcadia Project you will have your own reactions and they won't be clean or pretty either but they will be raw and real... you can't get any better than that when it comes to reality...

⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

BOTTOM LINE: Imperfect Fae Hollywood starring up and coming borderline Millie.

You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...
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327 reviews73 followers
February 28, 2017
The more I think about this book, the more obvious it is to me that it would be impossible for me to properly talk about it. I’m not a fan of urban fantasy, and to be fair, I can’t even tell why. It’s one of the thing that defies logic, like asking me why I don’t like yoghurt. I simply don’t like it. Which is why when I first set my eyes on Borderline, I knew that I should probably stop looking at it and move on to other books, but I couldn’t as the description had me intrigued.

It was one of the weirdest books that I read in quite some time, weird but without going too far with its weirdness. If you take the events of this book, it isn’t something exceptional: Character is invited to work in an organization, she is given the opportunity to accept or continue with her dull life, she discovers an entire world that she had no idea about. Quite generic if you look at it this way, but it’s the execution and writing that lifts this novel into something unique and just plainly good.

The best part about Borderline was the main character. It happens so rarely when reading to meet a protagonist that feels like a breath of fresh air, but Millie was just that and reading this novel through her perspective was quite an experience. Millie is a former film student that after attempting suicide lost her legs, and as if that wasn’t enough, she also suffers of Borderline Personality Disorder which makes her extremely unstable, impulsive and incapable of proper human interaction. What’s even better is that her disability and mental disorder play into the plot of the book, you won’t see her suddenly overcoming her problems. Every step is an accomplishment, the idea of running hurts and don’t even expect to see her having any healthy relationship. She’s a mess.

I’m not even going to try to explain the magic of this world as I would probably do the novel a big disservice.

So yeah, go read this if you’re looking for something different and fun.
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