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Mishell Baker

Author of Borderline

4+ Works 830 Members 65 Reviews 1 Favorited

Series

Works by Mishell Baker

Borderline (2016) 565 copies
Phantom Pains (2017) 165 copies
Impostor Syndrome (2018) 98 copies
Throwing Stones 2 copies

Associated Works

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #203 (2016) — Contributor — 3 copies

Tagged

Common Knowledge

Birthdate
1976
Gender
female
Nationality
USA
Places of residence
Los Angeles Area, California, USA
Agent
Russell Galen
Short biography
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. 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.

Members

Reviews

'Borderline' is an unusual book. The premise, someone joining a secret global organisation that polices the border between our world and the world of the Fae, sounds fairly traditional in an MIB-with-a-twist sort of way, so I expected either a thriller of the 24-hours-to-save-the-earth kind or something humorous or hybrid of the two. What I got was more interesting: a book focused on someone who is broken and who is trying to find a reason to keep living. The borderline that the title refers to isn't just between Earth and Arcadia but between normal behaviour and psychotic behaviour.

Milie, our protagonist (heroine doesn't really fit here), has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which, amongst other things, makes her subject to intense mood swings and impulsive behaviour. This partially explains why Millie, a film director with a couple of successful Indie productions behind her, ended her time at the prestigious UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television by jumping from a building, She failed to kill herself but succeeded in destroying both of her legs.

When, six months later, after having mastered her prosthetic limbs but not her trauma, Millie is approached by the Arcadia Project (the secret global organisation that polices the Fae border - the Brits are blamed for the classical name), she is told it is because her BPD allows her to see the world differently and makes her better able to cope with the Fae and their glamours. Only when she has started to invest her personal salvation in her new role does she learn that the Arcadia Project recruits throwaway people. People who won't be believed if they try to reveal the Project's secrets. People who won't be missed if the get killed in the Project's service. People like Millie.

I enjoyed the world-building as Millie learns about the Fae and the deal the humans have cut with them. I had to smile at the all-too-plausible relationship between the Fae and Hollywood.

I admired the character-building. I felt that I got inside Millie's rather unusual head and saw the world through her eyes. Her relationships with the people around her, turbulent, distorted but deeply-felt, brought the book alive. 

The mystery/thriller plot around missing Fae and evil intrigue which moves the action forward works mostly to reveal the Fae/human connections and to push Millie into confronting who she is and who she's going to choose to become.

If you're looking for a fast-paced, high body count Urban Fantasy thriller, 'Borderline' isn't it. If you're looking for something original and thoughtful with an emotional payload, you'll enjoy this.

'Borderline' is the first book in a series. I intend to visit Millie's world again to see what she's made of herself.

I recommend the audiobook version of 'Borderline'. Arden Hammersmith did a great job as the narrator and made Millie a real voice in my head. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

https://soundcloud.com/simonschuster/borderline-audiobook-excerpt
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MikeFinnFiction | 45 other reviews | Jan 13, 2024 |
This is a lauded book for it's portrayal of mental illness but I found it a dull read. I never managed to empathize with the main character, much of her behavior was unacceptable and I did not feel that she had any real capacity to work with others, and did not care.
The plot involving the Fae was also dull and did not make up for the characterizations.

library book read 11/10/2023
 
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catseyegreen | 45 other reviews | Nov 11, 2023 |
I very much enjoyed this book.
I picked this up just because it caught my eye, had no scathingly reviews on the top, and a good rating without even checking the blurb.
I didn't even expect the title to actually refer to BPD.
This book had a few pacing issues but, because it had the courage to actually directly tackle all kinds of sensitive topics in an authentic and direct way, I was hooked anyway.
Personal enjoyment-wise this was a 5-star book. But I try to stay somewhat objective with my ratings.

This was a much-needed break from the endless piles of clichéed and corny tropes.

I loved how uncompromisingly the book confronts the reader with the reality of a broken and flawed MC. It doesn't shy away from hard truths this leads to and explains the flawed thought processes in the MC's mind.
I've read a lot of books that mix UF with mental illness before and I've never seen it executed in an acceptable way but this book shows that it can work.
The whole mental illness thing is not used as a plot device beyond the basic premise which probably is the crucial difference to other books that attempted this.
The author doesn't hand-wave the issues away when they start to get in the way of the plot.

This book is not for you if you want a UF hero story or have trouble with unpleasant protagonists.
The atmosphere is quite dark and somewhat depressing but, even though this usually tires me out quickly, it felt natural and right somehow in this case.

The magic system is very soft and mostly unexplained but it is hinted at that rules exist.

Sadly, the sequels are not nearly as good as this book. They suffer from a whole host of beginner/lazy writing issues which, confusingly, were mostly absent from this book despite a lot of opportunities for it.
If you are very attached to the characters and can overlook a killing field of plot holes and conveniences you might get something out of continuing with the series but for most, I would recommend reading this as a standalone.
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omission | 45 other reviews | Oct 19, 2023 |
This book is lacking the unique tone and atmosphere that distinguished the first book from the rest of the generic UF pile.
The biggest difference is that the bittersweetness got mostly replaced by cheesiness.
What came across as heartache-inducing melancholy in the first book now doesn't go much beyond extreme teen-angst.
There is a little of the previous heartache in this one but it had far too little page-time which made it feel cheap and on top of that, it's drenched in cheesy HEA vibes which makes it really hard to care.
Maybe people found the first book too depressing and this was an attempt at correction?
But then, who would pick up the second one if the first one was too depressing?

The protagonists mostly lost their moral ambiguousness and instead just became goodie-two-shoes.
Apart from one exception, the entire cast has pretty much been split up into good and evil.

The big focus on the unique personal flaws and the concrete description of various facets of mental disorders and how a grown-up might cope with them became little more than a footnote.
I particularly disliked this change because I enjoyed the "inside the mind of a borderline" core character idea a lot.
I myself have seen various psychiatric centers from the inside and have gotten to know people with various personality disorders and other mental illnesses, and while not everything in the first book rang entirely true, I was very much surprised by the accuracy of the imparted feeling in particular.
But in this book the whole mental illness stuff got in the way of the plot and one thing had to give. So the mental illness stuff ended up suffering a lot. For example, it suddenly only applied when it wasn't inconvenient to the plot.

The plot itself is far more intricate and there are multiple well-executed twists but the shift in tone was so jarring for me that I had trouble getting on board. I would probably have enjoyed this book a lot more without the first one anchoring my expectations so entirely different.
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omission | 12 other reviews | Oct 19, 2023 |

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Works
4
Also by
2
Members
830
Popularity
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Rating
3.9
Reviews
65
ISBNs
21
Favorited
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