This book is good. Really good. I am not a huge fan of this genre, and really have only read MLN Hanover’s Black Son’s Daughter series in full, because I am very picky when it comes to urban fantasy. I think all the sexy vampire books of the last several decades have conspired to form my jaundiced opinion, some of which found their way into my cozy little house-full-of-children despite vain protestation. I have yet to crack open a Dresden Files–been meaning to–but I will read everything Mishell Baker decides to write. Because she is that good.
The opening line hooked me immediately. “It was mid morning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats.” As the story begins, our first-person narrator, Millie Roper, has been living in a psychiatric center in Los Angeles recovering from a spectacular suicide attempt. She is learning to walk without legs, having lost them in a seven-story fall, and also learning to cope with a particularly nasty mood disorder. But, as she says, “I always land on my feet.” (Oh, this kind of dark humor is so my cuppa.) It seems like high time for Millie to check out of the facility, but maybe not today.
In walks an interesting, conservatively dressed woman whose age Millie cannot quite identify and everything changes. Because of Millie’s background in the film industry, her mysterious visitor deems her uniquely qualified to work for a certain nonprofit employment group. Millie winds up apprenticing to the Arcadia Project the very next day, an organization that deals with the Fae community on earth, regulating the comings and goings of magical creatures and helping avoid cataclysmic events. The other members of the Project live communally in a sprawling suburban home and they are a flawed, conflicted, damaged bunch. Deliciously so.
Millie’s first assignment, along with her assigned partner from the group, is to locate a well-known missing actor. But he is not what he seems, and the world itself is not what Millie always believed. The contrast is about to provide her with a whole new set of challenges as it spins out of control in unexpected ways and we are swept away for a most intriguing ride with the whole crew. Some will be sadly broken, some brought closer to healing, and all changed by the events that unfold.
The anti-hero who disrupts the system and sends an already fragmented group into chaos walks on prosthetic legs, not always successfully, and suffers from BPD (borderline personality disorder). And we love her. I hope some of you do, anyway.
Mishell Baker’s writing is smooth and articulate. This is an author (rare commodity) whose writing disappears into a story that happens to be terrific. Her pacing is also really good; it’s a page-turner with no lags and there is just the right amount of natural character development. There is realism on every page, even as the story expands into more and more supernatural territory. Nothing feels forced, nothing false. It captivated me and surprised me . . . honestly, what more could one ask?
The sensitivity with which stigmatic subjects are tackled are never cloying and she includes just the right amount of humor. Her world is believable, though quirky–but I really enjoy quirky and being surprised and having a variety of character types that are explored with tenderness and respect. I especially appreciated this author’s handling of quite divergent social and religious views. I sensed no bias, just honesty, and that is refreshing. (I really dislike preaching, even when it’s from my particular side of the aisle.) The end is good, satisfying, and sad and made me wish the next installment was available. I look forward to that next book in The Arcadia Project like none I can remember from a new author this year. None from a genre I tend to avoid, anyway.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: strong but sparing
Violence: suicide attempt memories with some graphic description
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