Review: Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker
Series: The Arcadia Project #2
Also by this author: Borderline
Published by Saga Press on March 21st 2017
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Publisher, Wunderkind
Also in this series: Borderline
In the second book to the “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted” (Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author) Borderline, 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.
Phantom Pains continue’s Baker’s wonderfully fresh style of keeping Urban Fantasy a bit more “real” and grounded without compromising on the fantastical.
Millie’s life might be full of the extra ordinary, she might be a person that a reader can admire, may be able to deal with fae and break their magic with a touch, but there’s no denying her life is trying. I don’t envy her harsh reality of being a double amputee, but at the same time, her story and challenges are just part of her life, they don’t prevent her from being able to liver her life and do what needs doing.
The author does not gloss over her disability, nor does she dwell on it, but rather incorporates all of the extra challenges Millie faces as just a part of how she lives and copes. And while Millie is not always upbeat, she does an amazing job handling both her disability from losing both legs as well as her borderline personality. I find it interesting how the author can explain some of the Borderline personality traits and behaviors that Millie struggles with in a way that helps us understand her, gives us better insight when she might be a be bit self destructive. And it never feels like the author is info dumping this information. It is skillfully entwined with the narrative and really fleshes out Millie’s character, helping the reader understand and appreciate her motivations and actions.
And while this is a part of the book, it’s not what the book is about, so let’s move on to the story. Since the last book ended, Millie has been forging her life outside of the Arcadia Project, separating herself from the pain and loss that she suffered during the last book. She’s doing well, working, living on her own, just trying to create a normal life for herself. And a normal life really shouldn’t involve the fae. But even with her non-Arcadia job and life, Millie finds herself in the middle of fae drama. At the stage where the final showdown happened in the last book, Millie sees something extraordinary and unexplainable, even in the world of the fae, and that catapults her back in to the world of the Arcadia.
And to keep things even more interesting, a gruesome murder there is quickly a murder added to the mix, one they are trying to pin on her former boss, Millie becomes just as entrenched with Arcadia as she was before.
Millie’s relationships with other characters continues to be intriguing, and we get to delve a bit deeper with this book with multiple characters. Millie’s relationship with Clay continues to be an interesting struggle. These two seem to be soul mates that are drawn so strongly to each other, but yet can have no physical contact because how all the steel in her body impacts him when he touches her. It’s a fascinating situation and a serious example of forbidden love!
Baker also broadens the world of Arcadia considerably. We get to learn more juicy details about Arcadia, its royalty as well as well as gain a better understanding of Seelie versus Unseelie magic.
Honestly, this book seems to have a bit of everything. Power struggles between the worlds, fae magic, love interests and a murder mystery. Not to mention an amazing protagonist that may not have the simplest of roads in life, but still manages to persist. Definitely recommend this series.
Review originally posted on The Speculative Herald.