the Little Red Reviewer

Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Posted on: March 13, 2018

Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Published in 2016

Where I got it: It was a freebie at an event I attended (free book? SCORE!)






You know the TV show Torchwood? Imagine if it was urban fantasy:  swap the aliens for fey creatures, swap the alien technology for magic, swap Cardiff for Hollywood, and double up on the snark and you’re on your way to having something a little like Mishel Baker’s Borderline.  I’ve got a weakness for snarky novels written in first person, so I was hooked on Borderline about 20 pages in.


Millie hasn’t got much going on these days.  Her stay at a psychiatric center is paid up for another six months, and she’s gotten pretty used to her prosthetic legs.  When a strange beautiful woman waltzes in and offers her a job, Millie says yes out of a combination of boredom and curiosity.


Upon arrival at what is known as Residence Four, Millie learns the first rule is “don’t ask”.  Everyone here has some kind of medical, physical, metaphysical, or mental health condition, and it is and disrespectful and rude to assume, presume, or make light of someone’s predicament.  You wait until someone feels comfortable enough with you to tell you about their personal life. And if they never feel comfortable enough? Well, that’s your problem, not theirs. Oh, and all these people work for a group that helps control the traffic between our world and the Fey world by ensuring Fey glamours are functioning, and that only authorized Fey are here on Earth and that there is no violence between the two groups. Part of the pact is that if we harm any Fey, they will slaughter us. Hmm… so I guess a little more like Men in Black than Torchwood? Also, how come no one will tell Millie who Elliott is?


Millie brought a lot more than her physical baggage to Residence Four.  She has Borderline Personality Disorder, she’s still working through the events that led to her failed attempt at suicide, she’s still getting used to her scarred and battered body that doesn’t look like how she feels, and now that she’s free of both film school and a psychiatric center she’s also interested in some end result based flirting.  None of which jives with the ad hoc family at Residence Four, so things are pretty awkward for her right from the get go. Through her first person perspective, we get a lot of “because of my Borderline Personality Disorder, I often . . . “, giving me just enough information to be really dangerous. I do some of those things, sometimes. Does that mean I have BPD?

Enough Psych 101,  the coolest thing about this book is Millie’s body.  A double amputee, she’s got titanium legs and enough metal in her body to set off every alarm in an airport before she even gets in the door. You know who hates metal? Fairies.  Yep, Millie is fey kryptonite. And that is hella cool, that a character with prosthetics is the secret weapon of humanity. She dissolves fey glamours with a touch, and could easily, literally,  expose this entire operation.  Millie’s got some epic body image issues, and Baker gracefully takes that body and saves the day with it, giving many readers one or the more unique protagonists they’ve ever met.


(if you like what you’ve read about this book so far, you might enjoy the anime and manga series Fullmetal Alchemist.  Body image issues, guilt, emotional baggage, magic, and the best prosthetics ever)


I know I’m supposed to root for Millie, I know I am.  She’s the protagonist, she’s the person going on the journey, she’s the one I’m supposed to be cheering for, and yeah her fairy kryptonite thing is seriously hella cool.  But she wasn’t the character I connected with. The character I resonated with was Caryl Vallo, the manager / hiring manager / boss of Residence Four,  giver of orders, and ensurer that people follow the rules and that stuff gets done.  Millie gives Caryl a hard time because Caryl doesn’t show any emotions. In fact, Caryl has surrounded herself with so much magic that she actually can not physically show any emotion. I wonder if I could pull the trick that Caryl does, to have my emotions detached but close at hand?


Why in the world would I relate to someone who shows less emotion that Sarek?  Because at work, I am a giver of orders, I ensure people follow rules and policies, and that shit gets accomplished.  I naturally do not wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I certainly don’t at work. My staff don’t see me sweat, they only see me get flustered behind closed doors, and when someone makes a stupid decision that gets them in trouble or gets them fired, I make that disciplinary decision or termination decision with very little emotional attachment.    I am emotionally attached to the success of my team, and I’d rather not have to explain to my boss (and her boss) why I let someone continue to get away with breaking all the rules simply because they were a nice person who needed a second (or hundredth) chance. So, yeah, I connect a lot with Caryl. Millie doesn’t care if she fucks up, it’s not her responsibility to explain anything to the powers that be. That’s Caryl’s job, along with explaining why she thought Millie was a good hire in the first place.  That actually sounds too familiar for comfort.


So, the plot rolicks along, a mystery reveals itself,  the first two thirds of Borderline are a ton of fun, entertaining, and humorous, but nothing earth shattering.  And then the end hits. And let me tell you, it is earth shattering (or at least it was for me). The person I thought could be trusted? Nope, couldn’t.  The person I thought was just a throw away side character?  holy crap nope! The person I thought was [spoiler]? Nope, wrong again!! I was surprised around every corner, and I appreciated that Millie was surprised too.  As the end got closer, and the tension ratcheted up, and the gloves came off, and the red shirts started falling, I thought to myself “if Baker kills off [spoiler] , so help me god I will cut a bitch.”


This book does not have a happy ending. Sometimes characters don’t need a fairy tale happy ending, sometimes they just need to be happy. I appreciated that.  And I think Millie did too.


Somewhere in this book it says “book one”,  so here’s hoping for more adventures with Millicent Roper and those titanium legs that showed the Fey world what us humans are really made of.



5 Responses to "Borderline, by Mishell Baker"

I’m glad you liked this one! And yes, there’s more, and in fact I thought the second one was even better. Like this one, it had a way of sneaking up on you, and ending on a OMG!-type conclusion. I hope you’ll enjoy 😀 I have book three to read now, and I can’t wait.


I just finished the third in this series. I am glad to see you enjoyed it as well, and yes, the characters in this series are amazing and different


yes!! just found out this morning the 2nd is out and the third is out soon? out recently? So happy there is more for me to read!!


yes!! just found out this morning the 2nd is out and the third is out soon? out recently? So happy there is more for me to read!!


I love this series too. I’ve listened to the first two in audiio – and I don’t usually listen to a lot of audio books but they were so good. I need to keep my eye out for the third coming out on audio so I can grab a copy.
Lynn 😀

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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