PHANTOM PAINS by Mishell Baker – Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

PHANTOM PAINS by Mishell Baker – ReviewPhantom Pains by Mishell Baker
Series: Arcadia Project Trilogy #2
Published by Saga Press on March 21 2017
Genres: Adult, Urban fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

The nitty-gritty: Another stellar entry in The Arcadia Project series, with plenty of magic, action, danger and some seriously wonderful characterizations.

Once again, Mishell Baker has knocked it out of the park, with her follow-up to Borderline. Book two in The Arcadia Project series picks up a few months after the last book, and Baker wastes no time recapping the events at the end of Borderline but jumps right into the story. For this reason, you absolutely must read Borderline first, if you haven’t already. There will be minor spoilers (unavoidable) for that book if you haven’t read it, so beware. I was so happy to discover that Phantom Pains is just as good, and that’s not something I get to say very often when it comes to second books in series. In addition to many returning characters and some new ones that I really fell in love with, there’s plenty to love about this book, including: a magical harp, a copy of Game of Thrones that has errant spirits trapped in every page, and a man-eating manticor named Brand who disguises himself as an Irish Setter.

When the story begins, Millie is working for Naderi on a TV show, a stressful job that she struggles with for several reasons—her borderline personality disorder for one interferes with her life on a day-to-day basis—but she’s holding her own, after quitting the Arcadia Project at the end of Borderline and moving into her own apartment. But she’s about to get pulled back in—big time. After a weird experience at Stage 13, where the final showdown with the Unseelie Countess Vivian took place, Millie finds herself back in Residence Four, the dilapidated mansion where she used to live. While she and Caryl are conferring with an agent from the Arcadia Project, one of the residents is murdered, and unfortunately, all signs point to Caryl being the murderer.

Millie knows her former boss is innocent, and so she sets out to prove it, aided by her Echo Claybriar, her former housemate Tjuan, King Winterglass, and many more characters, both human and fey. But things are much more complicated than Millie realizes, and the unrest between the Seelie and Unseelie courts is about to come to Los Angeles, unless Millie and her friends can find a way to stop it.

It’s really hard to describe this plot in just a couple of paragraphs, so that’s all you’re going to get from me. Suffice it to say, Phantom Pains is packed with twists and turns, dangers that crop up when least expected, and plenty of Baker’s intricate world-building to bind it all together. You don’t so much read about the world of the fey as immerse yourself in it. Baker has come up with a sturdy structure on which her world is built, with rules that must be followed or else. The beauty of this is that Millie, by design, is a rule breaker, which throws the plot into all sorts of chaos, leaving Millie and her pals to dig their way out of one mess after another. It’s great fun, and to top it all off, Millie is one of my favorite fictional characters, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of her.

In case you don’t know, Millie is a double amputee, having lost both her legs after jumping off a building (trying to commit suicide, obviously). She wears prosthetics, but I love the way Baker makes the reader see that prosthetics may be a wonderful invention, but they aren’t perfect. Millie suffers constant pain and she still has a hard time walking. She tires easily and her stumps get sweaty, but it never seems to slow her down. She also suffers from BPD, borderline personality disorder, which makes it hard for her to form lasting relationships, among other disadvantages. But Millie takes it all in stride. We see her go to group counseling every week and work through her disorder, and it’s even more fascinating because she’s telling the story from her point of view. She’s one of the most self-aware characters I’ve ever seen in fiction, and best of all, she’s got a talent for inappropriately timed snark and humor, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. It takes a certain type of humor to make me laugh out loud, and Millie had me laughing a lot while I was reading this book.

Not far behind her on my “character love” scale is Claybriar, her Echo who just happens to be a fawn, but when he’s on the human side of the gates, he disguises himself as a young, cute artist-type guy. I loved the chemistry between the two, even when they can barely touch each other (because Millie’s body is riddled with metal, due to her accident, her touch is painful to the fey). Millie is one horny girl, and Claybriar, being a fawn, gets plenty of action himself. Their complex relationship made for some very interesting scenes, and I’m looking forward to seeing where things go in the next book.

Despite Millie’s fondness for Claybriar, however, she’s also attracted to Caryl, another favorite character of mine. There’s a long but riveting back-story about how Caryl was stolen by the fey as a child, and what’s happened to her in the time since she was returned. It was almost painful at times to witness the ups and downs of their relationship, such that it is. One thing is for sure, you will not get bored reading this book, there is so much going on!

And as I mentioned, the author has plenty of surprises up her sleeves. I was immediately taken with one of the new characters, only to witness him die a horrible death late in the book. And yet, I feel like there’s more to that than meets the eye. Dare I hope this character isn’t really dead, and will return for the next book??

It’s so easy to get caught up in Mishell Baker’s magical world, and I guarantee once you enter, you won’t want to leave. Waiting for the next book is going to be excruciating! If you love unique urban fantasy and characters who are deeply developed and seem all too human, you need to start this series as soon as you can.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Find the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Borderline, the first book in The Arcadia Project series, is now a 2016 Nebula Award finalist (best novel), and has been given a lovely new cover:

Read my review of Borderline here.


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Posted March 20, 2017 by Tammy in 5 stars, Giveaways, Reviews / 19 Comments


19 responses to “PHANTOM PAINS by Mishell Baker – Review

  1. John Smith

    The thing I love most about urban fantasy is it’s so durn urbane and mod-ren. And it would be nice if things in our world could include fantasy goings-on.

  2. Meigan

    I haven’t heard of either this author or series before, but it sounds fantastic! Great review, and I’ll certainly be adding this to my ever-growing TBR 🙂

  3. Marian

    I just read Borderline on your recommendation (thank you very much) and liked it a lot; so I’m really looking forward to Phantom Pains.

    What I like about urban fantasy is the marvelous “what if?” followed in my head by “well, why the heck not?” Possibilities, even if unlikely, are fun to contemplate.

    • Marian

      Tammy, I’m a doofus. I totally forgot I preordered Phantom Pains until it showed up in my queue just now. So please disregard my contest entry. Thanks – mp (derp de derp derp)

  4. I’m so excited about reading Phantom Pains!

    What I love most about urban fantasy is seeing how magic can interact with the world we live in.

    • Tammy

      I agree, for me, urban fantasy has always been proof that magic is real in the boring, “real” world.

  5. Penny Olson

    I like urban fantasy because it provides a creative, interesting and often magical version of the world we live in.

    • Tammy

      You rarely see second books that live up to series openers, so yes, I agree! She’s such a talented writer to pull that off.

    • Tammy

      I think you’d like this one, Nathan. I really have to pick and choose my series because they are EVERYWHERE, but this is one of the good ones:-)

  6. Margo

    The thing no one has mentioned yet is how well LA is written in these books. Los Angeles definitely is a character here, but I guess that is more obvious to those of us who live or have lived there. Other than that your review is pretty much the one I would have written – if I were a review-writing person, that is! 🙂