Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

Long Review after the Jump:

Phantom Pains is the sequel to Borderline, which was nominated for the Nebula award and earned rave reviews.  I didn't actually love Borderline (My Review can be found in my twitter thread: Here: ) - I thought it was good, but felt it read a bit too much like a standard cop procedural with a twist formula (the twist being Fae and the main character's borderline personality disorder) and the ending was a bit too abrupt.  In short, my complaint was that it felt too much like many other books and didn't quite stand out.

Phantom Pains stands out.

---------------------Plot Summary-------------------------------------
Basic Plot without spoilers for Borderline:  Millie Roper has been trying to leave the Arcadia Project, and the world of Fae, behind.  Now working at the studio founded at the end of the last book, Millie is attempting to clear the stage that was used for the climax of Borderline of Fae presence.  But when Carol from the Arcadia Project comes with her to the Stage to look at what needs repair, She somehow sees a ghost.  But according to Carol and the Arcadia Project, Ghosts, unlike Fae, don't exist.

And when Millie returns with Carol to Residence Four to discuss the stage with other Arcadia higher ups, one of the higher ups is seemingly murdered by unseelie magic....meaning Carol is the obvious suspect.  As a result, Millie finds herself back in the mess of Arcadia as she attempts to clear up the mystery, clear Carol's name, and find out what the hell is going on.
--------------------End Plot Summary----------------------------------

Again, Phantom Pains is a phenomenal follow up.  The book loses the feel of being a procedural, and really takes all of the seeds planted by the first book and develops them incredibly, and while the first book ended abruptly and had a predictable bad guy, this book doesn't have either problem.  The Characters - Millie & Carol from the first book, plus new characters introduced in this one and a more developed Tjuan and Claybriar - are phenomenal and the pacing is very very good.

Only a few things stop this really from getting a 10 out of 10.  The first is that while the ending isn't rushed and is foreshadowed, one major new character undergoes what seems like a personality shift way too easily near the end which leads to the cliffhanger that ends this book.  The second is that a part of the plot teased early never pays off (although I suppose this could come up in the next book maybe?) as the plot moves on.*

*Spoiler Explanation in ROT13 is as follows: Jung rknpgyl gur Jenvgu'f jrer gelvat gb qb ng Unyybjrra gb nvq Ivivna (naq cerfhznoyl gur Ornfg Dhrra) vf arire znqr pyrne - gur obbx qebcf guvf jubyr cybg ol univat Oenaq pncgher nyy bs gur Jenvguf va N Tnzr bs Guebarf naq Zvyyvr whzc fgneg gur pyvznk ol univat ure serr gur Ornfg Dhrra sebz vgf sbez nf gur unec.  Cerfhznoyl vg jbhyq'ir vaibyirq qbvat fbzrguvat gb qrfgebl gur Fvqur naq serr gur Ornfg Dhrra, ohg ab bar rire rkcynvaf jung vg vf (whfg gung vg'yy bpphe ng Unyybjrra) be jung gur vzcnpg vf.  Ntnva, gur obbx vf greevsvp fb guvf vfa'g n ovt qrny, ohg hcba n erernq, guvf xvaq bs fgvpxf bhg nf lbh'er abj ernqvat nobhg gur tbbq thlf gelvat gb fgbc n cybg lbh gura xabj gur cybg arire npghnyyl obguref gb rkcynva.

Please note that this is not a stand alone - you could in theory start with this book in the series, but you'll probably be slightly confused at best and you'll miss some of the impact of the book, so read Borderline first.  Then read this book.  You will not be disappointed.

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