Book Review: Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of The Arcadia Project
Publisher: Saga Press (March 13, 2018)
Length: 480 pages
While I will always continue to recommend and cheer on The Arcadia Project series, this third and I think final installment was probably my least favorite. Having said that, it was well written, as the two previous books had been. Plus, we get to see the return of many of our favorite characters, both good and bad. Whether you love them or hate them, the unique and fascinating personalities that you find in these books are the key to making this series so vibrant and enjoyable to read.
Impostor Syndrome once again stars Millie Roper, a young woman with borderline personality disorder who is still trying to get a handle on all her mental health issues. She’s also a suicide survivor, who had to have her lower legs amputated following her disastrous attempt to take her own life. After joining the secret organization known as the Arcadia Project, keeping tabs on the Seelie and Unseelie denizens of fey realm was able to keep Millie on a new track, but recent events have not helped her already fragile state of mind. A rift has formed in the Arcadia Project, and as a result the fey are at war, with half the Court backing the Los Angeles branch while the other half has thrown in their lot with London. This leaves Millie and her boss Caryl scrambling to find allies for LA, hoping to head off the conflict before things can get too far out of hand.
But then, London decides to play dirty. In an underhanded attempt to sabotage LA, they arrange to have Millie’s partner Tjuan framed for a crime he didn’t commit. As a result, one of LA’s most senior agents is forced into hiding, and it’s up to Millie to find the real culprit and clear Tjuan’s name. Following the clues across the Atlantic and beyond, our protagonist finds herself entangled in web of secrets and lies that go much deeper than anything she could have imagined. With the fates of the mundane realm and Arcadia hanging in the balance, Millie must pull off the greatest heist that both worlds have ever seen by cracking the fae Queen’s impenetrable vault to get at the answers that lie within.
Impostor Syndrome may be the series’ most ambitious book yet. Unfortunately, it also felt like it contained the least amount of development. In preparation for this review, I went back to see what I had written for the first two books, Borderline and Phantom Pains, to see if I could spot what might have been lacking from this third installment. In the end, I determined that the missing ingredient is none other than that sense of wonder and awe which comes with being surprised by something unexpected. With Borderline, I was impressed because what started as a rather conventional urban fantasy quickly morphed into a kind of story I’d never seen before. Mishell Baker portrayed the fey and their realm in refreshingly new and interesting ways, introducing concepts like the Arcadia Project, Echoes, and a whole bevy of other neat ideas. Against all odds, Millie also won me over despite being the kind of protagonist many would find difficult to like. The sequel Phantom Pains developed these elements, patiently planting the seeds in a carefully constructed plot which ultimately led to shocking revelations.
In contrast, Impostor Syndrome felt less well put together, at least when compared to its predecessors. The first quarter of the book was also sluggish and boring (two words I never thought I’d have to use to describe this series) as we followed Millie and the gang around for several chapters while they played at faerie politics, which is quite possibly the most overused trope in stories about the Fey. This unfortunately set the tone for most of what came after, as the characters were shuttled from one disjointed scene to the next, and it took way too long for the main conflict to reveal itself and for the real story to start.
Then, there was Millie. I loved her character unequivocally in the first two books, but something about her just rubbed me the wrong way in this one. I’ve never minded her personality, even though it can be extremely unpleasant and exasperating at times, because up to this point, Millie has been portrayed as a dynamic individual who is constantly growing and adapting. However, in Impostor Syndrome, her character felt stagnant. For the most the book, the narrative merely rehashed the same old patterns of Millie’s self-conflict as well as her conflict with others that we’ve seen before. By the time her epiphany came around at the end, it was a little too late and she was already on my last nerve.
Needless to say, this wasn’t the feeling I’d hoped for when it comes to the conclusion of one of the best urban fantasy series I’ve come across in years. And yet, I’ll always love these books, because nothing can change the fact that Mishell Baker has created something very special in The Arcadia Project. While Impostor Syndrome may have been a bit lackluster when compared to the previous novel, I would still highly recommend this trilogy to anyone looking for a refreshingly imaginative and unique urban fantasy series.