One thing I’ve learned from reading The Arcadia Project trilogy is that you shouldn’t let years pass between books 2 and 3 of a series that tells one continuous story. Also, mood is important when picking up a book of a certain subgenre. Also, also, finishing a series is a great feeling which is probably why this has become my Year of Reading Sequels. Warning: Spoilers for the first two books below!
by Mishell Baker
Published: Saga Press, 2018
eBook: 480 pages
Series: The Arcadia Project #3
My rating: 6/10
Opening line: The British declared war in January, just after my boss’s twentieth birthday.
In the third book of the Nebula Award–nominated Arcadia Project series, which New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire called “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted,” Millie Roper has to pull off two impossible heists—with the fate of the worlds in the balance.
Three months ago, a rift between agents in London and Los Angeles tore the Arcadia Project apart. With both fey Courts split down the middle—half supporting London, half LA—London is putting the pieces in place to quash the resistance. But due to an alarming backslide in her mental health, new LA agent Mille Roper is in no condition to fight.
When London’s opening shot is to frame Millie’s partner, Tjuan, for attempted homicide, Millie has no choice but to hide him and try to clear his name. Her investigation will take her across the pond to the heart of Arcadia at the mysterious and impenetrable White Rose palace. The key to Tjuan’s freedom—and to the success of the revolution—is locked in a vault under the fey Queen’s watchful eye. It’s up to Millie to plan and lead a heist that will shape the future of two worlds—all while pretending that she knows exactly what she’s doing…
I have let entirely too much time pass between reading the second book in the trilogy and this final one because when I started reading, I was completely lost. The British declared war? Wait, what happened again? Mishell Baker does a commendable job of catching her readers up in the first few chapters of this book but I still felt like I should have read books 2 and 3 much closer to each other.
Millie is right in the middle of the action again and this time, “the action” means a full-blown revolution in two worlds. Once she and her friends found out that the spells woven by the sidhe are actually enslaving conscious spirits, it was clear that something had to be done to end this torture! But of course not the entire Arcadia Project stands behind that idea and so the organization is split. Millie is now looking for alliances both in Arcadia and in our world in order to gain the upper hand over Dame Belinda, the Project’s boss.
I’ll be honest with you. The fact that I had forgotten so many details from the previous book made it a bit hard to get into this one. The writing style was immediately engaging, however, so I kept pushing on in the hopes of figuring everything out eventually. And I did, but because it took me so long, a lot of emotional beats were lost on me. I had forgotten about Caryl’s past, for example, and that’s not a small thing to forget…
The part of the Arcadia Project that wants to end spirit slavery is making plans on how exactly to achieve that goal. This involves several heists, potential alliances with both Seelie and Unseelie royalty, working together with some freed spirits, and dealing with jetlag. There’s always something happening in this book, so I can’t say I was ever bored. But again, the emotional connection to the characters was missing this time around (entirely my own fault) and that’s why the whole book didn’t really work for me the way the previous two did.
Thankfully, we have protagonist Millie to hold on to. She is just as intriguing and wonderful as ever, not just because she’s smart and has a good heart, but also because she messes up frequently and so feels much more human than a stereotypical hero would. Much like in the first two books, I appreciated all the little moments that show how Millie’s disabilities influence her daily life. As a double amputee with prosthetic legs, simple things such as walking up stairs or getting out of a bathtub become serious obstacles and that’s something able-bodied people usually don’t think about much. Millie has the added gift/curse of unravelling spells because of the metals holding her body together. Metal and Fairies don’t mix well and while that can be an asset at some times, it can lead to serious trouble when an innocent hand gestures destroys and important guarding spell.
Another thing I liked was the diversity of the characters and the range of relationships between them. So many times, stories where people have to work together end with them being friends. But real life doesn’t work that way and neither do the inhabitants of the Arcadia Project’s Residence Four. Millie’s new partner Tjuan isn’t exactly opening up to her even though they technically get along okay. Millie is also dealing with her feelings for her Echo Claybriar, her boss Caryl, and the new-ish resident of her home, Alondra, who also has Borderline.
Their relationship is especially intersting because Millie immediately feels some kind of competition with Alondra, even though (or maybe because) the girl is nothing but sweet and kind. But Millie is no longer the only one with BPD and she feels like Alondra is trying to one-up her constantly. Whether that’s true is left up to the reader but again, this rather unlikable trait of Millie’s makes her more realistic and believable and I’m always here for that.
As far as the plot goes, I didn’t much care about it for the first half of the book or so, even though it involves a heist with several dangerous situations and tough choices. But once Millie decides to go to Arcadia, things got way more interesting. It reminded me yet again that I should have read this book much sooner but even though the memories were only slowly coming back to me, there was enough action and emotional situations there to keep me at the edge of my seat. This is the part where not only the protagonists get to shine but where side characters can surprise you, where the fate of the world’s future is decided. It’s both easier and more difficult than expected and that’s all I can say without spoiling.
The ending – which not only ends this book but the entire bigger arc of the trilogy – was pretty amazing. Just like in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, this story is about war and about old, old conflicts, the breaking of traditions, questions of humanity (and basic decency), and about the protagonist finding her place in the world. Other than that, the two series have nothing in common but this theme was handled very well by both authors. Mishell Baker delivered a satisfying ending to the story arc but leaves enough things open for us to know that the characters’ job is far from done.
There is also a bittersweet note to the ending when it comes to Millie’s relationships, be they friendships or love. All things said and done, this book may deal with dark themes and characters who do bad things – sometimes for the perceived “greater good” – but it left me hopeful. I didn’t like it as much as the first or second books but I think if I re-read the entire trilogy in one go, I might give this book a much higher rating. This time, by my own fault, I only found it rather good but not as amazing as the others.
MY RATING: 6/10 – Good
The Arcadia Project: