I cannot be objective about this book. I cannot be objective about anything to do with Bordertown.
The thing is, I don’t know if I should be.
If you enjoy urban fantasy, you owe a debt to Bordertown, to Terry Windling and to all of the authors who breathed life into this amazing, heartbreaking, dirty, beautiful, terrible, dream-soaked town. When the first books, Borderland and Bordertown, were printed in 1986, they were unique. These weren’t once upon a time, far, far away. No, in the 80’s, what the humans knew as elfland (don’t call it that to the elves’ faces) reappeared. A regular American city got caught right on the border. Which city isn’t known–maybe it’s a little bit of every city. It became this place that doesn’t belong anywhere, where the magic and the tech work only sporadically, and it didn’t take long before it filled up with kids from both sides of the border, all either running from or running to something.
I came to Bordertown a little backwards, which is guess is the only way to find it. While looking at filk, I discovered Banshee Blues, by Maureen S. O’Brien. I went looking for that book, Life on the Border. Funny enough, it was the last one I found.
It was the 90s, and I was in high school. I was this lost, stupid kid, just like the kids in the stories. I always felt a little lonely, even when I was with my friends, and I had felt like I didn’t belong as long as I could remember. When I went to summer camp, we were shown the ‘wishing tree’ on the grounds, and I snuck away from my camp and to the wishing tree to ask it to send me home. I didn’t know where home was, I just didn’t know it was here.
Bordertown gave me a home.
I’ve got all of the anthologies. First editions. I consider them the crown of my collection, and even though I would desperately love to know someone else who has read these books and who has loved them, I can’t bring myself to lend them out. I can’t risk them not finding their way home.
What I hadn’t read was the associated novels. I don’t yet have copies of them, either. But they were released on kindle not long after the most recent anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, was released. The very last was Finder, by Emma Bull.
Orient, who got his name for his ability to find anything, and his partner, Tick-Tick, have been in short stories in the previous anthologies, so picking up this story was like coming home and being greeted by old, dear friends.
Orient is fey, a kid from the World who went a little different when the Realm came crashing back into our reality. Ask him where something is–something that either you or he definitely know exists–and he’ll know where it is. Not like he can tell you its exact location, but like there’s a string drawn between it and him–tug, tug, tug, it’s over this way.
Everyone coming to the Border has a reason to leave behind their old life. Get to the Border and you shed the past. A few weeks and you’ll have a new name, a new look, a new life. So it doesn’t seem like she’s playing by the rules when cop Sunny Rico shows up to threaten Orient with the life he left behind in the World.
The thing is, there’s a new drug in town. Someone’s feeding runaways something that’s supposed to turn them into real elves, and then they’ll be able to cross the Border and enter the Realm, which has so far been completely barred from humans. The problem is, the kids who take it are changing, and then they’re dying ugly.
No matter how angry Orient is about how he’s been dragged into it, it’s not the kind of thing he can leave alone.
If you love urban fantasy, I cannot recommend Bordertown highly enough. If you’re thinking about dipping your toes in urban fantasy, this is a good place to start. If you’ve never been to Bordertown, is this particular book where I’d recommend you’d start?
Not necessarily. I think if you’re new, a better place would be The Essential Guide to Bordertown, which has beautiful stories perfectly framed by a travel guide to Bordertown written by the kids who ran away and made a home there. I don’t know anyone who’s read the books, but most of the people I know have heard portions of the Guide that I read out loud. There’s also Welcome to Bordertown, which brings Bordertown into today.
And once you’ve read those, if you’ve got a kindle, absolutely pick up Finder (end Elsewhere and NeverNever). They’re amazing, and at their prices as of my writing this, they’re an absolute steal.