Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars

by Sarah Gailey


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Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in Magic for Liars, a fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey.

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.

Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life – or at least, she’s perfectly fine.

She doesn't in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

“An unmissable debut.”—Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250174611
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 9,302
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Hugo Award-winner Sarah Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and they are a regular contributor for Tor and the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. Their most recent fiction credits include Fireside Fiction, Tor and Uncanny Magazine. Their debut novella, River of Teeth, was published in 2017 via Tor and was a 2018 Hugo and Nebula Award finalist.

Read an Excerpt


It might take a little while to get there, but I'll tell you everything, and I'll tell you the truth. As best I can. I used to lie, but when I tell you the story, you'll understand why I had to lie. You'll understand that I didn't have a choice.

I just wanted to do my job.

No, I said I would tell you the truth. Of course I had a choice. We all have choices, don't we? And if I tell myself that I didn't have a choice, I'm no better than an adulterer who misses his daughter's dance recital because he's shacking up in some shitty hotel with his wife's sister. He tells himself that he doesn't have a choice too. But we know better than that. He has choices. He chooses to tell the first lie, and then he chooses to tell every other lie that comes after that. He chooses to buy a burner phone to send pictures of his cock to his mistress, and he chooses to tell his wife that he has a business trip, and he chooses to pull cash out of an ATM to pay for the room. He tells himself that all of his choices are inevitable, and he tells himself that he isn't lying.

But when I hand his wife an envelope full of photographs and an invoice for services rendered, her world is turned upside down, because he chose. If I try to pretend I didn't have a choice, I'm not any different from the liars whose lives I ruin, and that's not who I am. I'm nothing like them. My job is to pursue the truth.

So, the truth: it's not that I didn't have a choice. I did. I had a thousand choices.

I was so close to making the right one.

* * *

The man who stood between me and the door to my office was trembling-thin, his restless eyes sunken with desperation, holding a knife out like an offering. It was warm for January, but he was shaking in the morning air. He wasn't going to follow through, I thought. Too scared. But then he licked his dry lips with a dry tongue, and I knew that his fear and my fear were not the same kind of fear. He'd do what he thought he needed to do.

Nobody decides to become the kind of person who will stab a stranger in order to get at what's inside her pockets. That's a choice life makes for you.

"Okay," I said, reaching into my tote. I hated my hand for shaking. "Alright, I'll give you what I've got." I rummaged past my wallet, past my camera, past the telephoto lens in its padded case. I pulled out a slim money clip, peeled off the cash, handed it to him.

He could have demanded more. He could have taken my whole bag. But instead, he took the cash, finally looking me in the eyes.

"Sorry," he said, and then he made to run past me, up the stairs that led from my basement-level office to the sidewalk. He was close enough that I could smell his breath. It was oddly sweet, fruity. Like the gum me and my sister Tabitha used to steal from the drugstore when we were kids — the kind that always lost its flavor after ten seconds of chewing. Looking back, I can't figure out why we ever thought it was even worth taking.

The man pelted up the stairs. One of his feet kicked out behind him, and he slipped. "Shit shit shit," I said, rearing back, trying to dodge him before he fell into me. He flailed and caught himself on my shoulder with a closed fist, knocking the wind out of me.

"Jesus fucking Christ, just go." I said it with more fear than venom, but it worked. He bolted, dropping his knife behind him with a clatter I listened to him running down the sidewalk upstairs, his irregular footfalls echoing between the warehouses. I listened until I was sure that he was gone.


Bad things just happen sometimes. That's what I've always told myself, and it's what I told myself then: I could have bled out right there in the stairs leading down to my office, and not a soul would have known why it happened because there was no "why." No use dwelling on it: it would have been the end of me, sudden and senseless. I clenched my jaw and pushed away the thought of how long it would have taken before someone found me — before someone wondered what had happened to me. I pushed away the question of who would have noticed I was gone.

I didn't have time for an existential crisis. It didn't have to be a big deal. People get mugged all the time. I wasn't special just because it was my morning to lose some cash. I didn't have time to be freaked out about it. I had shit to do.

I just wanted to go to work.

I made my way down the remainder of the steps toward the door that hid in the shadowy alcove at the bottom of the stairs. I nudged a Gatorade bottle with my toe. The man had been sleeping in my doorway. He couldn't have seen it by the dim light of the streetlamps at night, but my name was written across the solid metal of the door in flaking black letters:

Ivy Gamble, Private Investigator Meetings by Appointment Only

I hadn't gotten the words touched up since I'd first rented the place. I always figured I'd let them fall away until nothing was left but a shadow of the letters. I didn't think I needed to be easy to find — if someone didn't know where my office was, that meant they weren't a client yet. Besides, walk-ins weren't exactly my bread and butter then. The deadbolt locked automatically when the reinforced steel swung shut. That door was made to withstand even the most determined of visitors.

I didn't run my fingers across the letters. If I'd known what would change before the next time I walked down those stairs, though? Well, I wouldn't have run my fingers across the letters then, either. I probably wouldn't have given them a second glance. I've never been good at recognizing what moments are important. What things I should hang on to while I've got them.

I stood on my toes to tap at the lightbulb that hung above the door with a still-shaking hand. The filaments rattled. Dead. On nights when that bulb was lit, nobody slept outside the door, which meant that nobody got surprised coming down the stairs in the morning.

I bit my lip and tapped at the lightbulb again. I took a deep breath, tried to find something in me to focus on. Imagine you're a candle, and your wick is made of glass. I gave the bulb a hard stare. I tapped it one more time.

It flickered to life. My heart skipped a beat — but then the bulb died again with a sound like a fly smacking into a set of venetian blinds and went dead, a trace of smoke graying the inside of the glass.

I shook my head, angry at myself for hoping. It hadn't been worth a shot. I thought I had outgrown kid stuff like that. Stupid. I stooped to pick up the little knife from where it lay just in front of the door, squinting at what looked like blood on the blade.

"Shit," I said for the fourth time in as many minutes. As I opened the heavy steel door, a white arc of pain lanced through my shoulder. I looked down, letting the door swing shut behind me. There was a fresh vent in my sleeve. Blood was welling up under it fast — he must have had the knife in his hand when he caught himself on me. I pulled off my ruined jacket, dropping it — and the bloodstained knife — on the empty desk in the waiting area of the office. It fell with a heavy thump, and I remembered my phone in the pocket, the call I was already late for. Sure enough, there were already two pissy texts from the client. I dialed his number with one hand, leaving streaks of stairway grime on the screen, then clamped the phone between my ear and my good shoulder as I headed for the bathroom.

I listened to the ringing on the other end of the line and turned on the hot water tap as far as it would go, attempting to scald the god-knows-what off my palms, trying not to think about the water bill. Or any of the other bills. The cheap pink liquid soap I stocked in the office wasn't doing anything to cut the shit on my hands, which was somehow slippery and sticky at the same time. My shoulder bled freely as I lathered again and again.

"Sorry I'm late, Glen," I said when he picked up. My voice probably shook with leftover adrenaline, probably betrayed how much my shoulder was starting to hurt. Fortunately, Glen wasn't the kind of person who would give a shit whether or not I was okay. He immediately started railing about his brother, who he was sure was stealing from their aunt and who I had found was, in fact, just visiting her on the regular like a good nephew. I put Glen on speaker so he could rant while I peeled off my shirt with wet hands, wincing at the burning in my shoulder. I stood there in my camisole, wadded up the shirt and pressed it to the wound. The bleeding was slow but the pain was a steady strobe.

"I hope you don't think I'm going to pay for this shit," Glen was saying, and I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds. I allowed myself just a few heartbeats of bitterness at how unfair it was, that I had to deal with Glen and look for my long-neglected first-aid kit at the same time. I was going to take just a moment of self-pity before going into my patient I've provided you a service and you were well aware of my fee schedule routine — but then I heard the unmistakable sound of the front door to my office opening.

I froze for a gut-clenched second before hanging up on Glen. I let my blood-soaked shirt drop to the floor, shoved my phone into my bra so it wouldn't vibrate against the sink when he called back. I heard the office door close, and a fresh flood of adrenaline burned through me.

Someone was in the office with me.

No one had an appointment. No one should have been able to get inside at all. That door locked automatically when it closed, and I knew it had closed. I knew it, I had heard it click shut behind me. This wouldn't be the first break-in attempt, but it was the first time someone had tried it while I was in the office. I pressed my ear to the door, carefully gripped the knob without letting it rattle in my fingers. The lock on the door was busted, but at least I could try to hold it shut if they decided to look around.

"I'm here to see Ms. Gamble." A woman's voice, clear and steady. What the fuck? I could hear her footsteps as she walked across the little waiting area. I winced, remembering my jacket and the bloodstained knife on the abandoned admin desk. She murmured something that sounded like "Oh dear." My phone buzzed against my armpit, but Glen and his yelling would just have to wait.

"Once you've finished treating your wound, you can come out of the bathroom, Ms. Gamble. I don't care that you're in your camisole. We have business to discuss."

I straightened so fast that something in my back gave a pop. My head throbbed. I stared at the white-painted wood of the door as I realized who was waiting for me out there. This was not good.

This was not good at all.

The shitty waiting-room couch creaked. She was serious — she was going to wait for me. I rushed through cleaning up the slice in my shoulder, wadding up wet paper towels and scrubbing blood off my arm, half ignoring and half savoring how much it hurt. The bandage I hastily taped over the wound soaked through with blood within a few seconds. I would say I considered getting stitches, but it'd be a lie. I'd let my arm fall off before setting foot inside a fucking hospital.

I checked myself in the mirror — not a welcome sight. I pulled my phone out of my bra, ran a hand through my hair. There was only so much I could do to make myself look less like a wreck, and I kept the once-over as brief possible. I like mirrors about as much as I like hospitals.

I opened the door and strode out with much more confidence than a person who has just been caught hiding in a bathroom should have been able to muster. I've always been good at faking that much, at least. The short, dark-haired woman standing in the front office regarded me coolly.

"Good morning, Ms. Gamble."

"You can call me Ivy, Miss ...?" The woman's handshake was firm, but not crushing. It was the handshake of a woman who felt no need to prove herself.

"Marion Torres," she replied. The woman peered at my face, then nodded, having seen there whatever it was she was searching for. I could guess what it was. It was a face I couldn't seem to get away from. Shit.

"Ms. Torres," I replied in my most authoritative, this-is-my-house voice. "Would you like to step into my office?" I led Torres to the narrow door just beyond the empty admin desk, flipping the light on as I entered. I opened a top drawer of my desk, sweeping a stack of photographs into it — fresh shots of a client's wife and her tennis instructor making choices together. Nothing anyone should see, especially not as a first impression. Although, I thought, if this woman was who I thought she was, I didn't want to impress her anyway.

Torres sat straight-backed in the client chair. It was a battered green armchair with a low back, chosen to make clients feel comfortable but not in charge. I remember being proud of myself for the strategy I put into picking that chair. That was a big thing I solved, the question of what kind of chair I should make desperate people sit in before they asked for my help.

Light streamed into the office through a narrow, wire-reinforced casement window behind my desk. The sunlight caught the threads of silver in Torres's pin-straight black bob. I felt the sliver of camaraderie that I always experienced in the presence of other salt-and-pepper women, but it evaporated fast enough. Torres stared intently at the fine motes of dust that danced in the sunlight. As I watched, the dust motes shifted to form a face that was an awful lot like mine.

I swallowed around rising irritation. I would not yell at this woman.

"You don't look exactly like her," Torres said. "I thought you would. The face is the same, but —"

"We're not that kind of twins," I replied. I crossed behind my desk and pulled the shutters over the window closed, rendering the dust motes — and the familiar face — invisible. "Is she okay?"

"She's fine," Torres said. "She's one of our best teachers, you know."

I settled into my swivel chair, folding my hands on top of my desk blotter. All business. "So you're from the academy."

Torres smiled, a warm, toothy grin that immediately made me feel welcome. Damn, she's good, I thought — making me feel welcome in my own office. I pushed the comfort away and held it at arm's length. No thanks, not interested.

"I am indeed," she said. "I'm the headmaster at Osthorne Academy."

"Not headmistress?" I asked before I could stop myself. I cringed internally as Torres's smile cooled by a few degrees.

"Yes. Please do not attempt to be cute about my title. There are more interesting things to be done with words. We spend most of our students' freshman year teaching them that words have power, and we don't waste that power if we can help it."

I felt a familiar principal's-office twist in my stomach, and had to remind myself again that this was my office. "Understood."

We sat in silence for a moment; Torres seemed content to wait for me to ask why she was there. I couldn't think of a good way to ask without being rude, and this woman didn't strike me as someone who would brook poor manners. Distant shouts sounded from outside — friendly but loud, almost certainly kids skipping school to smoke weed behind the warehouses. They'd sit with their backs against the cement walls, scraping out the insides of cheap cigars and leaving behind piles of tobacco and Tootsie Pop wrappers.

Torres cleared her throat. I decided to accept defeat.

"What can I do for you, Ms. Torres?"

Torres reached into her handbag and pulled out a photograph. It was a staff photo, taken in front of a mottled blue backdrop; the kind of photo I might have seen in the front few pages of my own high school yearbook. A twenty-five-cent word sprang unbidden into my mind: "noctilucent." The word described the glow of a cat's eyes at night, but it also seemed right for the woman in the photograph. She was a moonbeam turned flesh, pale with white-blond hair and wide-set light green eyes. Beautiful was not an appropriate word; she looked otherworldly. She looked impossible.

"That," Torres said after allowing me to stare for an embarrassingly long time, "is Sylvia Capley. She taught health and wellness at Osthorne. Five months ago, she was murdered in the library. I need you to find out who killed her."

Direct. More direct than I was prepared for. I blinked down at the photo. "I'm so sorry for your loss." The words came automatically. "But isn't this a matter for the police? You — um. Mages. Don't you have police?"

Torres pursed her lips, looking up at the shuttered window. "We do. But they — hm." She hesitated.


Excerpted from "Magic For Liars"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Sarah Gailey.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Magic for Liars 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
TheBookStack 9 months ago
Magic for Liars isn't what I expected it to be. I had impressions from other early readers that it would be along the lines of a murder-mystery in Hogwarts, which turned out to be less-than-accurate. Instead, Magic for Liars is about the lies we tell ourselves, and each other. It is about the disastrous things that result from these lies, no matter how well-meaning they were, or how innocent they seemed. It begins with the gruesome death of a staff member at The Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. After an investigation by the authorities concludes the death a suicide, the heads of the Academy are unsatisfied. Enter Ivy Gamble, PI. Ivy isn't like her sister- she isn't magic like Tabitha and she doesn't want to be. Though she spends most of her days following cheating spouses or investigating insurance fraud, she is reluctantly convinced (namely, by a large sum of cash) to re-investigate the death at Osthorne. Ivy Gamble is a hot mess and an absolutely fascinating character. She is morally grey from head to toe and maybe a little bit out of her depth, but at her core intelligent and trying her best. The story unfolds entirely from her perspective as she sleuths around Osthorne, allowing herself to slip in to Tabitha's world. There is some time given to the magic in this world as Ivy peaks into classroom and gets to know staff, but there isn't a deep dive into its limits and intricacies. This seemed to be a sticking point for some readers, but I never found myself bothered by it. The narrator of this story is non-magical, so it felt right that we only had topical glances at the various subjects via Ivy's encounters with them. Their relationships and interactions drive this plot forward without losing any of the atmospheric tension you'd hope for in a good mystery. It beckons you forward page after page and doesn't let go until the very end. I found myself hanging on as I came approached to the conclusion thinking there was no way it was possible, skimming through previous pages making sure I hadn't misread the the final discoveries because I couldn't fathom how it could be. This book doesn't give you that feeling of satisfaction that comes at the end of a typical mystery novel: the evil-doer unmasked, justice is served, our grizzled protagonist reflects with contentment on another case solved. No, the end of Magic for Liars is devastating. It is devastating and brilliant. While this book sits firmly in both the realms of mystery and fantasy, it subverts both. The evil in this book does not manifest in the form of a sadistic killer, nor is it a dragon to be slain. Ivy Gamble is not our hero, nor is this the story of her redemption. She arrives at Osthorne Academy as a deeply flawed person, and eventually departs in similar form. We don't get to see her redemption. The choices she makes throughout her investigation are not always good, sometimes even amoral, and some of them will even make you uncomfortable. You might even see a little of yourself in their choices. I received a copy of Magic for Liars from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
PenKay 8 months ago
This book was not really what I was expecting. And, to be honest, when I finished, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Let’s start with what I did like. The book was very well written, the characters were very real, and the plot was interesting. My attention was kept through every page in the book as I really wanted to find out what was going to happen next. The characters really felt like real people with very real failings which leads me to something that bothered me. Ivy, the main character, really bugged me at times. She was filled with such angst about not having magic I wanted to tell her to grow up. She’s in her early-to-mid 30s; she’s had plenty of time to get over that. Another thing that bothered me, which I can’t really say much about or I’ll spoil the whole book, was how it ended. I was pretty sure I knew part of how the murder went down, but there was a better way to tie the events together that would have made a tighter and tidier…event-ender (again, vagueness to keep from spoiling it). However, I did really enjoy this book and I do recommend it. I was provided the e-book which I voluntarily reviewed.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Setting a murder mystery in a magic high school is a cool move, especially when that high school is like Osthorne: exactly like every other high school. Even magical high school kids will play pranks, pass notes, swear, form cliques, and occasionally have a murder in the library. The school serves as the backdrop for a murder investigation when one of the staff is found dead in the library. Ivy Gamble, completely non-magical PI, is drafted in to solve the murder. Ivy also happens to be the sister of one of the professors at Osthorne. The novel really succeeds in its setting and resolution. The school is a fascinating setting and the limits of magic help to make a more believable coexistence of magic and non-magic worlds. The conclusion is also very well done, and includes a nicely done twist. The pacing of the plot felt slow to me early on but eventually settled in nicely. There are a number of pretty obvious clues/leads that none of the characters pick up on until a few chapters later which can be frustrating. Ultimately those issues did not really detract from my enjoyment of this novel which was a very fun read.
BookFreakOut 14 days ago
Magic for Liars throws off the notion that magic imbues people, institutions and settings with some kind of higher moral standard simply by virtue of its existence. The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages is no Hogwarts, rejecting the setup that everyone magical is automatically accorded a certain level of "goodness" except for the few (Slytherins) clearly delineated as evil. Author Sarah Gailey's magical teens are, first and foremost, teens. They - and their teachers - use magic as a tool. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill, sometimes for the merely mundane. Locker graffiti, passing notes, keeping students away from the staff coffeepot...much to the chagrin of non-magical Ivy, who believes magical people should afford a weightier gravitas to their power. Against the backdrop of a gruesome murder, Magic for Liars forces readers to consider that magic is not a force for good - it's just a force, and whether it results in good, evil, or neutral actions is entirely dependent on the person wielding it.
FreeReadAndWrite 23 days ago
For this type of book, it had some cool stuff to it. Having a book set at a magical school while actually primarily being a murder mystery was pretty cool. Having most of the characters be fully rounded/realized dominant independent women was DEFINITELY cool. And I think in that way it deserves a little trailblazing credit. That being said, this reads like a novella that a publisher forced someone to stretch into a novel, with lines directly repeated as often as much of the YA I'm reading (where that's a little more expected). It was ultimately fairly predictable (everything that happened was #2 for me on my most likely list of scenarios), but more disappointing is there were only very brief moments of any actual suspense in the climax itself. Overall, I don't regret reading it - but save it for a rainy day when you just want a really guilty pleasure magical murder mystery that makes you feel cozy.
Kelsey Bickmore 7 months ago
This book turned out differently than I expected. It was still pretty good and was definitely a more realistic view of a high school of magic than the Harry Potter series was. Ivy was hard to feel for sometimes. She was very bitter towards her sister and she ended up lying a lot while at the school investigating the mystery of Sylvia's death. She pretended to be a different Ivy and I found it irritating, especially as she was getting to like Rahul. This story did not end up like I thought it would. It built up to one thing and then turned around and spit out a different ending. I think it did not need the tiny bit about the "Chosen One", unless the author is planning on continuing the story with other books.
OneThriftyReader 7 months ago
For adults who love Harry Potter - that's how I'd categorize this fantasy debut novel that centers around a mystery. Our heroine is one of a pair of sisters - her sister has magic (and went to a boarding school for children with magic) while our heroine is just an ordinary person. Now grown up, our heroine is a P.I. while her sister teaches at that boarding school. Their worlds collide when a murder happens at the boarding school and the headmaster thinks the police have fingered the wrong person for the murder. She hires our heroine to find the real killer. The writing in this book is terrific. BUT - and this is a big but - the author doesn't let her writing style get in the way of the plot. Something interesting happens in every chapter - which isn't the case in most books with beautiful writing. Highly recommended.
Monica-x 8 months ago
I hope I can put into words how much I enjoyed this book. The cover is what grabbed my attention. I expected it to be Hogwarts-esque with a Clue twist, but it wasn’t. It was wonderful. This was a P.I. mystery with a hint of magic and touch of wonder. I loved it! Detective work and private investigation has always been an intriguing topic to me. And who doesn’t love a little magic? Magic For Liars had me hooked from the very beginning. Starting right off the bat with a murder you get to hear the story of the investigation and events that went with it, from Ivy Gamble’s point of view. You’re taken through her thought and feelings about this case, relationships with others, and herself. She’s constantly going back and forth between envying the magic world, to wanting nothing to do with it. Many of us feel this same emotion with other aspects in life. This made Ivy’s character relatable, and I enjoyed that. This book had me guessing literally from beginning to end. Its a great mystery. I rate this book 4/5⭐ In Magic For Liars, Sarah Gailey writes about topics, that for some are difficult to discuss. These topics include Cancer, Abortion, and Homosexuality. All of which are discussed respectfully and I applaud her for this.
Sailon 8 months ago
I really enjoyed the original world Sarah Gailey pulls us into Magic for Liars. Ivy doesn’t have magic but she is pulled into a magical school to investigate a murder of one of the faculty. It ends up being the same school her magically gifted sister and twin, Tabitha, left her for years before and just happens to be a teach there too. Torn between her unsettling emotions toward her sister and the dangers or this magical world that she’s always been left out of, Ivy struggles to solve to the case before its to late. Magic for Liars is a twist between fascinating urban fantasy and a really intriguing murder mystery. I would love to read more of Ivy’s exploration into the magical world. I received this copy of Magic for Liars from acmillan-Tor/Forge - Tor Books. This is my honest and voluntary review.
taramichelle 8 months ago
Rating: 3.5 I’m a huge fan of detective noir fiction and fantasy so I was definitely intrigued when I heard about this one, which combines both of them. Magic for Liars was a bit more introspective than I was expecting but it was still an overall entertaining book. I loved that it focused on Ivy, who was entirely non-magical and thrust into this entirely magical world that she’s dreamed of belonging to her entire life. It was so unique to get the perspective of a true outsider and fascinating to see how Gailey explored how having/not having magic could affect relationships and an individual’s perception of themself. There were just few minor things, mostly plot-wise, that didn’t work for me. The mystery was a bit slow moving but I didn’t mind most of the time. The slower pace allowed Gailey to really build up the world. I loved some of the side characters, I would love short stories (or another book) featuring them. If you’re looking for an unconventional murder mystery, consider checking this one out! *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
TheLiteraryPhoenix 8 months ago
At the very beginning, Magic for Liars intrigued me. The prologue starts in a magical school – half high school, half Hogwarts – then in chapter one we’re transported to a delightfully film noir atmosphere as we’re introduced to Ivy Gamble. From page one, the atmosphere in this book was spot on, and it’s the type of book that immediately draws you in. Throughout, the atmosphere, setting, and magic remains intriguing. Explanations of the magical system are simple to understand, but complex enough to be impressive. There’s a good balance of magic and reality to make the whole novel feel balanced in that respect, although the noir feel fades. Ivy’s head is an interesting place to be when she’s coherent. That’s sort of where it all stops. The characters in this novel were not deep or interesting enough to be memorable. There’s a Chosen One prophecy that’s underwhelming and the characters involved do not generally impress enough to make me care about the subplot. Some of the teachers at the school had potential, but they don’t have enough stage time to develop – the creepy English teacher, the supposedly ravishing love interest, the school administrator who is one of the best healers in their age, on it goes. As for Ivy herself… half the story she’s dead drunk and the other half of the time she’s too busy being insecure about being non-magical that I honestly don’t know how she got anything done at all. All of the crime solving bits are in a drunken haze, and as a reader, I felt a bit cheated out of the good parts. As plot goes, this was utterly predictable. You can pretty much guess the whodunnit from the beginning, which just leaves the trail of clues to make the journey enjoyable. As I said, most the solving was done in bits and pieces when Ivy’s dank and only half-focused, so that’s not really developed. There’s a romantic subplot, a sibling subplot, and a Chosen One subplot, but in all these Gailey stretched themselves too thin and flat characters plus unexplained outbursts just make these a bit exhausting. I very much enjoyed the magical explanations, and for those at least, I’m not disappointed for having read Magic for Liars. It’s a light read, and certainly leans to something more New Adult to Adult than YA, but generally speaking, it entertained enough. I think those who read and enjoyed School for Psychics would enjoy it, or anyone who likes a bit of a light paranormal investigative story.
Rachel Bennett 9 months ago
2.5 stars - I'm not quite sure what I just read...I think Gailey was going for something genre-bending here, and while they achieved that, it left me feeling quite disoriented and unsure of whether I liked the book or not. I'm unused to reading detective novels outside of a series, and the combination of a mystery with magic was really intriguing to me. A female PI solving a crime at a magic school?? Count me in! Concept-wise, I give Gailey full points, and I have a feeling there will be a lot of people who really enjoy this book. For me, it fell pretty flat. There was a lot going on, and unfortunately a lot of it got lost underneath details, side plots, and other stories. I was really there for the story of what happened to the murdered woman, and the relationship between Ivy and her sister but I ended up getting magical theory, a prophecy about a Chosen One, multiple romantic sub-plots, and so. much. teenage. angst. Honestly, this is what sank this book for me - I obviously knew it was set at a school but I was not expecting it to read like an angsty YA mystery, which unfortunately is what I feel I got.
Anonymous 9 months ago
The work of Ivy Gamble was reserved to that of adultery and insurance scams. That is until the headmaster of Osthorne Academy came to her with a lot of money, hefty promises and a request- find a killer of a teacher at the school, and she will be handsomely rewarded. The trouble is, it is a school for mages, a school where her twin sister teaches. Not being magic herself, she goes about trying to blend in as best she can, pretending that she can do this. She can solve this murder without any problems. The previous investigators said suicide, and it certainly looks like it, but is it? After awkward interviews and romance, she finds that pretending to be magic is a lot harder than being herself. Can she solve this murder as a lowly PI in a school of magically talented people? This book was written wonderfully and was easy to follow with text that was accessible and casual. The plot didn't hesitate or make it confusing, I thought it was sad that she had a drinking problem; but was not surprised. The ending, while predictable, was not entirely disappointing. I have read many murder mysteries, so, I saw the set up right away. This is a fun book, a well written and casual book that 18 and up can read. LGBTQ references are in this book, way to go!!
kmg7777 9 months ago
Magic for Liars feels like an old school gumshoe detective novel, with magic thrown in. But although in many ways the magic feels like a subtle background note, never overshadowing the death of a teacher at a magical high school, it constantly tickles at Ivy's attempts to solve the murder and is the power that elevates the emotions of many of the characters to the point where it's easy for any of them to be capable of murder. Perhaps it's that possibility of magic that makes so much of this book feel like diversion is constantly happening. The book often focuses on Ivy's strained relationship with her twin sister, Tabitha, a teacher at the school. Or the possibility of romance for Ivy with another teacher at the school. Or the relationship going on between two students that could have led to murder. Or another student's power over everyone at the school. I think this book just got a little too muddled with different storylines for me. On the surface it's supposed to be a murder mystery, but the heart of it seems to be heavily focused on a wide entanglement of relationships where Ivy is constantly picking to try and get a knot out.
literarybelle 9 months ago
Wow!! I am in love with this book and these characters. I have never been more disappointed that a book is a standalone and not a series. I crave more Ivy. I want to see what happens to Tabitha, Alexandria, Courtney, and Dylan. This story does not feel like an ending but the start of something magical. I devoured this story and could not put it down! If you love a good fantasy, fiction, detective novel, boy is this the book for you. I cannot rave about it enough. When she says that everyone has secrets, she is not kidding! Every page I turned felt like a new mask being removed. It was fascinating to watch Ivy unravel the story and learn about a world she was never a part of, but so desperately wanted to be. This story is magical and you have got to check it out.
gatticus_finch 9 months ago
Magic for Liars felt like a combination between Jessica Jones and Harry Potter! Protagonist Ivy Gamble resembled many characteristics similar to the Marvel superhero: a private investigator for a living, reliant on alcohol to cope with life's problems, and a sense of uncertainty about one's self as a result of being different from others. Nevertheless, it was easy to connect with Ivy's character and watch her personality grow throughout her journey at Osthorne Academy. While fantasy isn't my favorite genre, I was pleasantly surprised at how much this book grew on me! Perhaps it's because the story is centered around a murder being solved, which mysteries/thrillers are definitely my go-to genre. The dialogue was fluent from start to finish and the array of colorful secondary characters created a convincing story to picture and follow along with. I also appreciated the magic references throughout the book, never being overdone or making the reader feel confused about what was being mentioned. This book was certainly a breathe of fresh air, keeping me mesmerized and on the edge of my seat!
LizzyB27 9 months ago
Ivy and Tabitha are twins. Ivy is a non magic private investigator and Tabitha is a magical teacher teaching in a school with magical kids. They are called mages. A teacher was murdered in that school and Ivy has been asked to find out who did it. Ivy and Tabitha haven’t gotten long for years and have completely forgotten that they live in the same area, yet over the course of Ivy’s investigation they bond. Turns out Tabitha and the dead teacher, Sylvia, were in love. Ivy also stars to bond with Rahul, another teacher at the school that is until he finds out she isn’t a mage. He seems to be more upset that she led him to believe that she was one. Dylan, a popular student, knocks up his girlfriend, Courtney and Sylvia refused to help because of how far along she was with the pregnancy, did one of them kill her? Did Sylvia cheat on Ivy and she killed her? This was a really good story, and the ending was very well done, not at all who I thought done it! The magic stuff, the spells, theories, etc. did get a bit confusing. A great who done it mystery with a magic twist!
Eloise_In_Paris 9 months ago
This book sounds like it will have everything I love. A mystery, magic, and spunky female detective. It has a great premise, one twin has magic and the other doesn’t. The nonmagical twin enters the world of magic to solve a murder. However, there wasn’t much magic, which would’ve been okay if there had been more to the story. My first issue was Ivy has been a detective for 14 years, but she never worked a murder case before. Or any serious case. The excuse for bringing her in was she knows magic is real. That would’ve worked better if magic wasn’t a known secret. Magic and people who can wield it are everywhere. Tabitha was discovered to have powers by her kindergarten teacher, so it’s hard for me to believe that there are no other investigation agencies in California with a detective who knows about magic, and there certainly should be one who can wield it as well. The only reason why Ivy should’ve been brought in is if there was a twist. But there was not. There was also no sense of urgency. At one point after a week Ivy even says she’s not sure if she should feel accomplished with her few clues or like she is lagging behind. I also didn’t like that no one seemed broken up about the death of a teacher. Sad sure, but in passing. We knew as much about the victim as someone would learn from a 30-second news report. “The death of 3(?) year old beloved teacher Sylvia (I can’t remember her last name) who was found split in half in the Osthorne School library has been ruled an accident by police. She will be mourned by everyone there”. A murder investigation was done, but there was no research done on the life of the victim. There was even a journal found, but we didn’t get any insight into Sylvia’s thoughts, wants, or needs. Finally, the murder is solved, and there is a sort of twist but nothing shocking. I also was disappointed that the book ended without addressing what seemed like could have been a magical power that Ivy had. Honestly giving this book 3 stars is rounding it up from the 2.5 I think it actually deserves. It’s not a poorly written book it’s that the story doesn’t take advantage of interesting possibilities presented.
Kamisha 9 months ago
I absolutely loved Sarah’s novella, River of Teeth, so I was thrilled to get my hands on their first full length novel! And Magic for Liars definitely did not disappoint me! It is the perfect blend of murder-mystery noir and magic all wrapped in one! And the setting is a magical school to give it even more bonus points! But this is not a new Hogwarts. Osthorne Academy and this story in general, are much darker than other magic school plot lines I’ve read previously. From the very beginning, when we learn of the murder that sets the story in motion (one of the most terrifying ways to find a body I’ve read about in awhile), we find out real fast that this is not a story for kids. I was completely hooked on the mystery from the first chapter. The main character, Ivy Gamble, is a private investigator and she’s approached by the headmaster of Osthorne to try and solve this horrible crime. Osthorne Academy just so happens to be the same school Ivy’s estranged magical twin sister teaches at. Ivy’s feelings about her sister and magic in general are complicated and a bit on the bitter side to say the least. Which is understandable when we find out what Ivy has been through. Not to mention finding out at a young age that your TWIN sister is magical and you are not and will never be magical. Ivy’s sister gets sent off to a prestigious school for magic kids and Ivy stays home to go to a normal school and take care of her sick mother and struggling father. Needless to say, Ivy is dealing with a lot as she is confronting these dormant grievances she’s held against her sister, while also trying to solve a murder. I loved seeing her character development and how honest and vulnerable she was, even when she was just trying to be tough. All of the other characters were enjoyable as well. The world-building in this story is also really interesting and I loved the way that the magic worked. Reading about the different types of magic styles and the academic way that magic users went about studying and utilizing them was a really fascinating way of looking at magic. It reminded me a bit of the University in The Name of the Wind. Overall, I absolutely loved this story and the ending was an intense and heartbreaking journey! I will definitely be picking up everything Sarah Gailey writes from now on!
BookAddictFL 9 months ago
I love the combination of magic with a PI and a murder case, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, I didn't love the book as much as I love the concept. I have low tolerance for characters (and people) who wallow in self-pity. Ivy, the PI and narrator of this story, is queen of the 'woe is me' category. Her whining is a constant throughout the story. I wanted to give her a shake and tell her to grow up, though with less polite wording. I loved the way the magic was handled. This isn't your typical magic of fiction, but something more complex and intriguing. For the most part, we only see this on the periphery. I would've liked to be immersed in the magical world. If you're familiar with the cartoon Scooby-Doo, then you have a good sense of the murder mystery aspect of the plot. Ivy did a whole lot of bumbling around. She'd fail to follow up on obvious clues, and she'd brush off things people said as unimportant. For the most part, she was too busy wallowing to follow the clues being dropped all around her. I found it maddening, particularly since I figured it out long before she began connecting the dots. And, finally, the ending lacks closure. We find out the whodunit, but then nothing is actually done about the whodunit. Ivy's personal life, which was a major focus throughout, is also left up in the air. So if you prefer solid endings, you won't like this one. The writing itself is good. This is an easy read that flows well. I just wanted more of some things, and a whole lot less of others. *I received a review copy from BookishFirst and Celadon Books.*
Bookish_Kat 9 months ago
Big Little MAGICAL Lies! Wow! I really, really enjoyed this book! I've seem blurbs calling this a grown up Harry Potter or a great book for Harry Potter fans. So of course this made me really excited to check the book out! And then reading the synopsis... a magical, murder mystery! Get out of here!! So I was most definitely intrigued! And I have to say this book did not disappoint! After reading it, I would say it's not so much a grown up Harry Potter but a The Magicians meets Big Little Lies. And oh boy did that combo make for one great story! Ivy is a PI, but not a mage like her sister. She knows about the magical world so she gets roped into investigating a death at a nearby magic school. This story was just so well written. I couldn't put it down. I liked the characters. It was well written. I wanted to find out what happened! If this book sounds remotely interesting to you, you should definitely check it out!!
Anonymous 9 months ago
Mystery and magic--what could be better? Let me begin by saying that this is Sarah Gailey's debut book, which I'm always wary about. Debut books very often are rambling, not-well plotted, and contain weak characters. Not this one! I wasn't crazy about the writing, but the plot and the character development and the mystery were all A pluses for me. Ivy, a detective, gets called on a special case at her sister's school. She and her sister have a very believable relationship; it's not perfect but it's pretty good. And then the magic! It was extremely out-of-the-box and open and out there, and I loved every minute of it. This book had so many great elements and characters, and I really loved it overall.
Jodi Wiggins 9 months ago
It's easy to describe Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars as "Harry Potter meets noir murder mystery", at least in the beginning. Most of the action does take place in Osthorne, a high school for young mages (NOT witches or wizards!), and the protagonist, Ivy Gamble, has been asked to solve the mystery of a gruesome and inexplicable death that took place on its hallowed grounds. This case offers a significant professional and financial upgrade for Ivy. However, it is complicated by the fact that Ivy's estranged twin sister Tabitha is a mage and a teacher at Osthorne. Ivy's familiarity with magic gives her an advantage that most other private investigators would lack at Osthorne, which is why she was hired. Unfortunately for Ivy, her familiarity is second-hand through Tabitha, as she is not magical at all. She resents Tabitha for her advantages and feels that she is muddling her way through life. Ivy's self-pity permeates the first third or so of the novel. She sees Osthorne as an entree to a life that she might have had. Even students using their magic in ways that teenagers would, such as permanently writing that another student is a "slut" on a set of lockers, irritates her. She thinks of this as a waste. But when the action picks up and Ivy meets some interesting leads, the tone picks up a bit, too. Ultimately, Magic for Liars is much more about a woman making peace with her past, her family, and herself than it is about either magic or a mystery. That said, both the magical world of Osthorne and the mystery are fairly engaging, too. Secrets are revealed about several members of the Osthorne community and about Ivy herself. I will note that many characters are LGBT, which appealed to me, especially the casual way that Gailey described their orientations. This won't be a novel for everyone, but if you enjoy genre fiction, you could find much worse ways to spend your time. I received an ARC from BookishFirst in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Nelsonaa 9 months ago
Magic for Liars is a modern day mystery/fantasy, set in an exclusive high school for mages - people with magical abilities. The story immediately engages with a dramatic, gruesome murder in the school library at the start of term. Unsatisfied with the mage resolution to the incident, the headmaster approaches Ivy, a private investigator, to solve the murder case. Ivy isn't a mage, but she's aware of their existence. Her sister is a mage, and a teacher at the school. Tabitha left Ivy and her parents behind at a young age to go to mage school, and Ivy never got over the abandonment. Estranged since their teens, Ivy can't make peace with Tabitha being magical, and that she herself is not. Insecurities about her talent and worth have defined Ivy into an adulthood of a sub-par career, no lasting relationships, and too much drinking. Maybe taking this case would allow Ivy prove to herself that she's good enough to work serious cases, maybe as good as her magical sister. Upon arriving at the school, Ivy is both amazed and dismayed at how high school is high school, magic or not. She must navigate the drama of teenage social groups, school politics, hierarchies, and secrets, and most of all, re-engage with the sister she no longer knows, if she wants to learn what happened that day in the library. And do it all without magic. The story is a slow-burn mystery that dredges up past family trauma, assumptions, and misunderstandings. Teenage angst and uncertainty is portrayed in all its messy glory. I found it complex and interesting. I liked the writing style, the characters, and the plotting. It was a page turner for me, up to the final chapters, where it ended with a whimper instead of the bang I expected. It made sense, but I felt unfulfilled. Still, a fresh and creative take on magical fantasy. Thank you to Bookish First for the ARC review copy,
ReadbyRed 9 months ago
BOOK REVIEW Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 ♀️Ivy Gamble is a private investigator. She spends her days seeking the truth and gathering evidence. Tabitha Gamble is her twin sister, but that is where the similarities end. Tabitha is a mage and a teacher of young mages. Sadly a death has occurred at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages (quite an awesome and gruesome death) and Ivy has been tasked to discover the truth. Will she? ♀️I like that this was a murder mystery in a magic school, not a magic school that had a murder. In other words, I like that magic didn’t overpower the whole mystery within the story (although the whole prophecy thing is a little Harry Potter-like for my tastes). I felt that it was the perfect mixture. ♀️ There are some gnarly descriptions used in Magic For Liars, especially when describing Sylvia Capley at the beginning and Dylan DeCambray towards the end. The story flows at a great pace, keeping me hooked. ♀️I liked the very end, when Ivy decides to “stick” and I liked that everything wasn’t perfectly, completely wrapped up. I do wish I knew a little more about what is in Alexandria’s future. ♀️I would recommend Magic For Liars to anyone who likes a good murder mystery, especially if you like fantasy/magic novels as well. ♀️Thank you to BookishFirst and Tor Publishing for an Advanced Readers Copy of Magic For Liars in exchange for an honest review.