Cover Image: Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars

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Member Reviews

Magic for Liars was such a disappointing read for me. The premise for this book sounds so amazing and intriguing, yet the execution left me disheartened. I just expected a lot more from this book, especially since Magic for Liars started out strong.

For one I expected a lot more magic than what was actually in the book. There was more talk about magic theory than actual magic, which was disappointing. I guess this is on me, since it’s explicitly stated that the main character doesn’t have magic. Another thing that disappointed me was the mystery. I just found it not that well done, which I can’t explain more because of spoilers. Also, Ivy wasn’t that great of a detective. She stumbled upon clues more often than actually deducing anything.

My biggest problem with the book was actually the main character, Ivy. Aside from her not being that great of a detective, I just didn’t like her or care for her. I can understand how bitter she must have been for not having magic and being on the sidelines, but I really didn’t need to be reminded of it every chance the author got. It got honestly so annoying! Ivy was so too whiny and I found it bothersome pretty fast. The sister relationship between Ivy and Tabitha was probably my favourite aspect of the book. They have a complex relationship and it was interesting to read about.
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Sarah Gailey has rapidly shot to the top of my favorite writers list, and this book shows why. Her worlds are rich and fascinating and extremely queer. I loved all the characters and stressed about their lives as I read the story. The mystery kept me guessing and the ending wrenched my heart out. I recommend it strongly.
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Fun, fast paced, and exciting! A good balance of storytelling and mystery, with a protagonist I can both identify with as well as be frustrated at some of the poorly made choices.
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Enjoyed this immensely; FINALLY, someone's writing urban fantasy with a complex, interesting female lead! Loved the setting, loved the characters, loved the mystery. Couldn't put it down.
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Thank you to the publisher for this ARC.    I enjoyed this book and would definitely read more if the author decided to continue in this world.   The premise of twins, one being magic and the other not, made for an interesting dynamic.    The magic was interesting and different, the school for magic was definitely not Hogwarts, and it seemed believable that it could co-exist with our reality.   I appreciated the explored relationship with the twins and the blend of mystery and fantasy.
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Would you enjoy Magic for Liars if you’re not a fan of murder mysteries or Harry Potter? If you like honest, witty narrators who overcome their own struggles with self-doubt and the bottle, then perhaps you will.

I’d heard good things about Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth series so I requested her new book from NetGalley. (The publisher provided a free review copy in exchange for this review. Thanks Tor Books!) I certainly don’t have anything against mystery novels or the Harry Potter series, but neither is my favorite genre. Despite that Magic for Liars hooked me right away and wouldn’t let go.

In part, I enjoyed it because the book captures the spirit of the classic noir novels and films of the mid-20th century. If you enjoy Humphrey Bogart solving crimes in between drinking whiskey and trading barbs with a femme fatale but wish the gender roles weren't so narrow, Magic for Liars could be just what you're looking for. Gailey updates the classic formula by showing that a female private investigator can struggle with the same demons (booze, ethics, sibling rivalry) in an equally engaging way. PI Ivy Gamble makes her living catching liars and cheats, but it’s not a very good living, nor is she content with her life. She’s estranged from her sister, Tabitha, a mage (they don’t like to be called wizards) who teaches at Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, a high school for magical teens. Ivy, however, doesn’t have magical powers, so she is surprised when Osthorne’s headmaster appears in her office, asking Ivy to solve the murder of a teacher in the school library.

Ivy takes the case and finds herself in a familiar place (high school) with a magical twist. To solve the crime she must confront issues she'd ignored for too long, particularly her relationship with Tabitha and her own tendency to run away from close connections with others. Gailey moves through these classic tropes ably, keeping the reader wondering what choices Ivy will make. I found Ivy's narration honest and engaging, even if I was occasionally frustrated at her slowness in picking up obvious clues. Overall, it's a fun twist on a classic tale.
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I received this book in exchange for an honest review, which has not altered my opinion of the book.

The concept for the book was really quite intriguing: a set of twins who are separated by magic, one has the magic and one does not. Then, they are brought back together in order to solve the murder of a colleague at the magic school, where Tabitha works. Ivy learns that she just wants to fit in with her sister's life while also trys to solve a mystery that is a bit out of her league. Oh, and there's also a romance that is based on lies and private school kids who are smarter than anyone knows.

Honestly, this book fell quite flat for me. I was underwhelmed and found myself constantly annoyed with the whole story. I disliked the romance from the start and I think that Ivy had no idea what she actually wanted, and I wish that the murder was more at the forefront of the story rather than the romance. Or maybe it's more that I felt the romance was completely unnecessary, being friends would have been just as beneficial and the ending would have been more satisfying.

Overall, this book was fine. It was a solid story and the ending did solve the mystery in a way that I had not expected. 2.5 out of 5 from me.
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First of all, LOVE the cover - super eye-catching and memorable. I went into this book with a lot of excitement and no expectations, as I'd never read any of Gailey's work before and has no real idea what to expect. The first maybe hundred pages had me worried, as Ivy's voice can be a little wallow-y (so much sad introspection - good stuff! just a lot of it), and there's a scene in which she unloads on a bartender early on that felt like some forced exposition. But once we were at the school, and Ivy was in action interviewing students and teachers, flirting with the physical magic instructor, navigating a complicated relationship with sister (and herself) I was hooked. The mystery is so well-constructed, the characters and their relationships are vivid and three-dimensional, the writing is funny and clear and poignant. 

4.75 stars rounded up to 5 ;) Will definitely be reading more from this author in the future!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Magic for Liars follows Ivy Gamble, a private investigator who’s just scraping by. Ivy reminds me of the Netflix version of Jessica Jones, especially in the way the book opens on her thoughts about her job: being a PI isn’t all she thought it would be, and she’s feeling dejected about her choices. That’s when a case comes calling that is nothing like her usual work of catching cheating spouses. Instead, Ivy is part of an investigation at a magic school, a place that causes her deep-seated discomfort that unfolds over the course of the book.

Right out of the gate, I must mention that yes, there is a magic school in this book like in the ever-ubiquitous HARRY POTTER series – it feels impossible not to mention similarities whenever a book with a school for magic comes along, but I’m not going to contrast Magic for Liars with HARRY POTTER. What I will say is that in this post-HARRY POTTER world, where magic schools can feel like over-trod territory, Magic for Liars proved to me that there still are fresh and interesting stories to be told about magic schools.

I would count myself as a fan of Gailey’s work: I adored the AMERICAN HIPPO series (which Jana reviewed) and I have been enthralled by many of their short fiction pieces, so I was very excited about this book when it was announced. And I enjoyed Magic for Liars, but I didn’t love it. Kelly talked in her review about how the murder mystery aspect of the story didn’t work for her, and while I was more surprised by how it all played out, I am also less versed in the mystery genre, so I would highly recommend reading Kelly’s review.

Something I’ve said in almost all my reviews that remains true is that I come to books for the characters. I found the cast of Magic for Liars both sympathetic and interesting for the most part. Gailey’s subversion of a few ingrained tropes made for some delightful moments that I think widely-read readers will appreciate quite a bit. By subverting and twisting tropes, Gailey puts the characters in situations that lend themselves to new and interesting actions and conversations that I enjoyed reading. However, I also felt that some characterizations were thinner than others, which made some of the motivations a bit murky for me up until the very end of the mystery.

I found the book’s twists to be satisfying enough, and the setting was a fresh and interesting take on a well-explored fantasy setting. I thought many of the characters were extremely interesting, and I liked how they worked through the complex situations around them. Ultimately, I liked this book and I continue to look forward to more work by Gailey, even if this isn’t my favourite piece of their work.
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This book was psychologically deeper than I was anticipating. I expected it to be a more grown up version of Harry Potter. I should know better then to make comparisons to things just because they have a passing similiarity like magic and a school because this book has almost no similarities to Harry Potter and for good reasons. Gailey takes those tropes usually in magic school books and turns them on their head in such a beautifully simplistic and bittersweet way.
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Magic for Liars definitely isn't my new favorite book but it was a decent read though forgettable. We're in a modern world where there IS magic but no one knows about it unless you are magic so... basically the Harry Potter world. However at least in THIS world, the kids actually act like kids. They do so many dumb things with their magic but what would you expect from high schoolers? 

I had problems connecting with any of the characters. I noticed I didn't care what happened to any of them and the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to know who the murderer was -- which wasn't a surprise at all. I was hoping for some epic plot twist and had a bunch of theories in mind but nope.. it ended super basic.

I was left wanting SO MUCH MORE from this story. I wanted to like it so badly but in the end I was unfortunately left with a very unforgettable book
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There’s something about magic schools that fascinate me. This fascination predates my reading of the first Harry Potter book, and goes back to when I watched the Worst Witch TV series (the original one from 1998, not the recent Netflix adaptation). It seemed inevitable that Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars would appeal to me, then, since not only is it set in a magic high school, but it’s also a murder mystery, and is told through the perspective of an outside looking in, all concepts that I enjoy exploring through fiction.

One area that the Harry Potter books fell down in, at least for me, was the unaccountably wholesome presentation of teenagers. Yes, the circumstances were unique and there were some moments of romance-related teen angst and pseudo-swearing to demonstrate that the gang was Growing Up, but Magic for Liars shows teenagers with magic powers as, well, teenagers. With magic powers. I challenge anyone to look back at their own high school years and tell me honestly that they don’t know anyone who would make a parade of dick-shaped clouds dance down a hallway for no other reason than because they could. Or to deface lockers with graffiti that defies magical or mundane erasure.

I’m not saying that Hogwarts doesn’t offer a comprehensive system of sex ed and birth control options. I’m saying that we see none of it, and it has the effect of making much of the characters’ teenage years feel oddly whimsical, despite the dire circumstances of the story. There’s no such whimsy in Magic for Liars; teenagers are teenagers and continue to act as such, even when one of their teachers has been horrifically killed and one of their peers obsesses over being the subject of a prophecy.

Ivy’s point of view was great to read from. Writing in the first person can be tricky, as many authors have a habit of going into detail about things that people normally wouldn’t notice or spend much time thinking about, an awkward walk along the line that needs to balance viewpoint with conveying information to the reader. But with a protagonist who is a private investigator, and whose job it is to notice the small details that may later add to the big picture, it all seemed to flow naturally, with no awkwardness or excessive time spent consciously thinking about things we often process unconsciously. It worked well, and I commend the author for doing such a good job with a format that doesn’t always work as well as people hope.

I’m not going to say that I went into Magic for Liars hoping for a happy ending. But I will say that the ending felt very unended, if that makes sense. Ivy definitely solved the mystery she was hired to solve, and the story and setting were both very compelling, but there was so much that didn’t get resolved that I’m a bit torn on my reactions. On one hand, it could be sequel-bait, plain and simple — a hook designed to make people want more when the author has more in mind. On the other hand, it could have been a very deft way of saying, “This is the story that needed to be told, one chapter from a person’s life, and just how things don’t always resolve cleanly in real life, they didn’t resolve cleanly here either.”

Regardless of intent, it still left the story feeling rather unfinished, like plot threads had been left to dangle, and it’s my hope that even if Ivy’s story in particular doesn’t get a continuation, that the author revisits the world of Osthorne (or some other similar magical high school) and lets readers have another peek into the interesting lives of strange young mages.

This is the first book of Sarah Gailey’s that I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it. So much so that I want to see what she does with other topics, other pieces of inspiration. She’s an author who demonstrates a strong grasp of compelling narrative and believable characters, both things I place high value on when it comes to what I read. Magic for Liars was a great introduction to her work, and I look forward to seeing what else she’s done. Fans of urban fantasy and magical education ought to check this one out as soon as they can!
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Lovely and edgy. I enjoyed this book very much and will be sharing it with customers seeking grown up Harry Potter type books like the Magicians.
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It's always exciting to find a fantasy novel that's so original. In recommending this book to patron's I like to say that this could have been the story of Petunia Dursley from Harry Potter. A truly excellent read.
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Ivy Gamble is called to investigate a brutal murder at the Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her twin sister teaches, which pulls her into a dark and dangerous world of secrets and incredible power.  I enjoyed the latter half of this read, but it does start of slowly, which may be because the author is setting the foundation for a series.  I would enjoy reading more from the author in the future.
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It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
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Magic for Liars is a murder mystery set in a private high school for magical students, though it reads a little more noir detective story than Harry Potter-esque fantasy. Ivy Gamble is a PI with a drinking problem and a troubled relationship with her family. She also has no magical ability to speak of – seems her sister Tabitha got all the magic. When a faculty member is found bisected in the library, Ivy is called in by the headmistress who suspects it was more than a theoretical magic spell gone awry…

I’ve seen few reviews of this book and sadly none of them have been particularly glowing. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed this book and found it to be rather touching. Ivy and Tabitha haven’t gotten along for most of their lives – Tabitha manifested magical ability and she was sent away to a prestigious private high school for mages where she absolutely blossomed. Ivy finished out her years at her regular ol’ high school and dealt first hand with stressful family issues that Tabitha dealt with only distantly. Ivy is obviously very resentful of her sister and acutely feels the disparity in their lives from looks to careers. As Ivy investigated the murder of the faculty member (a close friend of Tabitha’s) the sisters make an awkward effort to get to know one another again. Those particular scenes felt so genuine and I wanted so badly for them to get along. 

The actual investigation portion almost was second fiddle to what was going on in Ivy’s headspace. She interviews students and faculty alike and she finds some clues, though since magic is involved (something Ivy is unfamiliar with since Tabitha was so distant from her) she has either has to get assistance or puzzle it out on her own. I thought the book ended well and the resolution was pretty satisfying, though I can’t say I was surprised when the picture finally came together. In a way, I’m glad I could actually guess whodunnit and the author didn’t have to suddenly reveal all this information that the reader wasn’t privy to.

Overall, I thought this was a great, somewhat emotionally touching read, the latter of  which kind of surprised me. I can see why some people may have found this boring. Like I said, the mystery part is almost secondary to what’s going on with Ivy and her sister and even the budding relationship between Ivy and one of the handsome teachers. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) I loved it.
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"Magic for Liars" weaves a standard noir detective novel with magic and fantasy. It avoids the pitfalls of most magical detective stories, and plants enough clues and that the mystery isn't a silly unsolveable mess. But if the story is guilty of anything, it might be packing too much in it - too many tiny backstories that go nowhere, too many clues that lead to the same places, maybe even a little too much noir stereotyping (ahhh, to be an infamously alcoholic detective). Worth a read for sure and engaging from the start, but it may not appeal to everyone.
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I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Magic for Liars but I had a lot of fun reading it. J.K. Rowling meets Tana French? Or maybe Lev Grossman (but I couldn't get into his books so that doesn't quite work). Even that doesn't seem like an accurate way to pin this novel down. Ivy was full of sharp edges but worked as a detective. It was fascinating to see what choices she made and the repercussions from the fall outs. I loved Gailey's magical world building. There are many people I can think of recommending this too and I look forward to reading more of Gailey's work.
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I did not enjoy this book. It had elements that I like: school drama, magic, twins but it was a slog. I didn't really connect with the characters and at times it just seemed silly.
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