Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It's a great life and she doesn't wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a fac...

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Title:Magic for Liars
Author:Sarah Gailey
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Edition Language:English

Magic for Liars Reviews

  • Lisa Wolf

    may be set at a school of magic, but we're on notice from the very first page that this is not THAT kind of school:

    After a bloody murder at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages (located in

    may be set at a school of magic, but we're on notice from the very first page that this is not THAT kind of school:

    After a bloody murder at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages (located in the vicinity of Sunol, California -- less than an hour's drive from San Francisco or Oakland), private investigator Ivy Gamble is called in to help solve the case. Magical authorities have deemed it an accidental death due to a spell gone bad, but the school's headmaster thinks there's more to be discovered... and since Ivy is the non-magical twin sister of a professor at the school, she seems to be the right choice to lead the investigation.

    The assignment at Osthorne is fraught with tension and high emotional stakes for Ivy. She and sister Tabitha have been estranged for years, really since Tabitha was selected to go to an elite magic school when they were teens. Their paths diverged sharply from that point onward, and the two have never managed to reconnect, especially in the aftermath of their mother's death while Tabitha was away at school.

    Now arriving at Osthorne, Ivy sets out to solve the murder while also trying to understand who Tabitha is now, and who she herself might have been if she'd had magic too. Ivy's journey is painful to witness, as she drinks herself through her tumultuous feelings every night and lets herself become consumed by the mysterious death and the suspicious undercurrents at the school

    I love Sarah Gailey's writing -- I loved it in the

    books, and she's totally on point here as well, conveying the otherworldliness of the magical world while rooting it in a grim and grimy reality that has more than a shade of noir to it. What magical school doesn't have a library with weird and dangerous sections? Here at Osthorne, Ivy hears:

    Isn't that delicious?

    Some other choice bits:

    .... and

    Certain magic school tropes makes appearances too -- there's a Prophecy and a Chosen One, for starters, as well as the more mundane clique of popular girls who flutter around the central Mean Girl and all sorts of relationship drama, both appropriate and not.

    The plot zooms along quickly, and sometimes reality can be a slippery thing. Ivy's investigations are often clouded by the magical elements around her, but even so, she applies her skills and street smarts to get to the shocking truth. The resolution is pitch-perfect, and even though I guessed at the outcome ahead of time, that did not detract at all from the impact and the shock when the answers are finally revealed.

    is, plain and simple, a terrific read. Don't miss it!

  • Bee

    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.

    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 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 peeks 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 fucking 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.

  • unknown

    Books that are billed as “like The Magicians” are never like The Magicians in the right ways for me, but this is both like The Magicians in that “magic is actually kind of weird and gross and real” way, and it’s a compelling whodunnit besides. The solution was perhaps a tad obvious, but the emotional weight with which the mystery is treated–it is deeply rooted in the characters’ past traumas and dysfunctions and insecurities–made that matter less. The narrative voice is arresting, and the noir a

    Books that are billed as “like The Magicians” are never like The Magicians in the right ways for me, but this is both like The Magicians in that “magic is actually kind of weird and gross and real” way, and it’s a compelling whodunnit besides. The solution was perhaps a tad obvious, but the emotional weight with which the mystery is treated–it is deeply rooted in the characters’ past traumas and dysfunctions and insecurities–made that matter less. The narrative voice is arresting, and the noir atmosphere is well-handled. In short, a pretty darn good debut, and significantly better than the similarly pitched An Unkindness of Magicians.

  • Fiona

    Like so many of us readers, Ivy Gamble never had the chance to go to magic school and experience a magical fix for everything wrong in her life. Unlike most of us, she's not really allowed to put the dream aside and move on with life - her twin sister does get that, from her teenage perspective, and when this story begins years later, she's now a hard drinking, hard living PI, who resolutel

    Like so many of us readers, Ivy Gamble never had the chance to go to magic school and experience a magical fix for everything wrong in her life. Unlike most of us, she's not really allowed to put the dream aside and move on with life - her twin sister does get that, from her teenage perspective, and when this story begins years later, she's now a hard drinking, hard living PI, who resolutely tells herself she never wanted that life anyway.

    And of course, it's not long before that world comes knocking on her door - in the best of traditions, there's been a murder, and it doesn't take long before the shimmering promise of a perfect, magical, life is within Ivy's reach once more.

    Of course, it's not that easy, life is messy no matter who you are, or which laws of physics you can temporarily suspend. But it's the way that Sarah Gailey deconstructs the dream that makes this such a great book - she's realistic but not uncaring with her characters. Illusions aren't ripped away, but instead gradually removed - it still hurts, but they're given time to not be altogether unprepared. Each and every character feels real - flaws ranging from the mild to the serious, but mixed with the positive in a way that rings with authenticity.

    All in all, a great idea, executed masterfully, and a very good book.

  • Meredith B.  (readingwithmere)

    This was a fun read for me! 1. I got to read something that's completely out of my comfort zone - sci-fi and fantasy (with a bit of mystery) 2. I got to buddy read this with my husband!

    Ivy is a detective but right now

    This was a fun read for me! 1. I got to read something that's completely out of my comfort zone - sci-fi and fantasy (with a bit of mystery) 2. I got to buddy read this with my husband!

    Ivy is a detective but right now the extent of her work is only being hired to find out if someone's spouse is cheating on them. Ivy is like any normal person and she has a family but her sister is a little different than yours and mine. Ivy's sister Tabitha was born with magic powers and is able to make things happen with spells, etc.

    One day, Ivy gets called in on a special case and it just so happens to be a murder at her sister's school who she hasn't seen in many years. She sets up to move there, and into the dead person's apartment no less, and has to stay on campus until she figures out what happened. She interviews students, staff and even tries to reconcile a bit with her sister. Through her interviews she starts to put the puzzle pieces together. She both is and isn't shocked at all the parties involved in the end but the reasoning behind it really hits home...

    I gave this book a 4 star rating and my husband gave it a 3.5 star rating. We both enjoyed multiple aspects of this story such as the detective storyline and the sister relationship that somewhat evolved during the story. I also enjoyed the family story that came about within this book. The author touches on the family story throughout the book and you can see how Ivy and Tabitha's actions today translate to what has happened to them in the past.

    I'm glad I took the leap and decided to read something different from what I normally do again. I think the magic aspects of this book were still a little too outside the box for my liking (again just personal preference) but I actually came to enjoy most of the story and the meaning behind it while also opening my imagination.

    This was a great debut by Sarah Gailey and if this sounds like something you'd enjoy then definitely pick it up! It releases June 4th!

    Thanks to Tor Books for my ARC and finished copies of this book.

  • Celeste

    The cover and synopsis and title of the novel were all immediately intriguing to me.

    Noir novels can be very hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit. It was everything I was hoping for, and more than I was expecting.

    She comes across a bit as a down

    The cover and synopsis and title of the novel were all immediately intriguing to me.

    Noir novels can be very hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit. It was everything I was hoping for, and more than I was expecting.

    She comes across a bit as a down-on-her-luck gumshoe detective at the beginning of the book, but she grows and changes so much throughout the book. When she is approached to look into a mysterious death on the campus of a magic school, the campus where her magical twin sister teaches, no less, Ivy is incredibly conflicted. She has no real relationship with her sister and doesn’t want to encroach on her world, but the pay is too good for her starving coffers to pass up. Ivy suddenly finds herself trying to balance a rekindling relationship with her sister, a burgeoning romance with one of the school’s teachers, the teenage drama running wild in the hallways, the questionable death that brought her to the school in the first place… and lies. Lots and lots of lies.

    The mystery elements of this novel were really fun,

    . I’m a sucker for any kind of school story, especially if that school is magical.

    Osthorne is exactly like a real life preppy, private high school, but where magic is taught alongside your average subjects. I thought the lack of robes and moving stairways and haunted forests was incredibly refreshing, even though I adore all of those elements. I also really liked how scientific the magic was, and the medical implications that were discussed throughout. And the fact that our main character is an outsider looking in on this magical world was a wonderful change, as well.

    I really liked

    . Is it a book that I’ll remember forever and add to my shelf of lifetime favorites? No. But

    It’s great for what it is, and well worth reading.

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    She will not be whisked away to train in a magician’s school where she will have all the glory her teeth can snatch. She is not the Chosen One, standing over her peers like a towering peak—all the possibilities of life, death, and magic spinning in her head. Instead, she will end up dragging her hopes behind her like a chastised child dragging her stuffed bear thumping up the stairs. Her life will settle into a humdrum rhythm, and some forty years later, she will be scrap

    She will not be whisked away to train in a magician’s school where she will have all the glory her teeth can snatch. She is not the Chosen One, standing over her peers like a towering peak—all the possibilities of life, death, and magic spinning in her head. Instead, she will end up dragging her hopes behind her like a chastised child dragging her stuffed bear thumping up the stairs. Her life will settle into a humdrum rhythm, and some forty years later, she will be scraping a meager existence as a private investigator, anchored by the comforting weight of predictability—ordinary and scathingly

    .

    Ivy had expended so much passion on this impossible dream, only to stand helpless as it was granted to others. Others like her twin sister of whom all she had left were memories, each as fragile as a wisp of smoke—unlike her resentment, for that had always been deep and ingrained in a way that Ivy tried to keep buried. But when Ivy is personally sought by the headmaster of the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages—where her sister works—to investigate a grisly murder, the opportunity is like food offered to a stomach left empty for too many days.

    Ivy feels a surge of longing rising in her like a swell just at the thought of crossing the threshold into the Academy—that treacherous, involuntary pull—and, not for the first time, it flitted through her mind how simple it would be if this were her life. But it’s quickly dampened by a lurch of loss and nostalgia for something that has never been hers.

    Rather than coasting on a well-worn narrative, in her novel

    , author Sarah Gailey deviates refreshingly from the expected.

    The novel’s big triumph lies in the manner in which it celebrates, overhauls, and pokes gentle fun at the “Chosen One” archetype, while also being an insightful conversation with genre staples and conventions. In fact, the book's considerable charm hinges on its ability to work on two levels: Gailey attempts to subvert the genre, but she also revels in it, rolling around in fantasy tropes like a kitten in catnip.

    The plot is simple, and for all its immersion in magic, the novel doesn't fuss over the more magical aspects of its setting. The world of mages leaves plenty to explore, and because Ivy’s grasp of magic and its trappings is tenuous at best, her narrative often asks more questions than it answers. And there are only enough bread crumbs to propel the plot, to unveil the fears, hurts, and passions of the characters, to turn over the rocks and expose the wriggling secrets to the light.

    .

    What makes the book most exciting—and worth galvanizing my will to persevere through the often-tepid pacing and some repetitive sections—is the way the author uses her toolbox of fantasy tropes selectively, looks at them with clinical eyes, exposing them, facing them, and effectively subverting them, all while deftly constructing an intriguing backdrop that's equally outlandish and startingly ubiquitous.

    When the gloss and mystery of newness, which had kept our narrator Ivy Gamble from seeing the Academy—and magic—with much objectivity wears off, we discover—alongside Ivy—that the reality is far more interesting than any idealized version could possibly be:

    Students, luxuriant in their own skills, extend their entertainment by spinning spells—not to carry out as tedious a task as assigned work, but to draw penis-shaped clouds, write enchanted love letters, relieve menstrual cramps and fuck each other without protection. It’s clear we’re in the hands of a playful writer, and, it’s what makes for the best bit in the book. Even Ivy’s resentment begins to flake away at the coltish youth inhabiting the academy, and like her, I soon forgot what I minded, utterly absorbed by this world's abundant charm.

    Still, Gailey never forgets that 

     is a thriller at its pounding heart, and the specter of the crime hangs hauntingly over everything. But driven as it may be by mystery and unanswered questions, the novel is, ultimately, about family, and the withered ties that bind siblings, even through years of separation. Although the author seems somewhat uncomfortable, in her rushed final act, with wrapping up the book, the ultimate reveal still jarred me. It was also, modestly, quietly profound. When it was all said and done, my mind was bristling out like needles and I was left feeling unsure how to feel about the whole thing.

    Every detective story needs a detective, and 

    ’s is, of course, Ivy Gamble.

    Resentful, flawlessly petty and occasionally morally unconcerned, Ivy Gamble is not easy to embrace, but nonetheless, her narrative reflects a piercing intelligence and a passion that has never been given a chance to flourish. Ivy operates according to a personal code born of ocean-deep loneliness and a hunger for a little chaos and reckless danger to cope with the emptiness. By the end, however, she loses some of her sharp edges, melted away to smooth curves and my heart thawed for her. Ivy must decide the rules of her life and the kind of womanhood that she's going to make for herself. She has measured her worth by her lack of magic for so long but there is no set way to be the kind of person that she wants to be, and Ivy lets the realization fill her.

    All quibbles aside,

     is a lovely, assured novel and I'm glad I picked it up!

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  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    (2.75) Murder mystery in a magical school? Sounds right up my alley!

    Sadly I ended up being a bit bored. The story simply wasn't very memorable.

  • The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

    I was excited to read this full-length novel from the author who brought us hippo cowboys.  This is a murder mystery set in a magical school.  Ivy is a professional PI that spends her time investigating cheaters and such.  She has always been upset that her twin sister got the magic and glory and she got the grit and mundane.  But this murder mystery could be th

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

    I was excited to read this full-length novel from the author who brought us hippo cowboys.  This is a murder mystery set in a magical school.  Ivy is a professional PI that spends her time investigating cheaters and such.  She has always been upset that her twin sister got the magic and glory and she got the grit and mundane.  But this murder mystery could be the step that takes her to the next level.  Unfortunately this was a book that had problems and ended up being highly unsatisfactory.

    The positive things that made me finish the book were:

    - I loved the hippo books so much for their characters and world-building that I gave the author the benefit of the doubt.

    - It had a very nice set-up.  I was highly engaged by the premise.  I expected the overall journey to be worth it.

    - I liked some of the practical magic on display.  I particularly liked how healing magic worked.

    - I enjoyed the characters Rahul and Mrs. Webb.

    - There is good use of romantic consent in this book.

    - There is some nice diversity in the book.

    While those things keep me reading, the world-building and plot made it harder and harder to finish the book.  Unfortunately, there were major issues that made this an unlikable read for me.

    - The Main Character - Ivy is a woe-is-me drunk who makes bad choices all the time.  The sympathy from the beginning is destroyed by her desperate and slightly pathetic choices.  She makes ridiculous decisions and then tries to justify how they work within the investigation.  She also uses the investigation as an attempt to play-act her life as a magician.  Someone was murdered and she wants to play make-believe.  It was odd.

    - The Other Characters - I didn't really love any of the characters besides Rahul and Mrs. Webb.  And those two weren't particularly unique despite their enjoyability.  After the hippo books, I frankly expected more.

    - The  Magic - I liked the practical, if silly, uses for some of the magic (like all the magic of Rahul) but how it works is never actually explained.  Also there is no real indication of what adults do with their magic other than teach.  Why do the magicians hide it from the world?  Is it used for the greater good ever?  It seems from this book that magic seems to be used for things like protecting the coffee machine from students and for the students to pass notes to each other.  I wanted more insight into the rules of magic and the uses that were only hinted at.

    - The World-Building - I feel like neither Ivy's life in the "real" world or the school are truly set up as actual places.  They felt kinda like a two-dimensional film set only without the visual clues.  The suggestion of parts taking place in Oakland or Sunol seemed irrelevant to the story.

    - The Chosen One trope - This felt shoe-horned in.  There is never a good explanation of what being the Chosen One actually means or what the consequences are going to be.

    - The Romance - While Rahul was me favourite character, the romance subplot stalled the action and was pointless.  It did not need to exist at all.

    - The Murder-Mystery - I knew immediately who-dun-it so it came down to wanting to know the whys and wherefores.  And I found those to be lackluster and stupid.  I get why the characters made those emotional choices but frankly didn't care.  It just all seemed so melodramatic and pointless for no reason.  And how the solution was exposed was silly.

    - The Ending - One of the worst endings ever.  Ivy made two horrible and ridiculous choices.  The author decided to leave the ramifications of the case and the effects on the students and staff are not discussed.  The book ends in such an odd fashion that I thought there might another book coming.  Nope.  This be a standalone.

    The author includes lots of dark topics in this book and then never explores any of the actual life consequences of such choices.  She ends the book with no closure or realistic ramifications.  Instead the entire plot felt more like a facade for Ivy to realize that a) her problem is herself; and b) for her to fall in lust.  Shame because I wanted to like this one.  Unfortunately it must walk the plank!  Arrrr!

    So lastly . . .

    Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    "The Magicians meets Tana French" so hey I haven't actually read either but both sound like My Shit(TM) so yeah this needs to release and be in my hands immediately please serve w morally black characters

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