Magic For Liars book review

Published on October 21, 2021

Magic for Liars book cover

by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars (2019) was Sarah Gailey’s highly anticipated first full-length novel. A book to be enjoyed by adults and teenagers alike, Gailey places a murder mystery within a fantasy magical world, one where the main character must learn the rules before she can crack the case.

Ivy Gamble is a private investigator in present-day Oakland. She is perfectly content following cheating spouses, locating missing people, and drinking herself to sleep most nights. That is, until a teacher at the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages is found split in half in the school library. Ivy agrees to take her very first murder case, and, in the process, is forced to confront her past, present, and future as she deals with the fact that she is not like the people she encounters. Ivy Gamble is not magic.

Gailey does well to progress the murder mystery storyline as she continually explores Ivy’s personal life. Her resentment toward her sister, her detectable (but unspoken) problem with alcoholism, and her propensity to lying are at the forefront of the story. Gailey balances these two opposing elements expertly, making her readers feel the tension as Ivy strives to solve a murder while struggling to determine how she fits in.

Those who are hoping for something similar to Harry Potter will be disappointed. There are no wands, no cloaks, no mythical beasts roaming around a Hogwarts-like school. Magic often takes a backseat to trivial, everyday circumstances. The Osthorne Academy is filled with relatable characters—regular teenagers who care about regular-teenage things and faculty members trying to help them navigate through it.

Readers who will most enjoy this book are not just those who like a good murder mystery. The novel is a pseudo-coming-of-age tale, with Ivy being introduced to a foreign world and coming to grips with her current situation in life. The abundance of teenage characters (as well as the professors who act like teenagers) makes this novel feel like more than your typical crime fiction; rather, Gailey has entered a genre that blends an interesting detective story with a Mean Girls­­-type twist.

Favorite Quote: “It wasn’t like a punch to the gut, not anymore. Not after so many years. More like a sneeze the day after too many sit-ups, or the seatbelt tightening after a too-fast stop, or a sudden wave of nausea at the tail end of a hangover.”

(Stephen Bacchetta)

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