I received this book for free from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Tor on June 4, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General, Mystery
Format: Physical ARC
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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 faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
Ivy Gamble is the type of private investigator involved in tracking people who are up to all manner of unpleasant things in order to keep the lights (barely) on. She longs for a day when a lucrative job comes her way with a real challenge, not another cheating spouse or embezzling employee. Ivy’s dreams come true when a mysterious woman appears in her office asking her to investigate a murder for a decent fee. The only catch? It’s the illustrious magic academy her sister works for and Ivy has plenty of personal baggage when it comes to magic and her sister..
Reading Magic for Liars was such an unexpected pleasure. I initially requested this title from Goodreads because the concept was interesting and I was curious how the story would unfold. The idea of a weary private investigator inspecting a magical high school was a really unique plot and so, not expecting to receive a copy, I requested an ARC. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email that I had been selected!
I found Osthorne Academy for Young Mages an interesting change from the usual “school for gifted with magical abilities” and enjoyed the decidedly darker nature of Gailey’s world. The students and teachers all had secrets that, as they were slowly revealed, really played a part in the murder plot. I also loved that Ivy had to earn the trust of the students and staff at Osthorne in realistic ways rather than having her instantly trusted or trust being earned through some random, unbelievable event. Ivy sleuthed her way to the truth and she did it will skill and finesse, not luck or sloppy writing.
Ivy is a loner relegated to the shadows of society and accepts this fate purely based on her own self-hatred. She’s also a brilliant private investigator.
Ivy has serious mental health issues: depression and low self-esteem. She constantly feels she isn’t good enough because she cannot do magic like her sister Tabitha. Tabitha, her childhood best friend and sister, left home at an early age to learn magic while Ivy, not blessed with any magic ability, stayed home. Tabitha and Ivy’s relationship is never the same. Ivy revisits her childhood often, remembering how her sister could do impossible and beautiful things with magic – things Ivy could never hope to master. Gailey does a fantastic job of using Ivy’s history and mental state to create a dark take on the mysteries of magic. I found it hard to identify if the world of Magic for Liars is inherently dark or if the reader perceives it as dark because Ivy is unable to see magic in any other way.
I also loved the romance portion of this novel for it’s realism and also because they were so subdued. The romantic relationships between characters regardless of sexual orientation, length of time or meaning to the overall plot, were healthy and believable. Zero drama and over the top feelings in this novel!
Magic For Liars was a fun read with plenty of high school drama, a curious mystery, some family drama and even some really cool scenes with unique magic – all without being too over the top.
The mystery itself is interesting and unique with aspects that lead down various pathways of investigation that only deepen the mystery and Gailey masterfully utilized red herrings which is so rare for murder mysteries.
Sadly, Magic For Liars is a standalone novel. I could see this easily becoming a series with Ivy solving the mysteries of the week while juggling a romantic relationships and overcoming some of the serious familial problems Ivy has with Tabitha. I would read that without hesitation. The ending was a surprise and was fantastically well written, but also made me really frustrated Gailey only intends for this to be standalone. Overall, this book is a binge worthy read and one of those rare novels that just doesn’t get as much attention as it should.