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  • Writer's picturecharlottelzang

Book Review of Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

My Rating:

There is no unlocking of mystical, mystery powers for the protagonist in Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey. 

The worst part of it is Ivy Gamble, P.I., has a magical twin sister. Locked in the stalemate of her 40’s as a somewhat successful private investigator, Ivy has lived with disappointment most of her life. She’s never been the chosen one, she’s not going to be the chosen one, but she has smarts and the driven mentality of those who must get on with things because the world doesn’t stop turning for them. 

Then she is hired by the elite magical school, Osthorne Academy, to investigate a horrific case. Are things looking up? Not really. Her brilliant twin sister is a faculty member, which is a case even the magical police couldn’t seem to crack. 

Sarah Gailey produces an intriguing premise, forgoing the mediocre protagonist trope who comes into brilliant powers they never knew they had. Ivy, as a character, is bitter and prickly about the fact that she has never been exceptional. Her depressed, rancourous demeanor begins to wear thin, with Gailey pulling back Ivy’s self-loathing before the whining becomes too annoying. 

Most successful is the way Magic For Liars sidesteps the explanation of the way magic works. Since Ivy doesn’t understand it, neither do we as the reader, and so whatever the students or faculty let slip is all we have to go on. Solving a magical murder mystery comes with a unique set of clues, all of which are curious and provocative. 

Osthrone Academy is not at all like the other magical school we are all familiar with. It has tattered linoleum floors, garage bins, gum under tables. The children in the halls suffer from the same bullying and living up to parental expectations. They endure headaches, heartbreaks, accidental pregnancies and deal with everyday misogyny and racism. The magical world offers very little mercies and comes with even more dangers, yet the characters endure despite the hits they take along the way. 

Ultimately, Magic For Liars reminds us of all that we love in reading books of magic while telling us that we can’t live in such a world. It’s bracing to have a story where the protagonist is in the same boat we are. 

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