book review,  Books

Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey – Book Review

I’m catching up on all the book reviews I meant to do just before a polar vortex gripped Texas and knocked out all power1. The only writing I did last week was on paper, and unfortunately, the writing the week before that was mostly in my head.

Sorry you didn’t get to read it. It was really good.

Just like Magic for Liars was REALLY good. I loved it!

(How smooth was that segue???)

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1At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey – Book ReviewMagic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
on June 4, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths, Thrillers, Suspense
Pages: 320
Buy on Amazon

A 2020 LOCUS AWARD FINALIST FOR BEST FIRST NOVELSharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in Magic for Liars, a fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey. Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.

Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life – or at least, she’s perfectly fine.
She doesn't in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.
Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.
“An unmissable debut.”—Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire




I ADORED Magic for Liars! It was a seriously wonderful escape, and I can’t decide what I loved best about it. It had the feel of a gritty crime noir novel with a whole lot of magic thrown in, but not fluffy fantasy. And while it has a gritty detective novel feel, Ivy Gamble isn’t your typical gumshoe. 

She’s a fascinating character. Ivy is a bit broken, drinks too much, but she’s good at her job, which until now has been more the kind of PI work that has her chasing down cheating spouses.  (So her career? She refers to herself as a “halfway-there failure”, so, no, not as successful as that of her sister Tabitha.) Her twin sister, who happens to be a teacher at the school, and a quite good one, too. That’s because her sister has magic. Ivy has none. I don’t know about you, but that alone would make me bitter, and it turns out there is a lot more history between them to make them estranged. And this opportunity would be the one where Ivy could prove to herself that she was a “real” PI, and then some.


“This time was going to be different. This time was going to be better. This time, I was going to be enough.”
          – Sarah Gailey, Magic for Liars

Because of this, a lot of of Ivy’s issues (not murder related) surround the what ifs – what she might have been, what she could have been, who she could have been, and there is a lot of relatable stuff in there.

I also enjoyed the high school setting, which is all its own. It’s less Harry Potter in general, and more Magicians, but without the heavy moodiness. I felt Ivy’s bitterness when the high schoolers waste their magic on pranks – but that’s what high school kids might do, right? Mean girls are everywhere, but mean girls with magic? Ouch.

You know, as high school kids would do.

But for me, actually, it’s Gailey’s writing. It’s clever and interesting, and visual. 


“…Whether or not you’re the — oh, hush,” she snapped at the books in the restricted Theoretical Magic section. But their whispering didn’t stop — if anything, it increased, the books murmuring to each other like a scandalized congregation of origami Presbyterians.

          – Sarah Gailey, Magic for Liars


And like this…

The drive through the hills was a beautiful as the novocaine that comes before the drill.

          – Sarah Gailey, Magic for Liars


The story drew me in, and the words wove their own kind of magic spell. 

This is a story about sibling rivalry, about the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others, and it has a fun twist on the typical “chosen one” trope. 

I like where the book ends. It might not be neat and tidy, but given the story, I’m glad it wasn’t.

It did leave me with the question – how do you go back to your own normal life after seeing how much magic exists in the rest of the world? How do you go back to hunting down cheaters?

I’m giving Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars four-and-a-half stars (rounding up to five for Goodreads and online booksellers). 


Looking for more like this? Check out K.C. Archer’s School for Psychics (OMG I just discovered I did not review it here!) and The Astral Traveler’s Daughter.

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