Review: “Magic for Liars” by Sarah Gailey


Release Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Fantasy



“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.”


My Thoughts


Ivy Gamble has no magic, but that doesn’t stop her from wishing she did. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say she wishes for the life she could’ve had if she had magic. Her current life is fine but lonely and empty. She has a job she likes and is good at, but she has no friends or romantic relationships. She doesn’t think she needs them even though she deep down desperately wants them. Even her family is at a distance – she’s estranged from her magical sister and her father is adrift on his own island of sadness.

Years of loneliness, disconnectedness, and bitterness have rendered her into a woman who is difficult to like. Lies roll off her tongue like a snowball down a hill, cascading into avalanches she can’t control or stop until they’ve crushed everything she holds dear. She wallows in her own misery and holds onto grudges until she’s suffocating herself. It’s hard to like Ivy, but that’s kinda the point. (I also absolutely hate the idea that a character, particularly a woman character, has to be likeable at all.) She doesn’t much like herself and makes it hard for others to like her. But that doesn’t make her a bad character. There’s a big difference between having a difficult personality and being insufferable; Ivy is the former, and anyone who insists she’s the latter needs to take a long, hard look at their own personal biases.

There are many things Magic for Liars absolutely nails, but high school is at the top of the pile. Not just any high school, but a Bay Area independent high school. My day job is spent as a librarian at a school not unlike Osthorne Academy. My school isn’t a boarding school, but it’s student population is similarly mostly affluent, white, and San Francisco progressive (if you’re from the Bay Area, you’ll know exactly what I mean). This isn’t a knock on my students. I love them and whatever crummy stereotypes you’re forming in your head I guarantee you’re wrong.

Regardless of their wealth and access and privileges, they’re just teenagers. They obsess over celebrities and freak out over grades and cry in the stacks and laugh too loud and do stupid shit and do asshole shit and drive me batty and make me happy. They’re complicated messes who are trying to figure out what they mean, what the world means, what everything and nothing means. Gailey shows teenagers as they are, not as adults want them to be or teens wish they could be. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read adult fiction that gets teenagers as well as Magic for Liars.

Sarah Gailey is an auto-buy author. No matter what they write, I’ll be there, cash in hand. I’m already strategizing how to get an ARC for their upcoming YA novel, and ARCs aren’t even close to being available yet. Doesn’t matter. They wrote something and I want it. If you have to ask me why I’m so eager, then you clearly haven’t read Sarah Gailey before. Magic for Liars is the perfect opportunity to rectify your terrible mistake.


Thanks to Tor for sending me a review copy.

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