Title: Magic for Liars
Author: Sarah Gailey
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Won! (Thanks to Tor.com)
One Sentence Synopsis
Ivy Gamble is a private detective who is hired on by the magical school where her magical twin, Tabitha, works to solve a very strange case.
“People didn’t stick because I was made of fucking Teflon. I’d always told myself that it was better that way, that being alone was easier. That I wasn’t a coward for easing my way out of friendships before they could really start.”
Trying to put my thoughts together about this book has been a confusing process. Probably because this book left me feeling a bit confused. On the surface of Magic for Liars, we have a story about a grisly death and a private investigator named Ivy Gamble who is hired to figure out what caused it. Her investigation is complicated by the fact that this happened at a school for magic where Ivy’s twin, Tabitha, is one of the professors. Throw in the fact that Ivy, who is distinctly non-magical, is trying to figure out the cause of a very magical death, and you have one very twisted crime novel on your hands.
On a deeper level, though, this book is about relationships and belonging. Ivy is intensely jealous of the fact that Tabitha can use magic and happens to be really freakin’ good at it, too. She doesn’t understand why the magic gene seemed to skip her. Ivy also resents Tabitha for something that happened in their past that she hasn’t been able to forget. This book takes a close look at some of the more uncomfortable feelings one can have in a relationship.
So why did this book leave me feeling confused? Well, for one, I honestly couldn’t wrap my mind around the magic system. It was interesting, but I just could not seem to make it even make a small amount of sense. I do wonder if that was purposely done so that we felt the same frustrations that Ivy felt as she was trying to navigate this strange setting.
I think my main disconnect was the fact that I really enjoyed one aspect of the story and just did not like the other. I thought the story and the plot were wonderfully crafted. I was sucked into the mystery as soon as Ivy was hired and I found myself trying to puzzle through everything as more information was revealed. I think the author did a masterful job with the crime aspect of this story. It was twisty and intense and kept my interest the entire time!
Unfortunately, a lot of the mystery aspect of this story was overshadowed by the characters or, more so, the lack of a good character. And I’m not talking about morally good. I’m talking about a character with depth that feels alive as I’m reading about their struggles. Ivy felt like a caricature of The Jealous Sibling. Tabitha felt like the caricature of The Perfect Sibling. None of the characters felt real to me, at all, and that completely took me out of the story. I spent most of the time when we were getting more backstory about Ivy and Tabitha wishing we were hunting for more clues. Which says a lot coming from a girl who loves a character-driven book! All the characters just fell flat for me and that took away from my enjoyment of the story.
That being said, I did rather enjoy Gailey’s writing style. There were definitely scenes that she wrote that resonated with me, especially when she was describing Ivy’s school years after Tabitha went off to be magical and gifted. And the way she writes a tense sibling relationship was pretty spot on. If the characters had had a little more life to them, I probably would have loved Magic for Liars! As it is, it was just okay for me.
Final thoughts: While the premise was interesting and the mystery drew me in, the characters and their development left me wanting more.
Have any of you read this book? What were your thoughts on it?
Let me know in the comments!
And, as always, happy reading!