Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in Magic for Liars, a fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey.
Reviewers Reina and Jowana tag along detective Ivy Gamble as she tries to solve a gruesome murder that took place in a school. As if this mystery isn’t enough, the school is actually The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages; it’s where her estranged sister teaches; and though she and her sister are twins, she is not gifted with magic. Read Reina and Jowana’s thoughts below.
Fantasy vs. Noir
Reina says: The story doesn’t focus on magic itself. As a long-time fantasy reader, Gailey’s worldbuilding falls quite short for me. It feels like Gailey wanted to tell a story that required a magical element, so she established the existence of magic…then stopped there. Magic for Liars lacks the wonder a story about magic should inspire; apart from where magic directly impacts the plot, it’s mostly treated as part of the scenery.
Jowana says: Magic for Liars, despite the infusion of urban fantasy, actively recalls hardboiled crime fiction in its style and characteristics. The tropes of hardboiled crime fiction are mostly present: the cynical investigator, the femme fatale, the good-natured characters, the complex plot, and the bleak view of humanity. But Gailey turned all these tropes on their heads. […] In a manner, the magical element is almost incidental. There are ancient prophecies, chosen ones, and dark spells but the actual enchantment that pulls readers in is the disparate characters trapped in a tapestry of lies.
Ivy Gamble, P.I.
Reina says: [Ivy] picks apart [the suspects’] body language, muses on their motivations, and points out where they bluff and fumble as she baits and hooks them in return. She dissects human behaviour like the professional she was hired to be, and these scenes are by far the most entertaining part of Magic for Liars.
Jowana says: [Ivy] is such a grounded character. You can feel her deep pain; you can taste her stale tears; and you can smell her alcohol-soaked disappointments. The author infused her with so many layers that you hope each connection she makes lasts. But this is a tale of deception: the falsehoods are wrapped up in a fabrication inside a fiction. The truth is a puzzle and the pieces do not fit easily.
The Truth That Lies Beneath
Reina says: The slow crawl of the sisters to meet each other in the middle is more tense than the manhunt for a murderer in a high school. […] Magic for Liars might not be for you if you’re looking for a solid addition to either the fantasy or mystery genres. But if you’re not here to nitpick, it’s an engrossing summer read that’ll have you flying to the end to find out whodunnit. (And whether you can fool a PI as well as you often fool yourself.)
Jowana says: Underneath the magic and mystery are astute social commentaries. […] Mages have incredibly human problems. Magic cannot simply make them disappear and only makes them slightly complicated than us mortals. Untangling these lies is the main course. Meeting the characters is the dessert. Ivy Gamble? She is both the strong tall drink and the bittersweet chaser.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey will soon be available at Fully Booked. Email us to reserve your copy in advance.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]