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REVIEW: MAGIC FOR LIARS BY SARAH GAILEY

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Title: Magic for Liars
Author: Sarah Gailey
Genre: Mystery, Adult
Pages: 336
My Rating: 3 stars

 

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Ivy Gamble is a private investigator with a drinking problem and a grey cloud over her head. When a murder occurs at the Mage school that her magically gifted twin sister teaches at, Ivy is called to the case. But Ivy’s relationship with her sister is strained, she probably shouldn’t have had so much gin last night, and.. she’s never actually worked a murder case before.

 

“I didn’t know the first thing about solving a murder, but this was my chance to find out if I could really do it. If I could be a real detective, instead of a halfway-there failure. If this part of my life could be different from all the other parts, all the parts where I was only ever almost enough.”

 

This book is a detective story, with only a tiny bit of magic. That’s not a bad thing, but don’t go into this expecting a fantasy! While the setting is a school for Mages, there isn’t much when it comes to the actual use of magic. The writing is in more of a detective/PI story/gritty style, instead of a fantasy flowery one, and once I adjusted to the mood of the book I did end up enjoying most of it. There’s also a bit of a contemporary feel to the story, as it deals with the relationship between Ivy and her estranged sister. I was expecting something very different from what this book ended up being, and I think that hurt how well the story kept my interest.

The writing doesn’t flow well at times, and sometimes words and phrases felt overused or out of place. “It was like stealing candy from a big bowl of free candy”/”Honeyed sun poured through two tall windows .. Sunlight from the windows along one wall of the library spilled between the shelves”, etc. I also think that the author told us how Ivy was feeling and what she thought too frequently; it would have been just as effective to show us through Ivy’s actions, and to not be repetitive about it. For example: the reader doesn’t need to be told ten times that Ivy is “just fine without magic”, “doesn’t need magic”, “would have lived a different life with magic”, it was very clear from the first mention that Ivy wishes she had magic and that she resents her sister for having magic instead of her.

 

“It was me. It had always been me. I had always slipped away unnoticed, a guest leaving the wedding before anyone can ask her to make a toast. 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. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to look at the mess I’d made. I sat in the dark, and I waited for the worst of it to be over. I’d been alone for years. I’d been cleaning things up on my own for as long as I could remember. This was nothing new. I waited for it to pass. It wouldn’t stick.”

 

Ivy as a character wasn’t that likeable. She made bad decisions and told lies that were easily avoidable, and was constantly either drinking or very hungover and complaining about it. She is constantly throwing herself a pity party, and it gets old fast. I’m not going to spoil anything, but Ivy seemed a little slow on the uptake to solve the murder, and the ending didn’t feel satisfying to me. Her relationship with her sister was one of the major plot points, and there was a lot less time spent on the murder than I thought there would be. There was also almost no suspense; the murder already occured and I didn’t feel any sort of threat or tension as Ivy worked to solve it. The magic aspect was interesting at times, but it was used very sparingly, and when magical theory was explained it was done in a way Ivy (and the reader) couldn’t really understand. I definitely would have liked more magic!

 

“The thing about me is, I let things go. I let people go. I don’t know how to hang on to them—I try, but I hold too tight or not tight enough or something in between and they go. They always go.”

 

I did enjoy watching Ivy try to get into the minds of the teachers and students alike, and got frustrated right along with her when she right on the cusp of figuring something out and it was ripped away from her. There were lots of clues all over the place, and it was definitely fun to try and piece them all together yourself. You never knew what was truth and what was a lie, big or small, and each character had the potential to be hiding who they truly were behind a mask. In the genre of contemporary fiction I think this book can hold its own, but as I said before, this book wasn’t what I expected and my reading experience suffered because of that.

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