Title: Magic for Liars
Author: Sarah Gailey
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.
This one was yet another suggestion by my fiance, and I’m beginning to find it uncanny how good he is at picking out books I’ll end up loving.
From the very start of this book, I was hooked. Ivy, through her flaws, is one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever read. Her relationships are complicated, her emotions raw, and her life less than perfect. None of that changes by the end of the book, and I think that’s what I liked about it most. For someone who makes a living reading people and understanding their wants and motives, she pretends to be surprisingly obtuse when it comes to herself. But she does allow herself to grow and change a little, and that’s all that can be expected of someone with trauma like hers. She doesn’t expect her life to suddenly be perfect, and she makes due with what she has. All of this made her seem like a real person, and that she’s still flawed by the end but continuing to try made her even better.
The rest of the cast really felt like they were the protagonists in their own stories, and like the author has these stories sitting around somewhere, waiting to be told. That did wonders for making the world and cast feel fleshed out and organic. Every character felt like they had their own pasts and goals, outside of Ivy’s role in the story, and every time one of them came and went, it felt like we were peeking into another book happening at the same time as this one.
Even the setting feels real. From very early on, the obvious comparisons to Harry Potter get made, but it’s clear that this world is much more grounded in reality. For starters, the school teaches regular subjects, too – something it has over Hogwarts. Though Ivy doesn’t know much about that world since she’s not magical, you get a sense that the government and rules are fully fleshed out, even if we don’t go into the details of them. And I’d be willing to bet the writer has everything written out somewhere, if only for reference, dropping hints of the world here and there throughout the story as needed.
I really enjoyed this one. It’s probably my favorite standalone I’ve read all year.