Book Reviews

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey Book Review.


  • Magic for Liars.
  • Sarah Gailey.
  • 336 pages.
  • Fantasy / Contemporary Fantasy / Urban Fantasy.
  • My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.


Book Blurb.

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. 

Book Review.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Ivy Gamble has been a Private Investigator (PI) for fourteen years. She is just about getting by investigating adulterers, cheating partners, insurance scams, petty crime and fraud cases. All of the bread and butter cases that deal with the seedy underbelly of society and that make up the bulk of the work of a PI when she is hired to solve a grisly death at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages.

The headteacher of the school doesn’t believe the initial report and the finding of the cause of death as being ‘accidental death‘. And so, Ivy is hired to further investigate and uncover the truth.

Ivy is non-magic and lacks any magical ability. But, her twin sister Tabitha has magic and teaches at the school. Ivy and her sister haven’t spoken in years since their paths diverged and their lives went down different roads.

When they were younger Tabitha was sent to a prestigious magic school miles away from home and Ivy just went to the regular local high school. This left Ivy at home to deal with family events (illness) that Tabitha didn’t have to deal with, having a barrier between herself of miles and what was going on at home leading to estrangement and deep-seated resentment between the twins.

Magic for Liars is written in the first-person and narrated by Ivy Gamble. Ivy is a self-confessed liar and she tells us that pearl of wisdom on the very first page. Ivy will tell you that it is fine and that she doesn’t care that she is non-magic throughout the course of the book. After all, when we lie, especially when we lie to ourselves we repeat the lie over and over again. Hoping that in repetition and if we say it enough times then it will give the lie validity and that, somewhere along the way we might actually start believing it as the truth.

Ivy is a fish out of water in a world that she doesn’t understand and an outsider to the world of magic. But, being at the school gives her a chance to belong, to pretend and to get a glimpse into what a magical Ivy could have been like. It is travelling to the realm of ‘what if’ for Ivy. What if fate had dealt her a different hand and she was born with a magical ability instead of Tabitha.

The magic in the book is like science with both theoretical and practical being taught to the students at the school. For the most part, there isn’t the greatest depth (I will say, however, that the way it is used for healing and medical needs is fascinating and does have a depth to it) to the magic and it is very grounded. There are no outlandish instances of magic being used and it is relegated to the background with the characters taking front and centre stage. Magic is mainly used to aid teaching and to make things easier for the students like taking notes in class, etc. And, for general school shenanigans like floating penis clouds, glamours to hide acne and hair roots and indelible graffiti. Only, instead of pen or spray paint, the graffiti is magical and impossible to remove.

As a setting, The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages is very much an ordinary school. Magic classes are taught along with the normal school curriculum. The school is full of the standard student types, the cliques, the gangs, the popular kids and the weirdos. The school itself is bricks, mortar, classrooms with gum under the desks and corridors filled with lockers. If you read magic school and immediately think of that one beginning with ‘H’ then you will be disappointed with the setting. I wasn’t, I thought it was really cool that the school was exactly the same as any other high school out there and that it is just a school that happens to teach magic and have magically gifted students.

Ivy drinks too much, is rather down on herself with a ‘woe is me’ attitude and has a melancholy outlook on herself and on life. She is broken, damaged, flawed and fallible. She doesn’t always make the best choices or, the right choices either for that matter. But, she is likeable, she wants to prove to herself that she can solve the murder (because it is a big case and a proper case) and going to the school is a journey of self-discovery for her. There is also a depth to her and all that she is dealing with both in the present and that she is still coming to terms with from her past.

There’s a gulf between the sisters, Ivy, who lacks any magical ability and who has always been an outsider and her sister, Tabitha who has magic and has always been popular. Born to the same parents with the advent of Tabitha’s ability they are now part of different worlds. I really liked the passages where the two sisters tried to get to know each other and overcome the barriers and the obstacles that they have put in place by being estranged from each other. It is like there are oceans between them and the spectres of bygone years, of the departed haunt them both as they try to put the pieces back together and fix what is broken. There was something poignant and rather touching about the sisters trying to reconnect, to re-establish a relationship on the salted earth of their past.

There’s a diversity to the supporting cast of characters in Magic for Liars. Sometimes, diversity can feel forced like it has been added simply because the author felt it was expected of them. That’s not the case with Magic for Liars and the diversity of the characters feels natural and organic like it should be in today’s society.

As Ivy delves deeper into the death interviewing staff members, students and sleuthing around there are many within the school who seem to have reasons why they might be the killer. Connections between characters, misdirection and twists and turns abound as Ivy finds that the school is rife with secrets.

Magic for Liars is an entertaining mix of murder, mystery, magic, school life and fractured family bonds with a surprisingly emotional undercurrent to the story. I enjoyed it far more than I expected too and I found it to be a damn good and highly readable magical thriller.

Purchase Magic for Liars.

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20 thoughts on “Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey Book Review.

  1. A great review, Drew. I’d read a couple of the Gailey’s fantasy novellas about hippo farms set in the wild west, but felt the premise was better than the actual books. I’m now tempted to give this one a go after reading your take on it:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this! Appreciate the heads up about Ivy. I don’t tolerate “woe is me” attitude very well. It makes me want to shout “Life’s not that bad! Cheer up!” Just drives me crazy. Fictional and RL. Great review though!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your “Hell yeah” rating had me cracking up even before I started reading the review! 🤣🤣🤣 AND DYSFUNCTIONAL SIBLING RELATIONSHIP? MURDER? MAGIC!? I definitely wanna know more about Ivy and Tabitha nowwwww!! 😍😍😍❤️❤️ LOVED THE REVIEW, Drew! ❤️❤️😍😍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This one sounds interesting. Although, when I saw it on Netgalley, I admit to ignoring it as the cover did nothing to draw me in and it looked like the cover for a self-help book. But, your review made me think maybe I was wrong. Especially seeing as it is written in 1st person (my favourite perspective).

    Liked by 1 person

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