This book is playing a bit of a magic trick with expectations. It’s magic school! It’s a murder mystery! It’s both of those things and neither of them at the same time.
Ivy Gamble, PI, is called to investigate a death of a teacher at said magic school. The school just so happens to be home to a boy believed to be a Chosen One, and more importantly to Ivy, her estranged twin sister who got all the magic in the family.
As the story unfolds, you don’t get to learn the ins and outs of magic like muggle-raised Harry did (though there is some incredibly cool bits of magic in here). And the mystery itself gets laid out in neat order as Ivy discovers the details. So, if it’s not ~about~ the magic, if it’s not trodding new ground for a mystery, what’s the point?
Ivy. Ivy’s the point. Which means if you don’t like Ivy, you’re out of luck here. I’m never one to assume I know an author’s intent, but to me, it seems like Sarah Gailey used the framework of magic school, the framework of a detective story — both of which read like they are well accustomed to the genres— to tell Ivy’s story. The fate of the Chosen One is besides the point. The foreshadowed clues don’t matter.
Instead you get Ivy struggling with the lasting impacts of grief. You see how lasting resentments can turn relationships toxic. You see imposter syndrome at work as Ivy works her first murder case. You see the strained sisterly bond that remains tenuous despite both sides seemingly working for better.
In my mind, I took what had just happened to my shoulder, and I put it into a box. A box with a tight lid. I dropped the box into a deep brick-lined oubliette. It landed somewhere next to my mother’s last words and my searing loneliness and everything else I needed to forget, and just like that, I was fine again.Excerpt from Magic For Liars
I credit narrator Xe Sands for really bringing her character to life. The emotions were raw but you could also hear when Ivy built her walls back up. What some have called whiny was translated to honest, comic self-deprecation with Xe’s delivery.
Is this book for everyone? No, you won’t get what you’re expecting. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey Read on audio, narrated by Xe Sands