I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Magic for Liars, Ivy is a private investigator, but with a familial secret she tries not to think about too often: her sister is a witch, and teaches at a private school for young magicians. However, when Ivy is asked to investigate a bizarre murder at that very school, she must confront her old grudges, as well as explore a world that, for years, she has been alien to—and aliented from.
Ivy is a strong protagonist: dry and intelligent and a keen observer of people. She is a bit out of her depth investigating a murder, but her competence at solving crimes in general shines through. She is adept at portraying different versions of herself, of tailoring her behavior as the situation demands so to better investigate. This does create some personal problems, though, as she grapples with the moral ramifications of doing this with someone she is quickly coming to care about. Meanwhile, the other characters such as Tabitha, Rahul, Alexandria, and Dylan are interesting, and their different personalities serve to add to the intrigue of this mystery.
This case is not for the particularly squeamish: the murder itself is somewhat graphic, as is some of the magic done throughout the plot (though I can’t get more detailed without entering spoiler territory). However, the intricate web of deception and revelation is so interesting, and kept me guessing and theorizing the whole time. The romance also had me quite invested.
In the end, Magic for Liars is a great novel. Gailey has real talent in crafting a realistic world of magic, nestled within the familiar world of modern day California. The way Gailey intertwines fantasy and good old-fashioned detective fiction is admirable. The characters are strong, the crime is gruesome but compelling, and the suspense generally pretty good. This is an entertaining, quick read, and I would be interested to see what else Gailey writes in the future as their writing skills develop.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Magic for Liars was published in June 2019, so I’m reading/reviewing this ARC a bit late. Oops.