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Summary

A Locus Awards Nominee for 2020
One of Hudson Booksellers' Best of the Year for 2019

Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in Magic for Liars, a fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey. 

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it. Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life - or at least, she’s perfectly fine. She doesn't in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister. 

Ivy Gamble is a liar. 

When a gruesome murder is discovered at the Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches theoretical magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister - without losing herself.   

“An unmissable debut.” (Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire)

©2019 Sarah Gailey (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Magic for Liars

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good plot but

main plot was great but main character acted and thought out younger than she should

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  • Bo
  • 15-09-20

neo noir with a touch of magic

Neo noir with a touch of magic, I really liked it.
Xe Sands did a good job with the narration.

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Quirky and delicious from start to finish ✨

Everything is blurry in this book, and I love that it refuses to fit neatly into one box - it's a bit of fantasy swirled into a noir murder mystery with a touch of psychological thriller on the side. The magical school element is just the backdrop, and I loved that the main character is not magical - it felt bittersweet to be on the outside with her, looking in.

This is by no means YA fantasy, as I initially thought. Nor is it a basic whodunit following the murder trail and not much else. It's grown-up, and smart, and thought-provoking and achingly real. The feelings of inadequacy the main character experiences, her internal conflict and hopeful lies kept me hoping for a happy ending but again, this book is all grey lines and blurry contours. It has shades and layers and a dark but oh-so-human core.

And the narration is exquisite - it's soft and velvety and full of secrets 🔮
Keep on writing, Sarah 🤞

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  • Page
  • 25-03-20

Meh.

So unfulfilling. When I read a mystery from a detective or private investigator's pov, i want investigation! Clues, slippery partners, interesting suspects, twists & turns, and if possible, a shock ending. this had none of that...none.

Additionally, if you put "magic" in a title, have it be pretty damn magical. A spell here and a freaking pensive there doesn't make a story magical

This book committed all of the above along with the cardinal sin for a standalone (for me, at least). An unresolved plot. Everything is left unanswered, so I ask what was the point of me reading the book? Not even trying to be bratty, but seriously. Why? Nothing got resolved... Ugh. Aggravated. I would have rather had her never catch the killer then end the way it did.

18 people found this helpful

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  • D$
  • 08-11-19

Great Performance but Very Disappointing Story

Magic School, Murder, and a Private Investigator. All the ingredients for a great book but I was sadly disappointed.

The world building is great, Magic feels more real and grounded in science and reality than say, Harry Potter. Students in this wizarding world are still just teenagers -- figuring out who they are & how they fit in, dealing with hormones, passing notes back and forth, sticking gum under their desks. Magic is hard and requires real knowledge; not just a flick of the wrist and a spoken word. Its powerful and real, with theorems and scientific principles. The author built a convincing world here.

The narration is pretty great as well. Its sultry and feels very noir.

Our lead character Ivy Gamble is a private investigator, recommended as one of the best for the case. Our star detective admits she is not a murder investigator, but her behavior is bizarre to say the least. She does a stunningly poor job of investigating the murder -- who really was this person who was murdered? What happened leading up to the murder? Who last saw her alive? Who stole a key piece of evidence? Who is sending me anonymous photos & messages?... any number of questions an average Joe would want to track down, let alone a detective. Instead our detective obsesses over love notes and teenage relationships. Hell, she even blows off the investigation with her own romantic life several times while a murderer is very likely to still be lurking the halls! You'll be mired in gushing detail about her drinking and dating. At times it even feels like an episode of Dora The Explorer. In interviews, our narrator literally asks the audience "Where have I heard this before? Hmm..." when you'll very much remember the exact reference from moments earlier. Like an audience watching a horror movie, you'll be yelling to the narrator "What are you doing!!" -- except, we have no extra knowledge. We're not privy to scenes without our narrator present, some secret clues that only the audience knows. No, Ivy will simply let clues sail right over her head, characters often have blatant slips of the tongue, and she won't investigate or question glaringly obvious details.

If you like a murder mystery, if you like magic, if you like romance novels, this might be your thing. It sure wasn't mine.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Kevin
  • 16-10-19

A really thought provoking mystery

There are a lot of popular fantasy novels that blend the real, mundane world with a secret magical world, but Sarah Gailey did it in a fresh, interesting way. What made me really enjoy the book was how the effects (or the lack their of) that magic has on the real world and the animosity that a mundane human would have on a group of people they believe could solve all the world's problem.

The only thing that keeps me from making this a 5 star book is that the cast of characters seems to be hand picked for social justice conscious people. It felt like the author was trying to force inclusion. I don't think it's a bad thing, I just think it could and should be done more organically.

8 people found this helpful

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  • J G
  • 09-06-19

Holy Forking Shirtballs

just buy the ding dang book and stop reading reviews. this pulpy noir meets Harry Potter world is what you want. Nay, what you need.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Haley St. Dennis
  • 18-06-20

Whiny book, even whinier narrator

Honestly one of the hardest listens I’ve endured in a long time. Must say something about the book that I wanted to find out how it ends, but man, grating.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Gwen
  • 18-05-20

Magic for Mystery Lovers

This story managed to do everything that a good magic realism novel and a good mystery novel do.
The magic feels flesh. It feels like something you could reach out and touch, had only you being given the power. I perfectly captures the feeling so many fantasy lovers have about their being a whole world of magic right out of reach.
The mystery is formulaic, introducing plausible subjects quickly, giving them all means and motive, while still making the ending something not even a seasoned Nancy Drew could expect.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Andrea Tavaglione
  • 28-07-20

a great book!

loved the characters, great style, great dialogue, great, simple and evocative magic but the story may be too simple, it almost seemed hurried towards the end and Ivy's thoughts became a little repetitive (spoiler:
the fact that she isn't magic and how that hurts her).
overall I enjoyed that book, it became dear to me.
and Xe Sands (and the team behind the recording) did an amazing job, portraying accurately the nuances and jokes within the book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Darren Barefoot
  • 12-04-20

Charming book, great reader

Charming story in the vein of Lev Grossman's "The Magicians". Gailey seems like a capable writer with great metaphors. It's a story about poisons--the poisons of sibling rivalry, of false hopes and of the more literal variety. Not a remarkable book in any particular way, but an enjoyable read. And a great performance by Xe Sands.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Joseph B. Hewitt IV
  • 06-03-20

3 stars is an average, okay book

I thought the story laid out with way too many red herrings and too little actual bread crumbs. I also wasn’t a fan of the style adopted by the narrator. I’m not saying the performance was bad, it was quite a good narration. I’m just not a fan of the stylistic choice. The main character came off as too weak with a constant feeling that she was going to choke with sorrow on her next word... throughout the entire story. My smelly opinion thinks I would have preferred a more grizzled noir detective vibe, Sam Spade meets John Constantine type with the uncertain, tepid, voice about to crack thing reserved for the really emotional, big moments.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Steph M
  • 28-02-20

Magic for liars

I could not finish this book. It was so damn depressing. 3 hours in and I felt like I might jump off the closest bridge. I LOVE Xe Sands, and normally can listen to anything she reads. I couldn't finish the book, no matter how much I liked the reader. So so depressing..... I hope I get my credit back.

1 person found this helpful