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Magic for Liars

Narrated by: Xe Sands
Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Summary

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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan Gibbs
  • 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.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Lana
  • 19-06-19

Veronica Mars meets The Magicians

The story was a bit too predictable and I found the main character a little whiny at times, but overall I enjoyed the book. There were some great characters (Rahul and Mrs Webb were my favourites) and I especially loved the way magic was performed and used. However, I feel Gaily could have expanded more on the magical world as a whole. I was left with a lot of questions... What do students do after they graduate? How much is the magical world separated from the non-magical world? What does the “chosen one” even do anyway?...

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Tracy
  • 14-06-19

Just couldn’t get through it...

I really tried to get through this book. I did, but couldn’t do it. A little unhappy I couldn’t return it for a refund. I love Xe Sands. Not her fault. I was soooo sick of listening to the main character whine, by chap 8, I couldn’t take it anymore and gave up. Geez enough already!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Midwest Male
  • 19-07-19

not a fantasy book

this is really a story about a woman estranged from her twin sister. the sister is more beautiful, smarter, more "magical". someone dies in the beginning and then it gets progressively more boring and less interesting with each chapter until the grand reveal...which was anticlimactic to say the least. magic is largely irrelevant to the story. it is used in places, but it's just decoration. I liked the narration, but the story was boring.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Alan Guerrero
  • 09-08-19

Not what I'd expect a mystery novel to be about

I never imagined there could be so much irrelevant inner monologue in a book. I got lost in the psychological and mental thought process of the main character's indecisive and insecure ways, which ultimately made me lose interest in the main plot, the murder. Too many details on her self analysis, countless pointless observations, only to dance around the actual plot. The worst part is tha it drained my attention span and eventually I failed to care about the murder altogether. Perhaps its just me, but I did not enjoy this at all.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Devon Maloney
  • 24-06-19

Great read somewhat overshadowed by narrator

I loved this book very much, but the way the narrator affected a sort of monotonous slur-fry for the first-person narration really grated on me. It felt like Ivy Gamble was perpetually drunk (which she wasn’t) or so painfully insecure that even her inner thoughts had this over-the-top sardonic air of forced carelessness, which I didn’t clock in the words in and of themselves. It was a performance choice that only worked maybe 15-20% of the time; the other 80-85% I felt like it robbed Ivy of any energy or acuity she might have otherwise gained in the more intense moments of the story. I get why the choice was made, I just don’t think it worked.

Otherwise I loved it; was kept constantly looking for subtext and clues in the narration, and appreciated the simplicity of the narrative despite the potential with a world like this for things to get really complicated.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Dana
  • 16-06-19

Wrenching emotion, believable characters

Ms Gailey's book was brought to my attention via @Scalzi on Twitter. Thanks to them both I will now keep refreshing the release dates for whatever she writes next. In a setting of magic and fantasy, this rings more true to human experiences than any review had led me to expect.

Narration is smooth and gritty all at once, just as the lead character and this book's world require.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • joan
  • 27-06-19

One of a Kind - Sci fi for women

This book tells a touching story about a private detective trying to solve a magic murder mystery under somewhat dangerous circumstances while dealing with her own problems. It's hard gumshoe from a woman's perspective. The main character is insecure, drinks too much, lonely, still grieving her mother's death, and still holds a grudge against her sister. The phrase "vulnerable yet strong" comes to mind.

All of the main characters are women, from the school principal, the doctors and nurses, the detective, the professors, and the bully. The women are also powerful mages.

As a woman myself, and a long time scifi reader, I found that I related to the people in the story so much more than in the traditional scifi, and I'm grateful that this book is out there and doing well on the market. The sisters' relationship is also relatable and touching.

The magic is moderately peppered throughout the book, but isn't heavily focused on. There are some spells that inspire awe, and some familiar tricks that recall a Harry Potter type of magic, as another reviewer mentioned. But the setting isn't Hogwarts, it's a more modern high school building, and the kids have high school problems and concerns that they deal with in modern-day ways.

As always, the narrator Xe Sands did an amazing job, putting so much humanity into each word and each character that the story felt real and whole, and I almost forgot it was just a book.

Loved!! Thank you ma'am, may I have another?

5 of 9 people found this review 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.