Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Tor Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
At the very beginning, Magic for Liars intrigued me. The prologue starts in a magical school – half high school, half Hogwarts – then in chapter one we’re transported to a delightfully film noir atmosphere as we’re introduced to Ivy Gamble. From page one, the atmosphere in this book was spot on, and it’s the type of book that immediately draws you in.
Throughout, the atmosphere, setting, and magic remains intriguing. Explanations of the magical system are simple to understand, but complex enough to be impressive. There’s a good balance of magic and reality to make the whole novel feel balanced in that respect, although the noir feel fades. Ivy’s head is an interesting place to be when she’s coherent.
That’s sort of where it all stops.
The characters in this novel were not deep or interesting enough to be memorable. There’s a Chosen One prophecy that’s underwhelming and the characters involved do not generally impress enough to make me care about the subplot. Some of the teachers at the school had potential, but they don’t have enough stage time to develop – the creepy English teacher, the supposedly ravishing love interest, the school administrator who is one of the best healers in their age, on it goes. As for Ivy herself… half the story she’s dead drunk and the other half of the time she’s too busy being insecure about being non-magical that I honestly don’t know how she got anything done at all. All of the crime solving bits are in a drunken haze, and as a reader, I felt a bit cheated out of the good parts.
As plot goes, this was utterly predictable. You can pretty much guess the whodunnit from the beginning, which just leaves the trail of clues to make the journey enjoyable. As I said, most the solving was done in bits and pieces when Ivy’s dank and only half-focused, so that’s not really developed. There’s a romantic subplot, a sibling subplot, and a Chosen One subplot, but in all these Gailey stretched themselves too thin and flat characters plus unexplained outbursts just make these a bit exhausting.
I very much enjoyed the magical explanations, and for those at least, I’m not disappointed for having read Magic for Liars. It’s a light read, and certainly leans to something more New Adult to Adult than YA, but generally speaking, it entertained enough. I think those who read and enjoyed School for Psychics would enjoy it, or anyone who likes a bit of a light paranormal investigative story.