Magic for Liars isn’t what I expected it to be. I had impressions from other early readers that it would be along the lines of a murder-mystery in Hogwarts, which turned out to be less-than-accurate. Instead, Magic for Liars is about the lies we tell ourselves, and each other. It is about the disastrous things that result from these lies, no matter how well-meaning they were, or how innocent they seemed.
It begins with the gruesome death of a staff member at The Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. After an investigation by the authorities concludes the death a suicide, the heads of the Academy are unsatisfied. Enter Ivy Gamble, PI. Ivy isn’t like her sister- she isn’t magic like Tabitha and she doesn’t want to be. Though she spends most of her days following cheating spouses or investigating insurance fraud, she is reluctantly convinced (namely, by a large sum of cash) to re-investigate the death at Osthorne.
Ivy Gamble is a hot mess and an absolutely fascinating character. She is morally grey from head to toe and maybe a little bit out of her depth, but at her core intelligent and trying her best. The story unfolds entirely from her perspective as she sleuths around Osthorne, allowing herself to slip in to Tabitha’s world. There is some time given to the magic in this world as Ivy peaks into classroom and gets to know staff, but there isn’t a deep dive into its limits and intricacies. This seemed to be a sticking point for some readers, but I never found myself bothered by it. The narrator of this story is non-magical, so it felt right that we only had topical glances at the various subjects via Ivy’s encounters with them. Their relationships and interactions drive this plot forward without losing any of the atmospheric tension you’d hope for in a good mystery. It beckons you forward page after page and doesn’t let go until the very end. I found myself hanging on as I came approached to the conclusion thinking there was no way it was possible, skimming through previous pages making sure I hadn’t misread the the final discoveries because I couldn’t fathom how it could be. This book doesn’t give you that feeling of satisfaction that comes at the end of a typical mystery novel: the evil-doer unmasked, justice is served, our grizzled protagonist reflects with contentment on another case solved. No, the end of Magic for Liars is fucking devastating. It is devastating and brilliant.
While this book sits firmly in both the realms of mystery and fantasy, it subverts both. The evil in this book does not manifest in the form of a sadistic killer, nor is it a dragon to be slain. Ivy Gamble is not our hero, nor is this the story of her redemption. She arrives at Osthorne Academy as a deeply flawed person, and eventually departs in similar form. We don’t get to see her redemption. The choices she makes throughout her investigation are not always good, sometimes even amoral, and some of them will even make you uncomfortable. You might even see a little of yourself in their choices. Continue reading “Review: Magic for Liars”
Some Choose Darkness has stolen the title previously held by Andy Weir’s Artemis: Most Disappointing Read of 2019.
Throughout the story we follow Rory Moore, a forensic reconstructionist at the top of her field. In the midst of a personal hiatus her father suddenly passes, leaving to her all of the clients of his one-man law firm. As she sorts out his affairs Rory discovers that for years her father has been handling the assets of the notorious serial killer known as The Thief. Unable to pass his case off to anyone else, Rory is forced to see a convicted him through his parole, struggling to unpack why her father remained so close with a vicious killer as she pieces together the mysterious death of the woman who brought The Thief down.
I was incredibly excited to begin this book, but I was never hooked in. Instead, I pushed on with hopes that the story ended strong, but I was ultimately let down.
From the beginning, this story drags. For several short prologues and a whole chapter the author plays the pronoun game before finally introducing us to the protagonist. From there, it doesn’t get much better. More than anything, this book felt like the victim of poor editing. For the first 100 pages very little happens, I assumed these little threads would eventually come together in the end, but unfortunately most only contributed to small epiphanies or twists that failed to shock. Donlea’s writing style only made this a greater burden. In these introductory chapters, he has a strange habit of breaking up action or dialogue with huge paragraphs reminding the reader how special and smart Rory Moore is. I feel like I was unable to connect with her because more often Donlea tells the reader about how incredible Rory Moore is as opposed to showing the incredible things she is capable of. So many of these writing quirks grated on my nerves throughout the entire story, but that wasn’t enough to ruin the experience. On top of it all, the resolution was rushed and Rory’s final actions felt completely out of character. Seeing other reviewers rave about this book, I’m left wondering what I missed.
Die-hard thriller fans, this book probably isn’t for you. I dip into the genre on occasion and even I could see the twists coming from a mile away. But don’t leave disappointed just yet, let me instead point you in the direction of one of my favorite books of all time: The Crow Girl. Continue reading “Review: Some Choose Darkness”
I’ve read some really kick-ass debuts lately. The Incendiaries was beautiful, Eight Lives was absolutely stellar, and My Sister, the Serial Killer knocked it out of the park.
If you’ve heard about this book, you’ve probably heard it described as “dark” and “funny” a hundred times. Well, it couldn’t be more accurate. Oyinkan Braithwaite has written one of the most twisted, delightful books I’ve read in a long time.
There’s no point in mincing words- Korede’s sister is a serial killer. Two of Ayoola’s previous boyfriends have died while with her, and when her most recent boyfriend turns up dead with a knife wound in his chest, Korede is summoned once again to clean up her sister’s mess. My Sister, the Serial Killer hooks you from the first page and refuses to let go. I think I pried myself away only twice, so I could sleep. The relationships in this book were truly fascinating and I was stuck by how real each character felt- their choices made me cringe, laugh, and shudder as I read on. This is both a brilliant thriller and a witty take on how far one will go in the name of loyalty. Continue reading “Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer”
Kelly Thompson has brought new life to this well-loved character with her quick, witty graphic novel. I was an occasional mystery lover growing up and though I was never an avid fan, I fondly recall the Nancy Drew books I took from my elementary school library. I enjoyed the reintroduction to familiar characters (including The Hardy Boys!) and how Thompson portrays them in their late teen years.
The story begins with the midst of her hi-jinks, finishing up a mystery involving the disappearance of her school’s mascot. As Nancy begins searching for her next case, she is suddenly drawn back to her hometown by a mysterious letter relating to the death of her mother. Back in Bayport, Nancy reunites with her old friends and rallies the group to aid her investigation.
The artwork throughout the entire graphic novel is gorgeous, I’m a huge fan of Jess St. Onge’s style. The story is filled with interesting twists and a diverse cast of characters. Though the plot didn’t completely thrill me, I was definitely hooked by the cliffhanger and I will be looking forward to the next installment. Continue reading “Advance Review: Nancy Drew: The Palace of Wisdom”