Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 4 stars
Ivy Gamble has a very fulfilling life as a pseudo-successful private investigator. She goes home every night to an empty apartment, she doesn’t form relationships, and there’s a slight possibility that she has a drinking problem. Of course, none of this can be traced back to having to care for her dying mother during high school. And it absolutely cannot be traced back to the moment when her twin sister Tabitha found out she had magic and Ivy did not. Ivy has never wanted magic, never been interested, nope.
But then Ivy is hired to solve the brutal murder of a teacher at a private magical Osthorne Academy. The same place where Tabitha currently teaches. The case will thrust Ivy into a life she’s convinced herself she never wanted and force her to confront the long-held issues that still separate her and her sister.
I really love the idea of subverting the whole “chosen one” trope. Where better to do that than in the Hogwarts-esque halls of Osthorne Academy? Additionally, Sarah Gailey does a great tongue-in-cheek tribute to the trope itself where one of the students is dealing with his family prophecy that he believes unequivocally predicts himself to be the fated Chosen One complete with all the oftentimes over-dramatic representation of what amounts to, essentially, a child holding the fate of the world in their hands.
Where Ivy and Tabitha are concerned, however, being twins, Ivy has lived with and struggled with what it is about her sister that makes her the “special” one. I think it’s more of a kick in the teeth for Ivy to be the one left behind when her sister goes off to school and begins learning and doing things that Ivy cannot even comprehend. It’s all compounded by the fact that Ivy is left to care for their sick mother thinking that Tabitha doesn’t care. It causes a rift between the pair.
The murder mystery is the driving force behind getting Ivy to Osthorne, but from there the story really is about Ivy and her coming to terms with the long-held resentment for not being the twin with magic. It’s not just about Ivy discovering more about herself, regardless the story is told entirely from her perspective, but it’s also about Ivy discovering that magic didn’t just automatically make Tabitha’s life easier or better, she still suffered through the same things that Ivy did just in a different way. The rumination on sisterhood was the highlight for me while reading. I came here for that, and it delivered.
Woven through all this, of course, is magic. It’s seemingly subtle, more incorporated into everyday use, but we soon see how that use can devolve into an in-your-face manipulation of the craft that speaks to the origin of every Voldermort-type out there.
The solution to the mystery felt apt to Ivy’s story in every kind of way. It’s not really neat, and it’s definitely messy, but the closure is there even if the solution doesn’t feel like an overall win.
If you’re looking for a twist on a traditional story of magic and all it’s invariable tropes, you can look no further than Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars.
Sexual content: kissing and references to sex