In a world where some people are born normal, and some people are born with magic, Ivy Gamble… is normal.
Ivy is a private detective. She works for herself, takes pictures of spouses cheating on each other, the usual PI fare. Until one day a woman appears in her office and tells her that she needs her help solving a murder. The murder just happens to be at a Magical school, so why would she ask Ivy for help of all people? Because she knows about magic, because her sister was born with magic.
If you liked The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, then I think you might like this one. It’s more contemporary than magical, and it has the same kind of outsider-looking-in vibe. Ivy is not the chosen one, in fact, and so we see the world through her eyes, one where magic is foreign and unfamiliar. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have magic in it, it does, and quite a bit of it. It’s just that the magic isn’t coming from the main character, it’s more like another character in the book. It has its own rules and attributes. There is a Chosen One side plot though and it’s quite funny, if not weird.
One thing I love about this book is that there are queer people and with no comments on it. People are queer and that’s just who they are, there’s no whole: whispers, “she was dating a woman.” It’s just: “yeah, she was dating her.” Which is super refreshing. I’m not saying being queer can’t be the focus of a book, in fact I love those kinds of books, but it is refreshing to read a book and know that the characters don’t have to fight to be allowed to be who they are.
As far as the story goes, I think it was a fun, interesting read. I think the murder mystery plot got kind of lost, overwhelmed by some of the side plots, and in the end I was so shocked by a resolution because I didn’t even realize it was something that we were trying to resolve or were even questioning. It was a cool plot twist, but not one that I understood was coming. I know that makes no sense because of course you shouldn’t want to predict a plot twist, it just wasn’t the plot to twist… I don’t know if that makes sense but I can’t think of a more concise way to describe it haha. I really enjoyed how characters interacted with each other, and I liked the dynamics that were set up between the characters, it made the story intriguing and I found myself interested in seeing how they played out.
Overall, I recommend this to people who, as I said earlier, like The Rest of Us Just Live Here, additionally I think if you like lighter fantasy stories, I think you might enjoy this. The fantasy is there, but you’re looking at it through a contemporary lens. I know that a lot of people who prefer a more hard or dense fantasy felt that this missed the mark for them so gauge yourself accordingly! Let me know if you’ve read this or any other of Sarah Gailey’s work and we can talk about them in the comments!