Sarah Gailey’s fresh, clever Magic for Liars is a study in balance. It’s funny, it’s familiar, it’s sinister, and it’s engrossing. When a teacher is found dead at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, private investigator Ivy Gamble is enlisted by Principal Marion Torres to investigate the possibility of murder. Ivy knows the school well, as her sister Tabitha teaches on campus. As she starts to interview students and teachers alike, the truth slowly comes into focus—there’s something wicked going on at Osthorne. Even the most casual Harry Potter fan will see similarities to Hogwarts, but Magic for Liars borrows without stealing. Teenage angst and school tensions are present, but Ivy’s adult perspective brings some needed cynicism to the whole affair. This impressive, confident debut is a total blast to read thanks to Gailey’s snappy, nimble writing.
Louis Greenberg’s Green Valley asks what’s more valuable: freedom or peace? Tucked away from the world behind a massive wall, the sense-altering conclave of Green Valley promises an idyllic life. All inhabitants are fitted with brain-controlling hardware that coordinates a shared hallucination meant to block out the cruel realities of the outside world. When Lucie Sterling’s niece, Kira, goes missing inside Green Valley, Lucie must uncover the truth and expose the dark underbelly of this false refuge. The futuristic technology never distracts from the engaging narrative, and Greenberg centers the story on Lucie’s feelings of uncertainty and disgust even as she peels back the layers of her investigation.
I never thought I’d have much interest in 15th-century Florence, but toss in about a million demons, and I’m hooked. Hugo Award-winning author Jo Walton does just that in Lent. Brother Girolamo is head of the church of San Marco, and not only can he confer with kings and sway city leaders, but he can also see demons. These creatures of hell gather in places of power to tip the scales in favor of Satan. When Girolamo discovers a treacherous plot at the highest levels of government, just as more and more demons flock to Florence’s walls, he must learn the dark secret of his power over hell in order to save the city. Walton’s detailed, vibrant vision of the Italian Renaissance is amazing, and Girolamo’s shifting relationship with hell is equally mesmerizing. Lent is unlike any other book I’ve read this year and is worth a look for history buffs and fantasy fans alike.