Dorian Frost knows that the new state mandates are going to be problematic for the new school year. With the focus on teaching more kids how to use and wield magic, and getting them ready to be licensed, it means bigger classes. Dorian can handle that, but he’s unprepared to once again be mentoring first-year students, fifteen-year olds who barely have magic mastered. Dorian’s goal is to make them the best they can be. He was once an enchanter himself, before tragedy struck, and he gave up his position to teach instead.
Before Dorian even meets the new students, though, an encounter with Milo Evergreen changes the course of his life. Once upon a time, Dorian, Milo, and their third, Finn, were poised to take on the world. But, with Finn’s death, everything changed and Dorian became even more sullen and withdrawn than before. Milo has not given up hope for their future, though. However, when Milo’s clairvoyance mixes with Dorian’s telepathy, Dorian is treated to a vision of the death of a student. While Milo tries to brush it off, Dorian is determined to save Caleb’s life.
As the months progress, Dorian does whatever he can to change the future he saw. Connecting to Caleb, and then other students, has him so focused on saving Caleb’s life that he misses other things. But despite this, he’s determined to make sure all his kids make it to the end of the semester and gain the skills necessary to get their fledging licenses. Milo is more secretive than normal and Dorian gets the feeling that Milo knows more about the future than he’s sharing. But a routine extra practice turns into an all out fight for their lives. Dorian will risk everything to keep the kids safe. But despite his best efforts, it may not be enough, and everything he fears may come to pass.
M.N. Bennet is a new-to-me author and the blurb for this book drew me in. This is the first book in a new series, and the complex and creative world building was immersive and well fleshed out. This world is an AU where everyone possesses at least a little magic, but training and witch licensing is a privilege of those who have the money to make it happen. As a counterpoint, the warlocks are those who buck the system, who practice magic illegally. The new education mandates are an attempt to train and license far more people and therefore cut down on the amount of warlocks running loose.
This story is told from Dorian’s POV and he is a broken man. He’s sort of an asshole to begin with, and the glimpses of his past show the reader that he’s always been a bit sullen and surly. But that only magnified with his partner Finn’s death and Dorian subsequently pulling away from Milo. There was a time when the three men were together, happy, and looking forward to the future. But that all changed in an instant. Being in Dorian’s head gives the reader a glimpse to his anti-social thoughts, but also into his big heart. He’s not the kindest of men, and he’s certainly grumpy. But he’s focused on being the best teacher he can be, and he doesn’t care if he’s not popular or well liked, because his students finish their final year with their magical skill finely honed. Dorian is an engaging character for all his gruffness, because it’s clear to the reader, even when not to Dorian himself, where his motivation lies and that he’s really doing the best he can.
The romance aspects of this story are much more a B plot line here, as Dorian and Milo have been on-again, off-again since Finn’s death. Milo was a harder character to get to know, and at times I questioned his integrity from the way he was presented. But ultimately, it’s shown exactly how much he cares, how optimistic he is, and how desperately he’s trying to save the world. I would have liked to see more interaction between the two men, and not just because their love was always quietly bubbling under the surface. The reasons for Milo’s actions are made clear by the end and were wholly understandable, but I wanted to see more of the real him throughout the book and I’m hoping as the series goes on we’ll get exactly that.
This story is more focused on the vision Dorian experienced with Milo, and the ways Dorian works toward preventing Caleb’s death. The magic system is complex and intriguing, a twist on things I’ve seen before. I was invested in watching the whole thing play out, and while there were times I would have liked to see more explanation, it was ultimately easy to take things at face value.
This is a long book with a lot of moving parts. For the most part, I thought the pacing was spot on. While there were some scenes that, for me, were drawn out or unnecessary, the plot moved steadily toward the big confrontation, slowly ramping up the intensity to make the most impact. In the beginning, I think the book did every so slightly suffer from lack of information. I was invested from the start, but I felt a bit frustrated by waiting for pertinent key information to be revealed. But the author did a really good job planting seeds for the big reveal at the end so that it didn’t feel like it came out of the blue, but was also a slight twist on the expected.
Ultimately, this was a great first book to a new series. The issues I had were minor and didn’t detract overly from the whole. The book ends with a nice conclusion, but definitely leaves room for more. I particularly liked the 12 kids in Dorian’s homeroom coven, the fifteen-year olds just starting their journey. Though most of the story was focused on a few of them, they all had individual personalities that I’m hoping to see more of. The world building was good and the narrative style easy to get lost in. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series.