Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Three Meant To Be by MN Bennet, the first book in the Branches of Past and Future series. I enjoyed this author’s YA book and was looking forward to seeing what they did with their adult debut. If it piques your interest, Three Meant To Be will be released on July 10, and the author is running a pre-order campaign where you can get some swag.
Telepathic high school teacher Dorian prepares teen witches for professional casting because going in unprepared is what killed one of his partners. But new state mandates on magical proficiency make it nearly impossible, and Dorian worries he can’t give his students the education they really need. Seeking a distraction from work, Dorian kisses his still-living on-again off-again clairvoyant boyfriend, Milo. Instead of a distraction, Dorian glimpses Milo’s vague vision involving the murder of Caleb—one of Dorian’s new students.
Already devastated by the loss of his partner, Dorian refuses to stand aside and let Caleb die. He searches for clues by delving into Caleb’s mind. Rooting through Caleb’s memories alongside teaching classes leads Dorian to two more students: Caleb’s ex-best friend turned rival and the prodigy with connections to dangerous warlocks. However, each step further into his students’ minds forces Dorian to confront his deteriorating relationship with Milo.
After discovering a link involving illegal casting, Dorian resolves to work with Milo to prevent the impending vision. To succeed, Dorian will have to explore the potential of a future with Milo and find closure on their third partner, whose loss looms between them. But meddling with fate to save Caleb inadvertently draws the warlocks near, putting all his students in danger. Dorian will have to risk his life and gamble his second chance with Milo to keep his students alive.
***Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This was such a fun and unique read. The mix of magic, adolescent shenanigans, and heavy adult issues doesn’t seem like it should work together at first glance. However, the author managed to weave together a story that balanced so many characters and seemingly disparate plot points incredibly effectively. Each of the students had their own issues. Then there was Dorian, who had his relationship issues with Milo along with his work stress and difficulty grappling with his past failures. On top of all that was the race to prevent a prophesied death and unravel the plotting of a rogue group of warlocks. It was a lot, but it all came together in a satisfying way that had me laughing and crying multiple times as the story unfolded.
I’m going to get my only ‘critiques’ out of the way now. The pacing wasn’t always consistent, and the middle of the book did tend to drag on a bit. I think this was mostly because there was so much to introduce, and it just bogged things down at times. That being said, none of it was boring to read, and I loved the characters so much that I didn’t mind just sitting with them for a bit and learning stuff alongside them. As for the world-building, I liked the array of magical powers, and the author did a great job of making the magic system understandable. I just wish there had been a bit more focus on the guild-level aspects of the conflict with the warlocks. It seemed like there was much more going on there than the reader got to see. Maybe adding some of Milo’s perspective would have helped round that out a bit? I’m just hoping to get more info on the larger society in the sequel.
Now on to my favorite thing about this book, the characters. I was immediately obsessed with Dorian. He was a grumpy, chain-smoking, overworked educator who just wanted to make a difference in his students’ lives. He was also dealing with a lot of guilt and grief over losing one of his partners. The dynamic between him and Milo was complicated because of their loss, and I liked their story-line of coming to terms with their past and pushing forward into a future that focused on making the best of each day together. The students were just as much main characters as Dorian and Milo, though, and I absolutely fell in love with every single one of them. I was surprised at how complex their stories and personalities were, and I enjoyed seeing them learn to use their magic and work together as a team.
I also really loved the humor in this book. Even though Dorian was always dour, his students and others around him were quite often hilarious. His cantankerous reactions to their absurdity were fun to read, and I’ll be honest… I laughed so much at all the cock jokes despite how juvenile they were. King Clucks was an absolute laugh riot. That rooster had so much personality, and he stole so many scenes. lol.
Dorian’s branch magic was telepathy, meaning he could read minds. I really liked how this power was used overall, and it led to some really fascinating scenes about the psyche of different characters. However, by the end of the story it felt too much like a narrative crutch. In many instances, we’d get to learn things about the characters without really getting to know them. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but it seemed like being inside everyone’s mind all the time became a replacement for actually getting to know the characters organically. Although, I do feel like the author realistically portrayed what living as a telepath would be like. I guess I’m just not a fan of being inside everyone’s head all the time.
All in all, this was a fun read that coalesced a lot of moving parts into an entertaining and moving story about living your best life in the moment and the power of teamwork. I fell in love with these characters and cannot wait to see what they get up to in their second semester. Therefore, I rate this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.