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Alison and Ryan were a couple of average, frustrated high school students. Ryan was dealing with bullying while Alison struggled with her gender identity. However, after they were assaulted by a group of bullies, their lives changed irrevocably.

Alison encountered a mysterious woman who gifted her with a tome she claimed would help Alison and Ryan deal with their bullies. Ryan helped Alison conduct the ritual in the book, which caused a low-magnitude earthquake but had no other, visible, effects. The night following the earthquake, Ryan had a nightmare with a strange creature that was made of dripping sand, and when he awoke, he was whisked away by agents of the Marduk institute: A secret government organization that forcefully extracts wizards to a mysterious campus outside of Chicago.

One of the institute's head scientists, Melchior, explained to Ryan that he was a wizard, someone who could manifest psychic phenomena in inexplicable forms. He also informed Ryan that his old life would be erased. Lucky for Ryan, the institute had also kidnapped Alison, so he wasn't alone in the traumatic experience. Melchior then explained that reality was governed by a clockwork-like mechanism called "the vivit apparatus" that only wizards could see and manipulate. He explained to Ryan that all things were connected and that these connections were visible as golden strands in the vivit apparatus.

Afterward, Ryan was taken to Veles Hall and introduced to the resident assistant, a black punk boy named Blake, who helped Alison and Ryan acclimate to their new lives and explained the institute to them during a tour. Blake explained that wizard society is divided into a rigid caste system that separated wizards who were born into magical families from wizards who weren't and that the wizard's born into magical families were also connected to powerful real world entities.

On Ryan's first day of classes, he met Hunter and their fates became inextricably connected. Hunter decided to join a Legacy, a magical fraternity that usually only allowed wizards from magical families, so Ryan joined him, hoping to impress him. Blake accompanied them, fearing the worst. The boys explained to Ryan that everything, including themselves, permeated with a magical and emotional aura which they could physically perceive in the vivit apparatus and sense intuitively in the non-magical world. These two sights were collectively called "wizard sight", even though reading the vivit apparatus was more accurately known as "hard reading".

Blake saved Ryan and Hunter from an Asura, an entity only visible to wizards, and won the rush but insulted the leader of the Legacy, Aiden, by rejecting his offer to join the Legacy. Balthasar, another one of the institute's head scientists, was infuriated by the unsanctioned rush and punished the legacy by forbidding them from hosting further rushes the rest of the year. This angered members of the Crowns at Aiden.

Embarrassed and angered, Aiden challenged Blake to a wizard duel the next day even though such duels were banned in the institute. Melchior interrupted the duel and punished both boys by banishing them to their dorms and locking their magic using the vivit apparatus. The duel drew the attention of Jonah, the leader of the Legacy of the Thorns, who attempted to recruit Blake. Blake refused the offer, citing his distrust of Legacies. However, he later realized he'd be safer with the Thorns at his side, so he joined them anyway.

When Ryan was attacked in his dreams by the sinister sandman again, Melchior and Balthasar investigated it, but wouldn't reveal the results of their findings to Ryan and Alison.

Afterward, Alison met Aira, a would-be defector who intended on fleeing the institute. As Alison grew insecure about her relationship with Blake, she attempted to flee the institute with Aira, claiming she only wanted to see her mother. She guilt tripped Ryan into joining her.

After Alison realized her mother had died while she was gone, she was broken. Blake and Hunter found Ryan and Alison before they left with the defectors and encountered the institute's Grims, shadowy creatures which kidnap escaping wizards. The rest of the defectors fled, but Ryan, Hunter, Alison, and Blake went back to the institute willingly.

They weren't afforded a major respite, though, because the sandman attacked Ryan again; however, this time it manifested in reality where it almost killed Hunter, and then killed another student and an institute agent. It disappeared when the sun rose, leaving Ryan shaken. Hunter, eager to protect Ryan from the monster, went to Melchior to ask for help on how to deal with the creature. Melchior told Hunter to seek out a "mara", bizarre entities that primarily exist in dreams, called the Weaver, a creature capable of weaving the threads of fate and creating favorable futures.

The weaver directed Hunter to a certain address after having him drink some bitter tea. Hunter spent the night in Ryan's dorm with him, hoping to protect him from another attack. In the morning, after Hunter left, Ryan sensed a tremendous energy connected to Hunter's aura and gathered Alison and Blake to help him follow it. They traveled to the address suggested by the weaver and encountered the third institute scientist, Gaspar, and a mara who was trapped in the real world and trying to find its way back to "the ecstatic void". It intended on using Hunter, who had metamorphosed into something called "the cintamani", an object capable of granting wishes, to return to the void.

When the children tried stopping the mara, the sandman materialized and resumed trying to kill Ryan. The mara explained that it tricked the children into summoning the sandman and that Gaspar had manipulated fate so that the circumstances would lead to the children forging the cintamani. The other two scientists, Melchior and Balthasar, intervened and attacked Gaspar while the children tried fighting off the mara and the sandman. Beset by the sandman, the mara was able to use Hunter to return to the void. In one last, desperate effort to save Ryan from the immortal Sandman, Hunter grabbed onto the Sandman as it tried strangling Ryan, and used the remaining power of the cintamani to banish them both into the void. Now defeated, Gaspar returned to the institute with Melchior and Balthasar.

Later, Alison used a spell book Blake found in Gaspar's house to cast a spell that could reverse the effects of fate magic. This brought Hunter back to life as an amnesiac, but this also broke the exchange between reality and the cintamani, creating a rift to the void that threatened to swallow all of existence. Gaspar drew the power of the cintamani from Hunter's soul and flew into the void, sealing it but sacrificing himself in the process.

Hunter was banished from the institute and ordered to return to his home in Montana. But Ryan, desperate to keep Hunter, intercepted him at the airport before he left, and told Hunter he loved him. Mysteriously, Hunter's memories were restored and the boys were finally reunited..... 

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