I love The First! You may recall from her review of The First, vol. 1: Two Houses Divided that Robin has reservations about The First‘s, ahem, idealistic take on anatomy. In other words, the characters have muscles and breasts out the wazoo. Somehow, this never bothered me. The gods and goddesses known as the First look like superheroes crossed with soap-opera characters on steroids. For them, unnatural beauty is a fact of life. Fortunately, they’ve also been endowed with humor, pathos, and, yes, humanity by the incomparable writing of Barbara Kesel.
The First: Magnificent Tension continues the deliciously complex plot begun in Two Houses Divided. Ingra, the tempestuous leader of House Sinister, is marshalling support for her plan to take over House Dexter. Meanwhile, her daughter Persha struggles to re-unite the two houses. House Dexter has its own troubles in the form of Seahn; the young god grows ever more ruthless, even seeking an alliance with Ingra as he plots to overthrow House Dexter’s older generation of leaders. The fate of the First lies with those who straddle the divide between the houses: Persha, whose desire for unity brings her closer to the ideals of House Dexter; Seahn, whose lust for power leads him to House Sinister. To further complicate matters, each young rebel has an advisor with a hidden agenda.
I haven’t even mentioned the third and most fascinating thread of this intricate plot: that of Gannish and his lonely search for answers to the mysteries of his universe. There’s so much going on in this book! If you’re a fan of the CrossGen universe, read Magnificent Tension right away; you’ll find tantalizing clues to the larger forces at work. If you’re just entering this marvelous world, don’t worry; The First is a series well worth reading on its own. Librarians: recommend this to your fantasy fans and anyone who loves a good court intrigue.