Six Heirs by Pierre Grimbert, Eric Lamb

old_tim's review against another edition

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My curiosity was raised when I read that Grimbert’s Ji series was a bestseller in France. My experience with French SFF has been limited to some comics and archaic Arthurian texts, so I wanted to see what Grimbert had to offer. Unfortunately, Six Heirs doesn’t offer anything that can’t be easily found here in America.

The setup is good, and out of the ordinary. Several generations earlier, a stranger traveled to all the various kingdoms & requested that they each send a representative to the small island of Ji on a particular day. When the day arrives, the assembled representatives go off with the stranger, & seemingly disappear. Eventually a small group of surviving representatives return, but refuse to discuss where they went or what happened. Their descendants create a tradition of gathering every few years to honor the memory of their ancestors, and to celebrate the extended family that they have become. In the present day, on the eve of one such gathering, a murderous cult begins assassinating the titular Heirs of Ji. As they try to avoid the assassins, the small group of survivors gathers together to attempt to determine exactly what is going on.

Despite the premise, the execution of Six Heirs comes off as something that you feel like you’ve read before. This is in part due to the reliance of well-worn tropes in the story and characterizations. The setting is solidly faux European, with many small feudal states that don’t really feel differentiated. The characters themselves fall into near cliché. We have the mage (Corenn), the barbarian (Bowbaq), the rogue (Rey), the warrior (Grigan), and the young people (Leti & Yan, who do double duty as the romance subplot). None of this is particularly well differentiated from piles of cookie cutter fantasy that you have probably read.

Concerning the prose itself, I was underwhelmed. It is workmanlike and functional, but nothing more. That may or may not be a function of the translation. If anything it reminded me of the numerous Tolkien clones published in the 1970s.

It’s also worth noting that Six Heirs does not really function as a standalone novel. By the end of the story, Grimbert gives us no resolution to any of the primary plot points or character arcs. In this regard, Six Heirs seems to be more of a multipage introduction to the series than an episode.

At its best, Six Heirs is a functional enough epic fantasy for a YA reader. Fans of Eddings, Brooks, etc may very likely be intrigued by the story of Ji. A reader looking for more sophisticated storytelling will be disappointed.

anniek_05's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


wolfpack75's review against another edition

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An interesting start that ends without really telling you anything about the central mysteries. The secret of Ji was easy to figure out long before it was revealed, the second mystery of who is killing the heirs was barely addressed. Hopefully the story moves a bit more quickly in the subsequent books.

Of special note when reading the ebook it is difficult to look up Dekade, Deciday, Centiday, and Milliday in the glossary (which is in the back). Since the characters mention the various divisions a lot I thought it best to include them below. It is obvious that this is a time keeping system which is built on tens. However the specifics are as follows:
Dekade: 10 days: prime, dēs, terce, quart, quint, sixt, septime, octes, nones, & term
Centiday: 1/10 of a Deciday or ~14 minutes
Deciday: 1/10 of a Day or ~2 hrs 25 minutes
Milliday: 1/10 of a Centiday or ~1 min & 26 seconds

Overall, very much worth the read. Look forward to continuing the series.

easolinas's review

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Some of the best high fantasy worlds are the ones with a sense of scope -- you can feel that there are lands and cultures outside what you necessarily see.

And Pierre Grimbert constructs a pretty epic world in "The Secret of Ji: Six Heirs," constructing all sorts of different societies with wildly different cultures -- not to mention magical gifts like talking to animals in a REALISTIC way. But the well-developed fantasy world is somewhat hampered by clunky prose and a tendency to use too many "fantasy" words.

About a hundred and twenty years ago, emissaries were summoned from various lands -- a king, a sage, a duke, a soldier, a matriarch and others -- to the island of Ji. They vanished for two months, and when they returned, three were dead and the survivors were profoundly changed. Many years later the emissaries reunited, and since their deaths, their children and grandchildren have continued the get-togethers.

But as the latest get-together approaches, Züu assassins are killing off heirs of the Ji emissaries. The survivors -- including the slacker Reyan, villager Yan, his sweetheart Léti and Bowbaq from the frozen wastelands -- begin working to keep themselves and/or their relatives safe from the Züu. But as they come closer to the mysterious Secret of Ji, they also come closer to the fanatical cultists determined to kill them all.

A lot of the enjoyment of "The Secret of Ji: Six Heirs" comes from the world that Grimbert has sketched out -- frozen plains, a matriarchal democracy, shadowy cities full of dissolute wastrels. He pours so much densely-paceked detail into his fantasy world that at times it's necessary to stop and breathe. General tip: keep checking the glossary at the back of the book, just so you don't be totally confused about the calendar system, the major deities and even the animal life.

However, the writing tends to be rather clunky ("How could she not know that, she who had studied the history of Ith?"), although it's not clear whether the choppy portions are due to bad translation or if Grimbert just needs some tempering. He also has a tendency to use made-up words more often than he should ("centidays," "Union" instead of marriage, "dékades" instead of months).

Despite this problem, Grimbert does do an excellent job fleshing out his characters, and (in the case of Rey) changing them on a vital level. Much of the first third of the book is devoted to introducing the characters -- the naive young amazon, her shy smitten love interest, a wanderer who can talk to animals, and so on -- and by the time the adventure starts, they feel very well-developed.

"The Secret of Ji: Six Heirs" has some bumps in Pierre Grimbert's writing style, but the intense world-building and likable characters make this a solid high fantasy -- especially for those seeking something more than the usual Tolkien knockoffs.

supatrey's review

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Didn't love this book. It's fine, but not compelling.

Most of the main characters aren't very interesting to me. And the book hinges around a mystery that remains unsolved at the end of the book, so it's really a book about some people making a journey over to a mysterious island.

The fact that people who have been to the island can't talk about what's on the island unless they're on the island struck me as a very artificial means of maintaining tension. I guess it's good that we're only left to wonder about it for a little bit... but that reminded me that they never mentioned that they had this important information before that point.

Anyway. Meh.

melzzzy's review

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adventurous mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


paulapanther's review

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So I'm not the biggest fan of this book. The premise and magic are quite interesting so far but the rest... I really only like one character and the rest I either don't care much for or they're annoying. Also, the pacing in this book combined with the plot truly isn't that good. But, since I have the whole series in one book I will continue the series

booksandbotanics's review against another edition

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I really liked this book.
It's a typical fantasy, with magic, persons with all sorts of power and mysterious events. But that's exactly why I like this genre.
Nevertheless were there also "new" things, for example the writer created a new time-system (which was really confusing in the beginning, especially because I didn't find out about the wordlist until it was almost to late). It is really well written and it read very easy and fluent.
The storyline is very intriguing and mysterious.
I'm looking forward to the next books.

gladiolus's review

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Good, solid show.