A review by easolinas
Six Heirs by Pierre Grimbert, Eric Lamb


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.