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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-spoiler - Very Good Start to a New Series
This is a translated version of the first book in a best-selling French fantasy author's series, and I picked this up because I was curious to see how fantasy would read, coming from a French author. Would it be notably different from U.S. and British authors? Would the characters have different attitudes about their world to reflect the culture of the author? Although...
Published 18 months ago by scot16897

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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but uninspired young adult fantasy
Over 100 years ago, in a world that looks vaguely like medieval Europe, a select group of men and women embarked on a mysterious expedition to the desolate Island of Ji. They disappeared for several weeks, and a number never returned. When the survivors reappeared, battered and bedraggled, they refused to explain where they had gone or what had happened to them...
Published 18 months ago by Michael Lichter


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-spoiler - Very Good Start to a New Series, January 8, 2013
By 
scot16897 "scot16897" (Austin, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This is a translated version of the first book in a best-selling French fantasy author's series, and I picked this up because I was curious to see how fantasy would read, coming from a French author. Would it be notably different from U.S. and British authors? Would the characters have different attitudes about their world to reflect the culture of the author? Although the answer to these questions is mostly "not that I could tell," the story itself was entertaining and drew me in to the extent that I want to read more.

Long ago, several individuals from different countries were summoned and had an experience that changed them forever. They never spoke about it to anyone but their descendants, who were also sworn to secrecy. Over the years, these individuals had many heirs who gather every few years to renew their charges. These heirs are scattered far across the Known World. Now, before the latest gathering, the heirs have started dying at the hands of a cult of assassins.

This story follows several of the heirs who struggle to survive and solve the mystery of that experience long ago, and why someone wants them dead.....

The story moves well, and the author builds in a good sense of urgency. Some of the characters feel vaguely familiar, but anyone who has read fantasy has encountered this. In the Secret of Ji, the author at least does a good job with the characters he creates.

I really enjoyed this, and it held my attention. My only concern about it is that the author has written several books in this series, and I fear that if the sales are not strong on this, the publisher may decide not to publish the remaining books, and I'll never know the end of the story that started so well.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Import, February 28, 2013
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This is very much a character-driven piece. Other fantasy sagas spend a great deal of time sketching in cosmologies or brooding over epic and mythic backstories or poking about in the nooks and crannies of the setting and fully detailing every forest, lake, hamlet, and dive bar. This one adroitly dishes out just enough information about the various realms and factions for the reader to get the background flavor, and for the most part deals with the interactions of the antagonists and with their approaches to life and their motivating philosophies (which in some cases, naturally enough, boil down to "I'd really like to not get killed").

It's got an intriguing and mysterious initial premise, some interesting dollops of low-level magic, characters that are skilled without being massively invincible and invariably infallible, and a brisk and nimble prose style that moves the story along naturally and rapidly. It's entirely absent a sense of gravitas or indeed massive consequences--the fate of the world itself doesn't appear to be at stake, and because the semi-heroic band of fugitives is mostly a Bunch o' Random Guys, they're not too terrifically more powerful than anyone else and certainly have never felt THE FATE OF DESTINY. They're just mostly street-level folks, almost exclusively removed from the counsels of the great and with no real desire to do great deeds. Pitching this as a survival tale from the outset with the protagonists not being at all clear who's after them or why turns out to be a pretty compelling narrative choice.

This slender volume ends just a tad abruptly, but with that minor flaw aside, and with some reservations about one character being shaded maybe just a wee bit too far in the direction of That Lovable Rogue, it's an extremely promising kickoff to a series that evidently has at least another three or four volumes already available. Recommended.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but uninspired young adult fantasy, January 11, 2013
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Over 100 years ago, in a world that looks vaguely like medieval Europe, a select group of men and women embarked on a mysterious expedition to the desolate Island of Ji. They disappeared for several weeks, and a number never returned. When the survivors reappeared, battered and bedraggled, they refused to explain where they had gone or what had happened to them.

Not long after the expedition, the survivors began holding annual reunions for mutual support and to pass on the "secret of Ji" to their descendents (the "heirs"). Today, 118 years after the original expedition, almost everyone has forgotten about Ji. But not everybody has forgotten: someone has hired a fanatical sect of assassins to wipe out all of the living heirs.

Six of the heirs lucky enough to evade the assassins band together for protection and to learn why and by whom they are being hunted. These include 15-year-old Yan, a dreamer full of half-baked ideas; Yan's childhood crush Leti, a bratty and entitled girl who has an untapped reservoir of inner strength; Leti's Aunt Correnn, a wise older woman with magical powers; Grigan, an honorable soldier exiled from his homeland for opposing a bloodthirsty leader; Rey, an actor who also happens to be a disreputable, lecherous rogue; and Bowbaq, a gentle bear of a man who communicates telepathically with animals.

Once they find each other, this fractious, ragtag group sets out for the Island of Ji, using their complementary strengths to overcome obstacles and opposition. There, the youngest members of the group learn some of the secrets of Ji ... and you need to buy Book 2 to find out what happens next.

Author Pierre Grimbert competently builds mystery and tension. There's action, adolescent romance, and just a little bit of fantasy magic. Grimbert's writing style, at least in this translation, is stiff, impersonal, and accessible to audiences aged 13-plus. The characters are standard types, but they have enough depth to sustain a basic level of interest. The plot twists and complications are predictable, but that's not a serious weakness. Unfortunately, the secret of Ji -- what we know of it by the end of the book, anyway -- turns out to be less than astounding.

Bottom line: There's no comparison between "The Secret of Ji" and really good young adult fantasy like the Harry Potter series or Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series. Still, it's readable, and if you've already exhausted the really good stuff, you might give "Ji" a try.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars weak plotting, thin characterization, shallow world-building, September 26, 2013
This review is from: Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji, Volume One) (Kindle Edition)
Six Heirs, the first book in the SECRET OF JI series by Pierre Grimbert, was originally published some years ago in the author's native French. Sadly, it does not import well, though some of the flaws may be due to translation issues rather than authorial ones.

The novel opens with a captivating story of how several generations ago an enigmatic stranger (is there any other kind?) led a group of emissaries from most of the nations of the Known World to the island of Ji, where they simply vanished. When they eventually returned as mysteriously as they had disappeared, some had died, many were wounded, and none would speak of what they had been shown or where they had been. Over time, the survivors began to gather regularly every other year and share their secret with select "heirs" so that knowledge of the mysterious event wouldn't disappear as the original participants died off. Returning to present time, it quickly becomes clear that someone has hired a cult of religious assassins to kill off the Heirs of Ji before this year's gathering can take place. In a few exciting scenes we watch several of the heirs successfully evade being killed and then follow them through multiple viewpoints as the few survivors try to band together for mutual protection and to figure out who is after them and why.

I'm going to start with the most "iffy" of the criticisms and that's the writing itself. The prose is very simple, repetitive at times, a bit lazy at other times (beginning a run of sentences all beginning subject-verb or "He + verb" for instance), and the dialogue is frequently stilted, sometimes enough to make one wince. Not being fluent in French (Je parle seulement un tres, tres, tres peu), I have no idea of course whether these problems, which are rife, are the fault of the author or the translator. No matter the source, though, they still detract from the reading experience. Beyond the problems with word choice and sentence structure, transitions, especially between POVs, can be abrupt.

Worldbuilding is pretty non-existent. The names of several countries get bandied about, along with a few famous sites, such as the Stone Tree, but there is almost nothing to differentiate one nation from another and we learn next to nothing or nothing at all about any of them, even the ones we travel through; one region may as well be another, a city is jut a crowded village, and so forth. One of our characters is a "mage," though we don't have any sense of what that means (even when she performs imagery it's pretty vague) and another can speak to animals, though again, we don't get a sense of much context regarding that save that it's a trait shared by some.

Characterization is also relatively thin and conveyed more through telling rather than showing. Besides being vague, the characters can fall into the overly familiar--the grim and gruff skilled warrior, the sarcastic one, the naïve one and so on. As with the geography, they feel distinguished more by title (warrior guy, naïve boy, stressed girl) than by any sense of a true core of personality.

As for the story, as mentioned, it starts out strong, with a compelling tale of that first mysterious trip to Ji and the subsequent even more mysterious return. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. The series of attempted (or successful) assassinations was exciting at the start, but as we saw more of them they began to feel a little repetitive. Worse, the more we see of these allegedly greatly feared assassins, the more we wonder why they're so feared, as they don't seem particularly competent. The plot also feels strangely unbalanced at times, with odd choices with regard to what we're shown and in what detail. It ends unresolved, not quite a cliffhanger but with the requirement to read on for any real answers.

To be honest, had this not been a review copy, I wouldn't have finished Six Heirs, putting it down in favor of something else on my groaning To Be Read shelf. And even with that extra sense of reviewer obligation, I strongly considered stopping and just reviewing as a Did Not Finish one. I did finish it, but due to its weak plotting, thin characterization, shallow world-building, and awkward/simplistic writing (which may or not be the fault of the author), I'd advise others to give it a pass.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Concept, Unfortunate Execution, February 23, 2013
By 
Timothy C Allison (Louisville, KY United States) - See all my reviews
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spends a lot of time getting no where..., July 20, 2013
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This review is from: Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji, Volume One) (Kindle Edition)
Because I'm OCD I always finish what I start. In this case it was very hard. The most interesting part of the book was the end and it didn't reveal anything. It felt like I was going no where with no purpose the whole book until the end. Now I have to wonder if the next book in the series will be more of the same and worth the effort.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fantasy for young readers., March 18, 2013
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The Secret of Ji: Six Heirs is the perfect introduction for any young reader ready to step into the wondrous realm of fantasy. Between the clandestine agenda of the scarlet assassin corps and the seamless mind to mind communication of the Erjak Bowbaq, from man to animal, lies a young man in love and ready to act. As the adolescent Yan and Leti travel alongside their protector Grigan, and the Mother of Tradition Corenn, their wills are tested as much as their bodies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fantasy read, March 18, 2013
This review is from: Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji, Volume One) (Kindle Edition)
This was one of the best books I've read from the fantasy/ adventure genre, loved every minute of reading it and when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about the book...Great book over all and wish pierre grimbert would translate more of his books to English so I could enjoy all of them
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Just wow, March 7, 2013
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This review is from: Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji, Volume One) (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book. It was a little hard at first having to keel changing to the dictionary, but it's easy to get used too. I recommend this book to the fans of the fantasy genre like Lord of the rings. It's a whole new world with tons of new questions.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning of a fantasy series, February 22, 2013
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This is the first story in the Ji series, which has been running over 10 years for French fantasy fans. The author jumps right into the story, with a nice touch of mixing back story with developing the crisis in the plotline.

I really enjoyed it, and would love to see additional Ji novels translated and available to us here in the U.S.
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Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji, Volume One)
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