A Hero Born by Jin Yong

A Hero Born by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood

Series: Legend of the Condor Heroes #1Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: September 17th 2019Genre: Wuxia/fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s PressAvailable: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 416Author’s website: AuthorTranslator

 

Quote of the Book

“We will train them. Once they have reached the age of eighteen, we and other invited masters of the wulin will gather at the Garden of the Eight Drunken Immortals. First we will feast, and then our disciples will fight each other.”
The Seven Freaks looked at each other.
“Were we to fight and the Seven Heroes defeat me, the glory of the victory would be tainted by the fact that you outnumber me. But in passing our skills on to one disciple each, we will better see whose skills are worthy of earning them the title ‘Master’.”
“So it shall be!” Ke Zhen’e cried, thumping his staff against the temple floor.

*excerpt taken from ARC. May change upon publication.

 

Blurb

China: 1200 A.D.

The Song Empire has been invaded by its warlike Jurchen neighbours from the north. Half its territory and its historic capital lie in enemy hands; the peasants toil under the burden of the annual tribute demanded by the victors. Meanwhile, on the Mongolian steppe, a disparate nation of great warriors is about to be united by a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan.

Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot, grew up with Genghis Khan’s army. He is humble, loyal, perhaps not altogether wise, and is fated from birth to one day confront an opponent who is the opposite of him in every way: privileged, cunning and flawlessly trained in the martial arts.

Guided by his faithful shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing must return to China – to the Garden of the Drunken Immortals in Jiaxing – to fulfil his destiny. But in a divided land riven by war and betrayal, his courage and his loyalties will be tested at every turn.

 

Personal notes

Thank you Netgalley and St Martin’s Press, for granting my wish for this book.

 

Jen’s Review

Desperate to fulfil a promise to protect and train the children of the sworn brothers Ironheart Yang and Skyfury Guo, Qui Chuji, issues a challenge to The Seven Freaks of the South, to meet up again at their eighteenth birthday and prove which martial family taught the children best.

With a few detours and with war sweeping across the plains, we embark on a journey to train and get the kids to the meeting point on time… but before they can do any of that, they will have to find them first.

This genre is pretty new to me outside of film, but I loved getting to see some of the inspiration behind many of the movies and dramas, that I have seen. I’m also finding it a lot more difficult than I expected to review this translated classic. I think this translation does well at capturing the mysticism and it sparks the imagination while still being accessible to the new to wuxia readers.
But there were points in the book that I found frustrating and I don’t know where to fault – if it’s because of the translation – I haven’t read the source, so I can’t say, or is it because the original is fifty years old and I am sure a bit dated now. At times though, it was hard for me to keep up with the jumping around from one character to another character’s headspace. There are a lot of characters too, so this was even more frustrating.

On the whole though, I loved the style – the silliness of some of the humor, the betrayals, the mythical moves with names like “open the window and push back the moon” and the strong themes of brotherhood and family honor and loyalties that transcend death. All things I enjoy in Chinese film and dramas to a degree are there, and the beautiful illustrations were a huge bonus.

The story itself has a fable-like quality with the detours in the plot, as we see and hear about the Seven Freaks and their fight with Cyclone Mei, Qui Chuji and his battle with the Freaks. Charity tending to the wounded soldier – you know it’s going to go all wrong in the end, and all those little story arcs inside the big one kept me reading and were exciting, but I also felt they could have been more cohesive in their presentation.

I can overlook most of that because I did enjoy the story, except for the way it ended. I knew that there was going to be several books to this series but I had hoped that the next story would be after the challenge from Qui Chuji was fulfilled – again hard to say where the fault lies but it was a disappointing place to end this arc.

There is a lot to love in A Hero Born though, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to read this Chinese classic.

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