Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Hero Born

Title:  A Hero Born
Series:  Legends of the Condor Heroes, Book 1
Author:  Jin Yong (author). Anna Holmwood (translator).
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2019. 416 pages.
ISBN:  1250220602 / 978-1250220608

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It begins with a storyteller, with news from the north, a tale of crushing defeat and humiliation, a great Chinese Empire in tatters and fleeing north."

Favorite Quote:  "There are always those who claims good reputations falsely."

Wuxia stories are a genre of fiction about martial artists in ancient China. Think adventure, fantasy, heroes, villains, and lots and lots of martial arts. A Hero Born is one volume of a wuxia trilogy. The trilogy first appeared as a serial in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily between 1957 and 1959. The trilogy is comprised of The Legend of the Condor Heroes, The Return of the Condor Heroes, and The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. Interestingly, the translated title references the condor, no species of which is native to China. This book is the English translation of the first volume.

The story begins in a time of war in the 1200s. Two sworn brothers make a pact that their soon to be born children will either live as sworn siblings or a married couple. Unfortunate events ensue. One dies, and the other disappears. The wives and the unborn babies also are thrown in different directions. The main story follows of the children - Guo Jing. It follow his upbringing in Mongolia and his training by some legends of martial arts. Of course, eventually, the paths of the two children cross. Some of the connections between the fate of the fathers and the outcome of the children are drawn. The book ends on a cliffhanger as is to be expected.

The beginning of this book is challenging for many reasons. The language, and hence the names are unfamiliar. A lot of characters are introduced, and for a while, it is difficult to follow their relationships and story threads. A lot of description of battles and martial arts is provided. As someone who has no knowledge of martial arts, the descriptions are hard to envision. The words, particularly the names of the martial arts moves, do not necessarily create a picture for me. I almost give up on the book.

However, I am glad to have persevered. After a bit, the characters settle into a cohesive image. The names are still a challenge, but an understanding of the relationships and the development of the characters makes that a minor point. A central plot and the main character emerge from this panorama of the world of martial arts. I invest in the characters and want to see where the story goes. At this point, there are the heroes and the villains. There are also those on whom the jury is still out. Good or evil... only time will tell. The book continues with a mix of a human story, a political story, and the mystery of beliefs and legends.

What connects is the human story. Wives who seek to keep the legacy of their husbands safe. Mothers who see the future of their children as nothing of what they imagined. Young men born in hardship and those born in wealth. The relationship between teacher and student. The losses of war. Young people on the cusp to discovering love. Those seeking revenge and those seeking redemption.

I am sorry when the volume comes to an end because I want to know what happens next. I am looking forward to volume two and three hopefully to be translated.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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