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September 13, 2019

A Hero Born by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood ~ a Review

by MK French


Guo Jing and his mother had to flee China for the northern steppes of Mongolia when his father was killed. He grew up there and eventually was under the tutelage of the Khan Temujin, the man that would become Genghis Khan, as well as the fabled Seven Heroes of the South. The plan is to get stronger and more skilled so that he could return to China and avenge his father's death.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

September 2019; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250220608
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); fantasy
A Hero Born is book one of the Legends of the Condor Heroes, and there is an extensive note before the novel opens explaining this. The story of the Condor Heroes is a beloved one in China, and is a series of trilogies with epic kung fu, generational sagas, heated emotions and misunderstandings spurring on dramatic quests and pledges, as well as the strong ties of different fighting styles and techniques. I can't stress epic enough; this novel spans almost twenty years and involves a large enough cast of characters that we get a character list in the beginning of the book explaining the connections between them all. It starts off slow and there are moments of shifting perspectives that can make it a little hard to track who we're following. I don't think it's an artifact from the translation process, but a factor of the different storytelling style. If you enjoy the old kung fu movies (the kind with the bad dub jobs and obvious red paint for the flying blood spatters), this is the legend that spawned the entire genre.

The Song patriots Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang live as farmers with their wives when the Jin invade parts of China. Song officials are known to be corrupt, and some are less willing to protect the common folk from the Jin, let alone all of the tribes in the north. With both men assist a monk that killed a corrupt official, they are ultimately killed and their pregnant wives are taken hostage. Their sons are then the ones to eventually be trained and take up the mantle of justice that their fathers had carried. This particular volume follows more of Guo Jing's story, and that of his teachers, as well as their feuds and stories. It can seem over the top at times, but that's the nature of the art form. I was drawn into the story and the intense drama surrounding Guo Jing, and any fan of kung fu and wuxia stories will love this.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.

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