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Book Review

Book Cover

Legends of the Condor Heroes
Book 2 - A Bond Undone


Author: Jin Yong
Translated by: Gigi Chang
Publisher: Maclehose Press
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 0 85705 461 6
Publication Date: 07 February 2019

Arriving at the capital of Zhongdu, Guo Jing discovers his true lineage. His love for Lotus continues to grow, but this new information has him betrothed to two other women, the daughter of the great Khan and the daughter of his father’s best friend…

Legends of the Condor Heroes: A Bond Undone (2019. 509 pages) is the second in the condor series of books, originally published in 1959 and written by Jing Yon. This translation, from the Chinese was undertaken by Gigi Chang. The book is set in 13th Century China.

The series is part of the wuxia tradition of writings, whose stories heavily involve martial arts. So heavily does the book follow the tradition that little plot exposition occurs much before page ninety, the story almost completely given over to one protracted fight scene.

Even when we get past this action filled beginning and Guo and Lotus flee both their enemies and their obligations, their trip through China consists of meeting a series of important or influential people, like the beggar king who is a repository for some powerful Kung Fu moves. He agrees to teach Guo only as long as Lotus continues to cook him an endless series of delicious and different dishes.

I don’t know if it was a function of the original or the translation, but the style varies from excitingly fluid, these tend to be the extended fight sequences, to down right clunky when relating parts of Guo and Lotus’s journey.

The story can be confusing as characters are often referred to with a number of different names and titles, but the translator has chosen to use a mix of English and Chinese names to try and clarify matters.

The first novel in the series (A Hero Born) was translated by Anna Holmwood and Chang has done well to match the tone of the first book. What Chang has done is to dial up the action scenes and if you’ve ever seen House of the Flying Daggers (2004) then you’ll be in familiar territory of fighters engaging in absurdly high kicks, speed running and pretty much flying through the air.

This is as rich a fantasy novel as you are likely to find and will make a change from a lot of the samey fantasy novels being currently published. There is better world building than in the first novel and the book takes time to flesh out even some of the minor characters.

Once more, had the fight scenes and all the scenes discussing Kung Fu and Kung Fu masters were cut out, I’m not sure the book would be strong enough, but lets be honest you’re going to read this for the Kung Fu and few could complain about how this element of the book is handled.


Charles Packer

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