A Bond Undone (Legends of the Condor Heroes Book 2)

Written by Gigi Chang (trans.) Jin Yong
Review by Kristen McDermott

Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon introduced Western audiences to the wuxia genre, in which martial arts meet mythic fantasy and romance in epic adventures. Beloved modern author Jin Yong (pen name of Hong Kong journalist Louis Cha) first serialized in the 1950s his tales of sworn brothers Guo Jing and Yang Kang, caught up in the conflict between the Jin and Song empires in 12th-13th century China. These stories have been adapted into graphic novels, stage plays, TV, and film many times in China but were only recently translated into English. The first volume, A Hero Born, introduced readers to the protagonists and their romantic partners, clever and resourceful Lotus Huang and long-suffering, loyal Mercy Mu. All four are mentored and trained by a variety of fascinating shifus, or martial arts masters, outsized personalities all.

The second volume focuses on Guo’s efforts to complete his martial training while struggling to evade the rivalries of the various shifus wishing to use the young couple as pawns. It has all the rich description, humor, and action of the first, but is improved by its focus on the multitalented, mischievous Lotus, the perfect foil to her best friend and fiancé. They are an adorable couple, open-hearted, honest, and curious, their partnership designed to express yin/yang harmony, but also evoking real, human teenagers on the adventure of a lifetime.

Gigi Chang’s translation isn’t as elegant as Anna Holmwood’s (for A Hero Born), but it handles the kung fu action energetically and captures the wit of the original. The detailed description of martial arts contests can become repetitive to anyone not looking for insights into the tradition of jianghu (martial arts) culture and its Taoist philosophical roots. But the adventures, like all good tales of chivalry and magic, are addictive. This volume, like the first, ends on a cliffhanger and will inspire the reader to look forward to the two remaining volumes.