A Hero Born: A Novel (Legends of the Condor Heroes)

Written by Anna Holmwood (trans.) Jin Yong
Review by Valerie Loh

China, 1200 AD. The Song Empire is being attacked by the northern Jurchen Jin tribes, which threaten its peace and existence. Meanwhile, Genghis Khan is uniting tribes and honing their fighting skills on the Mongolian steppes. Against this very dramatic and historic setting, Guo Jing’s story is revealed.

Jin Yong’s bestselling 1950s epic kung fu fantasy series (in the wuxia tradition – martial arts and chivalry novels) has been widely acclaimed throughout China and the Far East. This lovingly and meticulously translated version, by Anna Holmwood, now opens this amazing masterpiece of martial arts mythology to a Western readership as the myths are skilfully woven around historical facts.

Guo Jing’s patriotic father tried to save the country he loved, as did a number of martial artists. He falls, but his pregnant wife escapes. This results in Guo Jing being raised and trained as a fighter for Genghis Khan. Guo Jing is a real hero. He is brave with human qualities that make him rise from the pages, such as loyalty. His superior skills in his martial arts training ensure he grows in wisdom. However, this is a very complex plot as heroic, patriotic martial arts experts try to reverse the fate of the nation. Guo Jing’s own fate dictates he will ultimately face an equal opponent.

The pace and drama are as swift and smooth as the intricate and detailed fighting scenes. This is the first in the series, and I shall look forward to reading the second.