A Past Unearthed (Legends of the Condor Heroes)

Written by Gigi Chang (trans.) Jin Yong
Review by Lucienne Boyce

This novel is a continuation of the wuxia (martial arts) series by the bestselling Chinese author, Jin Yong. The series follows the adventures of the Condor Heroes, a group of skilled martial artists, and A Past Unearthed is the fifth book. It is set in 13th-century China when the land is menaced by invading Mongolian forces. It is ten years since the heroes Guo Jing and Lotus Huang married and settled on Peach Blossom Island with Lotus’s father, the master martial artist Apothecary Huang. Apothecary Huang has left the island, and his daughter and Guo Jing have gone to look for him. On their travels, they encounter the orphaned Penance, son of Guo Jing’s sworn brother, who Guo Jing adopts. However, Penance distrusts Guo Jing. His disaffection deepens when Guo Jing places him in a monastery to learn martial arts, where he is not well-treated.

As with the previous books, Jin Yong weaves together the stories of multiple characters (the character notes are useful) in a complex saga of revenge, intrigue, love, treachery and honour. The book also sets up new threads to be unraveled in later volumes. Although it introduces a new generation of martial artists, it continues the stories of earlier characters and refers to previous events, and I recommend reading them in order. Besides, why deprive yourself of the pleasure of discovering these exciting stories with their dazzling fight scenes, astonishing plot twists, and captivating characters? Arguably, the book is more fantasy than history: there are few references to real events or historical personages, and the fighters’ skills border on the supernatural. But however you categorize it, A Past Unearthed is an action-packed instalment in a thrilling epic.