cover image A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes, Vol. 1

A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes, Vol. 1

Jin Yong, trans. from the Chinese by Anna Holmwood. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-22060-8

An unrefined translation muddles this posthumous U.S. debut for renowned wuxia author Jin Yong (1924–2018). During the Song Dynasty, Southern patriots Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang meet a Taoist monk, Qiu Chuji, who gives the sworn brothers names, daggers, and the promise of kung fu training for their unborn sons. An act of kindness by Yang’s wife, however, has fatal consequences, thrusting the families violently apart. After Guo dies and Yang is presumed dead, Qiu Chuji and the Seven Freaks of the South make a bet. Each party will train one of the patriots’ sons for 18 years; a fight between the two will determine which master was the better teacher. The Freaks locate and teach Guo Jing in Mongolia before sending him off toward Jiaxing, the battle site. The fate of Yang’s son is less clear. Meanwhile, the machinations of the Sixth Prince Wanyan Honglie on behalf of the Jin Empire promise trouble for the Song in subsequent installments. Despite occasional illustrations, the fight scenes integral to the genre are stagnant due to Holmwood’s mundane and sometimes confusing rendition (one character “jabbed at the housekeeper’s jaw, splitting it”). The ending is not a cliff-hanger so much as an abrupt stop halfway through the plot. Jin Yong’s work is undoubtedly worth reading, but this interpretation of it will do little to introduce or endear his writing to Anglophones. (Sept.)