Set in ancient China, in a world where kung fu is magic, kingdoms vie for power and the battle to become the ultimate kung fu master unfolds, an unlikely hero is born… in the first book in the epic Legends of the Condor Heroes series by the critically acclaimed master of the genre, Jin Yong.
After his father—a devoted Song patriot—is murdered by the Jin empire, Guo Jing and his mother flee to the plains of Ghengis Khan and his people for refuge. For one day he must face his mortal enemy in battle in the Garden of the Drunken Immortals. Under the tutelage of Genghis Khan and The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing hones his kung fu skills. Humble, loyal and perhaps not always wise, Guo Jing faces a destiny both great and terrible.
However, in a land divided—and a future largely unknown—Guo Jing must navigate love and war, honor and betrayal before he can face his own fate and become the hero he’s meant After his father—a devoted Song patriot—is murdered by the Jin empire, Guo Jing and his mother flee to the plains of Ghengis Khan and his people for refuge. For one day he must face his mortal enemy in battle in the Garden of the Drunken Immortals. Under the tutelage of Genghis Khan and The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing hones his kung fu skills. Humble, loyal and perhaps not always wise, Guo Jing faces a destiny both great and terrible.
However, in a land divided – and a future largely unknown – Guo Jing must navigate love and war, honor and betrayal before he can face his own fate and become the hero he’s meant to be.
If you look carefully, you will notice I used the publisher’s synopsis for this book, something I rarely do. I enjoy writing synopses of books that I have read, because I consider every literary experience to the reader and writing a synopsis is my way of expressing what I got out of the story. For A Hero Born, however, I did not feel there was one version of the synopsis I wrote that accurately described the story. There is a very importation reason: I am not 100% sure I KNOW what happened exactly in this story, but this is not necessarily a negative.
I found A Hero Born to be a very entertaining book. The story was a whirlwind of activity. It felt very chaotic to me, jumping from one battle to the next, and even constantly changing circumstances during a battle. I did not mind that, though, as there was no lull in the action. It was full of Kung Fu fights with magic and different weapons. Every character had names for their Kung Fu moves, which is an aspect of the story that I absolutely loved.
The setting and characters mirrored the chaotic nature of the story, as well. It takes place in Ancient China, and the journey of the characters takes the readers on a tour of several different areas of the country. The descriptions and surroundings contributed nicely to the story. As for the characters themselves, there are just so many of them. I honestly had trouble keeping track, and I had to go back and read passages sometimes to remind of who was in the scene I was reading sometimes. This was both good and bad, because, while I would rather not have to backtrack to remind myself which characters are involved, there were times where I just kind of threw it to the wind, stopped caring, and just allowed myself to get lost in whatever awesome fight was right in front of me. Honestly, it felt a little freeing at times.
I felt a little overwhelmed with the Chinese history, culture, and traditions that were a big part of the overall story arc. There was a note from the translator at the beginning of the book that states the book was “considered… too foreign, too Chinese, for an English-speaking readership. Impossible to translate”. While I do not agree with this statement on the whole, I can see why that it was made because there is so much Chinese culture embedded in the book that at times it felt like, while I was enjoying what I was reading, there was just something missing: a hole in my knowledge that kept me from appreciating it 100%.
Overall, A Hero Born was really good read. It was fun and entertaining, and, while I recognize I am not the original target audience, I am really happy the publisher took a risk by translating and publishing this series for a brand new generation. It is really important to have diversity in storytelling, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series. I recommend it for fans of fantasy, and especially those who enjoy East Asian stories.