Guo Jing’s life is turned upside down. The secret of how his father died is revealed to him, and he finds out he has been promised to marry two women without his consent. Then he meets Lotus, and it is love at first sight.
After deciding they are going to marry, Guo Jing and Lotus attempt to return to her home at Peach Blossom Island and ask her father for permission. Little do they know what lies in wait for them as the duo starts their journey. They encounter one Kung Fu Master after another, all with connection to one mystical item: the Nine Yin Manual.
Guo Jing and Lotus find themselves immersed in a world where they will need mastery of both their wits and Kung Fu to survive as they are reunited with friends and enemies of old and encounter new ones, as well. Their decisions will have a profound impact on the fate of the Nine Yin Manual, and, thus, the world of Kung Fu at large.
A Bond Undone by Jin Yong is Book 2 in the Legends of the Condor Heroes series, and, to me, while both books are similar in writing, I enjoyed this one much more. In my review of Book 1, A Hero Born, I write the story off as merely entertaining and note that I had a lot of trouble feeling connected to the story due to the unfamiliar culture, the numerous amount of characters present, and the chaotic nature of the story – often flitting from one battle to another without skipping a line. I found A Bond Undone much easier to follow, which contributed to my enjoyment of the book even more.
There are still a lot of characters, but I did not find much difficult remembering who was who. Maybe I was just wrong about the first book, and I followed it more than I thought. I think the biggest reason it was better in this book, though, is that it is much more clear who the main characters are: Guo Jing and Lotus. In the first book the reader was just getting an introduction to the world, culture, and characters, and there was a lot of information to absorb. Having now been introduced to everyone, the reader is free to focus on the journey of Guo Jing and Lotus (who is newly introduced). They are a couple of kids in love, trying to find their way as the world spins rather quickly around them.
There are a few new characters (Lotus being one of them), but having already been introduced to 90% of the characters adding a few more is not a burden to the reader; in fact, every single one of the newbies is important to the story. I found myself caring about the characters much more than I did when reading the first volume, which I say with great relief. This story is extremely character-driven, so that connection is important.
The story is still quite chaotic, but it does feel mellowed out a little from Book 1. It certainly has its moments – early on there is a mega battle that is AMAZING that sets the stage for the rest of the story – but there are also periods of time where each or both of them is training with a Kung Fu Master and it feels more like Karate Kid and Mr. Miagi than Bruce Lee. To me, these moments of respite are extremely important as a reader because it is a good time to get the know the characters beyond their fighting prowess and learn what makes them tick. The reader gets to experience intimate conversations and moments and really make a connection with the characters.
As for the culture, again it was much easier to follow in A Bond Undone. Nothing changed in the writing to make this happen, I think it was just more about exposure. The more one is exposed to something, the more likely they are to remember the details. I was surprised at how seamlessly I was able to get right back into it without feeling overwhelmed.
Overall, A Bond Undone is a great book. I felt connected to the characters and the story, and it still had those big moments with Kung Fu battling that adds to the entertainment value. I am more excited than ever for Book 3 in the series. Highly recommended for fantasy readers, and especially those who enjoy East Asian inspired stories.