China: 1200 A.D.
Guo Jing has confronted Apothecary Huang, his sweetheart Lotus’ father, on Peach Blossom Island, and bested the villainous Gallant Ouyang in three trials to win her hand in marriage.
But now, along with his sworn brother, Zhou Botong of the Quanzhen Sect, and his shifu, Count Seven Hong, Chief of the Beggar Clan, he has walked into a trap. Tricked by Huang into boarding a unseaworthy barge, they will surely drown unless Lotus – who has overheard her father’s plans – can find a way to save them.
Yet even if they are to survive the voyage, great dangers lie in wait on the mainland. The Jin Prince Wanyan Honglie has gathered a band of unscrupulous warriors to aid him in his search for the lost writings of the Great Song patriot General Yue Fei. If he is successful, the Jin armies will gain the key to total victory over the Song Empire, condemning Guo Jing’s countrymen to centuries of servitude.
First of all, let me direct you to my reviews of the first two book in this series; A Hero Born and A Bond Undone. If you have not read them, I suggest doing so, first, because I am going to reference them a lot. The reason for this is that, unlike any series I have read before, the series is a continuation of one big storyline. All series are a part of one big, overarching plot, but the Legends of the Condor Heroes is different in a way that it feels episodic in such a way that I would almost put a “To be continued..” at the end of each book. This is not a negative to me, I enjoy the way it just always puts you right in the middle of the action.
That has been, and continues to be, the biggest draw of this series to me. I have used the word “whirlwind” to describe the Kung Fu fights in this series, and A Snake Lies Waiting is no slouch in that area. It goes from battle royale to battle royale almost without pause. I really love that about this series. The way these scenes are written makes me feel like I am at the center of it and just turning my head back and forth watching as each person or group takes the lead, then it switches to the other. And it is also interesting that almost none of the brawls ends with a winner; usually, someone finds a reason to withdraw and lives to fight another day. The characters just keep these grudges against their opponent going until the next time they fight, though sometimes they switch sides depending on what is happening in the story. I think up to this point it is basically in the same place as the WWE: everyone has a grudge against everyone else. So, it always gives them a reason to fight.
A Snake Lies Waiting is my favorite of the three books, just edging out A Bond Undone. While these two books are written in a similar style and tone, Snake contains a few story aspects that put it over the edge. First of all, I noticed there was more character development in this book than the first two. This is especially true of Guo Jin and Lotus, who are the main characters in the series. They grow as people and as a couple as they go on adventures together and save each other from certain death many times. I have enjoyed watching them evolve separately and together and the impact that has had on the story. Many of the other characters change, as well, there are just so many to name. Just note that this book is The One Where They All Grew As Characters (if it was a Friends episode). On that note, and I think due to to all the growing and evolving, the narrative in Snake includes real consequences for the characters’ actions! I know, that sounds like a weird thing to say, but I do not recall much of that happening in the first 2 books. In the first 2 books there are a bunch of characters, and they are all making these decisions (to fight or not, who did they disrespect, what does it mean for their honor, where are they going to travel, etc), but it just kind of felt like they would meet back up and continue their previous battle and on and on. No one dies or has a life-changing consequence, but that all changes in book 3. There are deaths and life-changing consequences directly related to the decisions of the characters. That is a good change, to me, because if characters can just do whatever they want without taking responsibility, at some point none of it means anything, anymore. Snake took that piece to the next level, and I was really glad to see it.
I also just really love Yong’s writing style. There is this interesting dichotomy in the series where his characters all take the honor of their family and clan really seriously, but at the same time being silly. This is often accomplished through dialogue as the characters make of each other in funny ways or make fart/butt jokes. Some of the scenes can be really intense, so I appreciate the levity, here. It brings some welcome lightheartedness to the story.
I do want to note that there is less Chinese history and culture in Snake than the other two books. Remember, the backdrop of this series is conflict in China between two warring parties, and a lot of the characters in the books are on different sides of that war. It was not brought up much in this book, and I miss that piece of the story being relevant.
Overall, A Snake Lies Waiting is a great book! I love the fight scenes, the character development, and how this book has started to bring much more meaning to the overall plot. I definitely recommend this book for fans of fantasy, and East Asian Fantasy in particular.